Habits and Goals

Habits eat motivation for breakfast

One of the benefits of living in 2022 is the plethora of studies and books written on life hacking subjects or ‘behavioural psychology’ as the experts put it. Previously, I mentioned how knowing what ‘tendency’ you are when it comes to meeting your own expectations of yourself, can have a profound impact on your ability to use the right strategy to meet your goals. Did you do the quiz?

Here’s another big goal achievement hack. Forming habits makes goal achievement much easier.

For most of us in IT, studying, keeping up to date, doing further certifications are all part of being good at our job and progressing in our career. But it’s hard right? It’s not always easy to put in a full day at work and then face the computer at home again to do yet more technical brain taxing stuff. How do you motivate yourself to do that?

Sadly, most of the time, motivation just won’t cut it. We’d all be super fit, degree qualified, MBA holders with a list of vendor certs the length of my arm if we had the ‘motivation’. Even if lack of motivation is the correct diagnosis for the problem (which it probably isn’t), simply willing will power into existence isn’t easy or even sustainable according to the science. You can chastise yourself all you like, think of all the reasons you need to study more. Your kids future, your spouse, your own future, release from a boring job, whatever that list is for you, it still may not be enough to generate the will power necessary. You’ll need to be smarter than that.

Two books which I found immensely helpful on this subject are James Clear’s Atomic Habits and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

In short they show from extensive research that creating habits are the easiest way to make the behavioural changes in your life that you’ll need to achieve your goals. Forming the habit is hard, but once it’s formed maintaining it is comparatively easy, sometimes so easy that you won’t even think about it and perhaps later, won’t even remember doing it. I shave and brush my teeth in the shower every morning, without fail. I don’t consciously have to think about brushing my teeth, it’s a well worn habit. I don’t see it as a chore, I never consciously think about it. I just do it.

It can be similar for studying for a certification. Here’s the basic principles to help set the habit.

  1. Start real small. (Make it a goal to learn one new concept per day related to your certification goal. It may only take 10 minutes)
  2. Have your environment all ready to go. It’s got to feel easy to start it. (A separate desktop on your PC, dedicated to study. A room with a door closed so you won’t be disturbed. Snacks/coffee already prepared)
  3. Make it distraction free. Turn off notifications on all devices, close the door.
  4. Link it to a trigger event. Pick something you do every day, and link it to that. (I brush my teeth without thinking because it’s linked to having a shower, which I automatically do every day).

That should be enough to get started. Getting started is the most important part. If you find the going difficult, then don’t do it for long. The main thing is to build the habit. The habit gets built by being consistent and doing a tiny bit every day. Just show up each day and be less worried about what you achieve and more concerned with the process of building the habit. Everything else will eventually flow from that.

James Clear has some other good tips for building a new habit in his Strategy Guide, here.

Thanks to those who responded back after the previous update and suggested habit forming as a great way to build your IT career. We think alike. 😊

And by the way, you can reach out to me if need help in forming critical habits so you can be the IT professional you want to be.

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