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The habits I developed in grad school, didn’t work for me in the professional workplace. My morning routine as a new husband no longer worked when I became a new dad. Habits change over time, sometimes not always for the best.
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of blogging, feeling busy rather than productive. When you tap into the power of the weekly 5% focus habit, you can become more effective in your business and in your life. Instead of making big sweeping changes, you focus on small, ongoing improvement.
Start Small for Big Changes
Small habits are easier to maintain for an extended period. If you ever tried to make a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym regularly or drop 15 pounds, you know it’s hard to do. After a week or two, you’re likely to give up.
On the flip side, if you focus on the smallest incremental habit change, it becomes ingrained after a week or two. Massive changes are harder to both start and maintain over time.
The Weekly 5% Focus Habit is a Commitment to a 5% Change Each Week.
This name comes from thinking about the smallest incremental change you can make to improve yourself this week. If you were to get 5% better every week for an entire year, it adds up. The formula is 1.05 to the power of 52. That comes up to 12.6. When you become a 5% better version of yourself each week, at the end of the year, you’ll be 12 times better.
If you want to run four times a week and were never able to master that habit, maybe you should think, “Okay, I’m going to put on my running shoes and I’ll allow myself to not run if I don’t feel like it.” Every morning, for a whole week, you put on the shoes, and you think, “Ah, I’m not going to run.” If you keep putting on the shoes, I guarantee that, eventually, you’re going to go for a run.
Four Steps to Integrate the 5% Focus Habit
Step One: Make A Habit Backlog
Think about all the things that you can do to improve your life. I often forget to put the garbage out. So I set up a weekly email reminder using Boomerang for Gmail. Every Thursday, I get an email that says, “Put the garbage out” or “Put the recycling out.” You can add things to this list and come up with a big backlog of different habits.
Step Two: Create a Focus Habit Work Area
This is a specific area dedicated to your focus habits: what habit you’re working on, what habits you’ve done before, etc. It can be a physical or mental space. For me, it’s a whiteboard in my office. I call it my Habit Whiteboard.
Step Three: Pick a Habit from the Backlog Each Week
Each week, pick a 5% habit – the smaller, the better. If your habit is not working for you, it’s probably because you picked something too big. “Go to the gym every day” is a big habit. Packing your gym bag every day is a smaller habit, which you can do more easily.
Step Four: Review Your Previous Habit Before Getting Started Each Week
How is the habit going? Is it still important to you? If you’re still struggling to hit this goal every day, then maybe you need to extend the last week’s habit for another week, until it gets ingrained to your routines and into your psyche. If you didn’t do it, maybe you need to think about whether it was too big. Maybe you need to break it down into smaller goals.
How Habit Collections Work
Collections are bigger things than you can implement in any given week. These are not 5% habits. They’re an assortment of 5% habits, and I’ll provide some examples.
When I started writing blog content using three-minute paper reviews, which I talked about in Episode #11, I had a very specific routine that I implemented incrementally over time. Whenever I read a paper, I would make a summary of the intro, list three major bullet points, and note links to similar papers. I kept them in a stack in my office, and they built up over time.
Each weekday, before I got started on my graduate work, I grabbed the top paper off the stack and wrote a blog post based on the introduction, those three main points, and the links to other content. I was able to get out a blog post every weekday for the first couple of months that I was running my blog.
I do similar things now. I’m nearly always recording podcast episodes on Thursdays both for the GradBlogger and DustSafetyScience podcasts. The main goal is to record four episodes in a day. This gives me a month’s worth of weekly podcasts. I also try to write the outlines on Monday afternoons.
The second example is establishing a morning ritual. I did this back in 2014 or 2015, when I read [Affiliate] The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I had a very specific routine, especially when I had a corporate job.
Every morning, I’d wake up and turn on a podcast. While my alarm did its first snooze cycle, I listened to the podcast and drank a big bottle of water. Then I would get up. I’d meditate for 10 minutes using Headspace and journal while drinking my smoothie. Then I headed off to the gym, came back home, grabbed breakfast, and faced my day.
I did that every day for years, and it worked for me. It doesn’t work so well anymore because of my son. He’s 17 or 18 months old now, and he gets up at random times, which makes it very hard to sustain a morning routine. I’m still searching for a morning routine that works for me, but I’m trying to do it incrementally.
The third example is an end-of-day routine. I have a very specific standard operating procedure for the end of each day. There are 11 steps:
- Take a big breath. I have 10 minutes to tidy up my life.
- Check my email.
- Record one big achievement.
- Review my to-do list. Make sure there’s nothing critical on it.
- Record any notes into my note management system.
- File anything that’s out.
- Take out any dishes that accumulated during the day.
- Remove anything extra from my desk.
- Replace pencil and pen.
- Wipe the desk down.
- Close down all computer windows.
This sets me up to start the next day straight on a productive note. If you think about these 11 steps, each one is probably their own 5% weekly habit, Stacking them together gave me this routine that improves my productivity, improves how I feel at the end of the day, and improves how I interact with my family.
Each Monday morning, try to do a personal review. Ask yourself questions like, “Is the business that I’m building going to allow me to do what I want to do in my life? Is it supporting my life? Is it aligned with the values I have? Are we on the right track? Are we going in the right place? What do we need to do this week to take that next step, and what big innovations and little innovations can we implement to move the needle in the business to reach our goals as well?”
Take some personal time and write these out to have a personal review of your life and your business. If you have any questions about how to benefit from the weekly 5% focus habit, you can reach out to me via email or leave a comment below.
I appreciate being able to help academics build online businesses and improve the change that they can put in the world. I’m looking forward to continuing to help you do that with GradBlogger.