Mindless Habits

There is a certain type of habit I have never talked about on this blog, even though it is what people commonly think of first when they hear the word “habit.” I call this a “mindless habit” or “micro habit,” simply because it is so tiny that other people will hardly notice it. An example would be placing your keys always in the same place at home, so you don’t have to run around like a headless chicken when you need them.

As I said, this is what comes to mind first when people speak of habits. Consequently, habits have this kind of everyday, petty convenience type of connotation – a little trick that is useful, usually time saving, but not life altering in any way.

Well, if you read this blog on a halfway regular basis, you know what I think about habits: Habit forming is at the heart of personal development, period. In fact, there is no sustainable personal development without habits: Complex tasks and skillsets simply require a certain amount of daily discipline – you eat the elephant bite by bite, through incremental change, not because of some heroic burst of effort.

Work habits, workout habits, eating habits, sleep habits, learning habits – these are the things that make or break a productive life. There is nothing mindless about them, hence the focus of this blog.

Still, these so called mindless habits are also worth looking at, as long as you don’t mistake them for the real thing. What I like about mindless habits is that you usually only have to set them up once, and can then forget about them. This essentially explains the name, doesn’t it? However, still they will continue to save you time or do other positive things for you; in that sense, they are the low hanging fruit of the committed habit builder.

Alright, enough nomenclature – here is a list of mindless habits that I follow that save me time, energy and even money every day:

  • When leaving the house, take your keys out and lock the door, so you don’t ever forget your keys at home (while keeping your home safer in the process too)
  • Always place my keys in the same place at home, so I don’t have to waste time looking for them.
  • Generally assign a definite place for all the few things I own, and always put them there by default, for a tidier living space; this way, I never have to clean up in the first place.
  • Do my dishes right after I eat, so I’m more likely to cook my next healthy meal at home as well; dirty dishes + hunger = me eating out.
  • Take no-nonsense supplements first thing in the morning, like vitamin D and fish oil, improving your health.
  • Always turn off the light when I leave a room, saving on the electric bill.
  • Turn off the water while showering, saving on the water bill.
  • Only use voice over IP for calling people from home, saving on your phone bill.
  • Turn off the phone at night for uninterrupted sleep.
  • When meeting up with friends, always suggest a healthy meal, a walk or a cultural event; you get 2 great things for 1, you actually have the opportunity to talk to each other and you avoid going for drinks all the time.
  • Always have 2-3 great books ready to read on the Kindle app of your phone; make sure that you have different options available for different levels of energy. So, I have one easy read, one that is a little bit more challenging and one that is technically dense. If I feel great, I will read the technical book first. If I feel tired, I’ll go with the easy option. Regardless, in any case, I am more likely to end up reading something worthwhile on the subway, simply because it’s already there on my phone, instead of wasting my life and brainpower away playing Tetris.

Again, all of these habits are tiny and cost me virtually nothing in willpower. That is also the problem with mindless habits – it is so easy to dismiss these tiny actions, as they hardly seem to make a difference. But they do – perhaps not today, but over time. This type of compound interest WILL pay off (and even more so if you apply habit building to the more significant areas of your life). It is your choice: Become an anal habit driven insane person like me, and have things work out for you slowly, over time – or keep running after the big breakthrough solution and watch yourself get nowhere.

Gosh, I really know how to convince people through empathy and understanding… Well, tomorrow is another day.

Talk to you soon.