Forming a New Habit So You Can Be Peacefully, Predictably Productive by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

In Writers
Jan 10th, 2013

apple 2You may have heard the quote from Mike Litman: “People form habits and habits form futures.” If you are ready for a writing future that is more productive, consider these 10 tips to help you form your new habits – and thus, your future.

  1. Choose one habit to replace. It may be that you have 3 or 4 or 12 or 13 that ultimately you would like to change. Just pick one at a time. One of the reasons so many people establish resolutions at the beginning of the year and then fail with those is that they choose too many – or they don’t follow the next 9 tips with the one they chose. Read on…
  2. Realize that in most instances, you replace one habit with another practice, so identify the replacement practice. For example, if you have been in the habit of running late to everything, then your replacement habit is leaving for every meeting, appointment, class, or child carpool 15 minutes early.
  3. Forget the 21-days-to-change-a-habit maxim. It might take longer and it might take less time. It takes however long it takes.
  4. Put in systems to support your new habit. If you want to leave your office desk clean and tidy at the end of each day, then set a timer or have your assistant notify you 20 minutes before the time you plan to leave your office – with strict instructions to get your desk contents processed in the next 15 minutes or so.
  5. Decide if you want to make a commitment or a promise about your new habit only to yourself or if you want to include someone else. Only tell another person if it will help, not if it makes a burden. Support is one thing. Nagging or comments intended to make you feel guilty is something else again.  If you have a wonderful writing buddy, tell her.  If you have an amazingly supportive spouse or partner, tell that person.  If you don’t really have someone else, then by all means, make the commitment (promise) to yourself!!
  6. Take it one day at a time. You are making changes today. Tomorrow you can continue. Today, just focus on the change you’re making…today.
  7. Consistency. The more consistent you can be with implementing your replacement habit, the better it gets and the more likely that it truly becomes a habit. For example, if you want to have two hours of uninterrupted time each morning to work on your highest priority writing projects (thus replacing the habit of allowing the telephone and email to distract you), then turn off your email and the ringer on your phone the minute you get to work (or leave it off from the previous day).
  8. Remove temptation for the old habit. Your old habit has probably been around for a period of time (or it would never have become a habit). If checking email all day is a habit, which it is for MANY professionals, then turn off your email program for at least 50 minutes of every hour. Build up to having it off for 100 minutes of every 2 hours and then go from there.
  9. Change your environment. If you have decided that you want to process everything through your physical inbox (instead of having a whole office that appears to be an inbox), then get an attractive and serviceable in-box container and place it within easy reach of your main work space. Start by putting everything in there that has not yet been processed.
  10. Get back on track if (when) you have a mishap. That’s all you need to do. It happens, but you’re committed to making a positive change for yourself.

Peaceful, predictable productivity is the result of a number of positive habits. You’ll get there. Use these ten tips to support you in your positive changes.

© Meggin McIntosh, PhD (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®). One of the ways that you can learn from Meggin about productive writing is through her 30 Articles in Just 30 Days program (

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And if you liked these tips, feel free to check out Putting Pockets in Your Personal Life: 52 Tips to Implement Immediately. If you know you are operating without any “pockets,” and you realize that you have lost sight of the difference between calm and crazed, then this booklet will help you regain that realization and subsequently DO something about it.

Inside, you’ll find practical ideas to implement, letting you actually choose to put in pockets in your personal life (i.e., some protected space, both the physical and metaphorical). With these 52 tips in-hand, and you’ll be well on your way to greater peace of mind and productivity.