Based on the hundreds of emails, tweets, and comments about my article describing a morning routine that involves clear thinking and journaling over a set period of time, many people have taken up the challenge to be more intentional about how they start their day. Dozens of people have sent emails describing how they have already tried "the seven" and plan to carve out that quiet period each morning when they get to work.
But a few folks have asked a very direct question: How do you make it a habit? They know the steps they should take to get through the process, and it only takes seven minutes. However, they want to know how to make it a habit and be successful each morning.
I believe they already understand the benefits. It's what I call a morning "level-set" that forces you to get your head in the right place before you start the day.
There are so many distractions in the work world today, from text messaging to social networks to video games in the break room. Many of us are developing poor habits when it comes to email and online research when we let these activities take control of our workday even from the moment we arrive and get loaded up on caffeine.
Here are three tips to help you make "the seven" a habit, starting today. Feel free to send me your ideas and insights about how you have made it work.
1. Make the decision the night before
I've learned a lot about behavior patterns over the past few months, as I've been trying to lose some weight. I've learned from personal experience that you have to decide long before a given situation--say, visiting the buffet table during lunch--what you will do. You have to have a plan. In dieting, you might decide to only have the main course, one veggie side dish, and no dessert. Bad decisions come from a lack of planning.
The same decision-making process works for "the seven" routine. You have to decide the day before that you plan to carve out this time. This might involve putting it on your schedule, arranging your meetings, letting other office workers know your plan, finding accountability, or just being firm about the time slot in your own thinking.
2. Commit to a two-week plan
Related to this intentional approach to adjusting behavior is the idea of making a commitment. Decide to do "the seven" for two weeks, no matter what. It's another behavioral technique that actually works. If you think you "might" try this morning routine, you probably won't. If you make a firm decision to commit to the routine for a set period of time, suddenly you have a chance of making it a habit. Eventually, you'll lock into the routine.
As an interesting aside, I've also read that habits like "the seven" can lock into a temporary habit after about two weeks but can take as much as three years to become a permanent habit--that is, to become part of who you are as a person.
3. Let people know about "the seven"
I'm not being sneaky here and trying to get you to share "the seven" idea with everyone else on the planet. I promise not to collect "clear head" royalties. However, in my own attempts to form habits, I've found over and over again that letting people know I've committed to something is the final solidification that forms into a routine. It's really the glue that turns something into a habit. Go ahead and post on social media every time you have this morning quiet period, and take notes. Find someone who wants to help you unclutter your mind before your day starts. It will help, trust me!