Tag Archives | awareness

Where am I? Habits

Habitual behavior can be a way of allowing ourselves to live on auto pilot, helping us to glide through life while paying little attention to what we really want to do. They are yet another survival mechanism. Part of getting to know ourselves and where we are in life involves becoming aware of our habits.

Habits can be as simple as packing the same lunch for work every day, doing the same exercise workout day after day, and walking or driving the same route to work. How many times have you caught yourself ordering the same meal for lunch yet again? Or do the restaurant staff already know what you’re going to ask for as soon as they see you walk in the door, so they get straight to work on it without even taking your order?

That’s happened to me. On more than one occasion, I’ve had café or restaurant staff see me walk in, and immediately start to prepare my usual order. One time, I sat down in a restaurant where I ate on a fairly regular basis. The staff wasn’t very busy, and they had greeted me when I walked in, but no one came by to take my order. I waited and waited for them to come by and take my order. Then, all of a sudden, a waiter came straight up to my table with my usual drink and my usual meal.

I was impressed, of course. And I was also stagnating in my own habitual behaviour. Time. To. Change!

Make a list of habits that you are already aware of: write down each and every repetitive thing that you do, whether it’s having the same kind of coffee at the same coffeeshop every day, preparing the same sandwich for lunch every day, or reading the same newspaper every morning.

For the next week, pay attention to your daily habits and make note of any new ones you haven’t already written down. At this point, it’s all about becoming aware of habitual behavior.

Once you have a complete list of your habits, think about how useful they are to you. Are they any that you want to change? Are there any that you might consider changing for just a week, to try something new? Are you 100% happy with any of these habits?

This is a useful exercise to do on a regular basis, as behavior changes and we often adopt new habits as we leave off old ones.

This is an adaptation of a previous post.

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Where am I? Want/Should/Others

Why do we do the things we do? There’s a variety of reasons, but the important thing is that you are aware of why you do the things you do. Often, we live unhappy lives because we have no idea why we do things.

For so many years, I lived my life for other people. I did a lot of things that I felt I should do, or had to do, or needed to do. And I generally responded to everything that others wanted me to do or expected me to do. And after years of doing this, I was so out of touch with my own interests that I had reached the point where I didn’t even know what I wanted to do.

I knew that some aspects of my life were clearly not what I wanted, but I didn’t know what it was that I did want. It was all tangled up in this murky feeling of unhappiness and fear of making changes because I didn’t even know what changes to make. Because I didn’t know what I did want, I was afraid that I’d end up with something even worse than what I already had. That’s why ranking each area of life can be so helpful in determining precisely which parts of our lives we’re not happy with and which parts are most important to us.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Pay attention each day to what you like and don’t like about the activities that fill your schedule. Write everything down in a notebook. What are your time wasters? Which things do you do because you truly want to do them? Which activities are things you feel you should be doing? What things do you do simply because others want you to do them or expect you to? Often times, we fall into the habit of taking on every little thing that others expect of us, not stopping to ask ourselves whether we truly want to do them, or whether they’re for our highest good.
  2. At the end of each day, get out your notebook or diary, and classify each activity or event as Want, Should, or Others. Meaning: did you do it because you wanted to, because you felt you should do it, or because others wanted you to?
  3. At the end of each week, total up each category, and you can easily see whether you’re living your life as you want to live it or as others want you to live it.

How did that go? Were you surprised at your rankings? What did you learn about yourself?

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6 Time management tips for students (and everyone else)


Have a vision. Be clear about the following three things: Who are you? Where are you? Where are you going?

Who are you?

What is your main motivation in pursuing university studies? Take a moment and consider this honestly. Are you just doing it because everyone else does and “you have to”? Are you studying because your parents expect you to? Are you clear as to which industry or field you want to work in and are you certain that a university degree is the best path to get you there?

This is your starting point. Be honest with yourself about whether you’re in school because you want to be, or because other people want you to be. Know why you are where you are. And don’t judge it.

Life is a path, and if at age 18 you don’t know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life, let me assure you: you’re not alone. And that’s okay. If you change your mind years down the line, you can always make changes and adjust. People make major career changes every day.

Where are you?

So the reality is this: you’ve made the decision (for whatever reason) to study a university degree. Think about what you’re interested in now. Is your degree in line with your long-term personal goals? Does it have to do with the things you value most in life?

Where are you going?

If you haven’t yet mapped out your goals, take the time to do so. You don’t need to think thirty years into the future. Write down whatever occurs to you, however big or small. Put them in chronological order, if you can, so you can see a path ahead of you. Can you see how your university degree fits into that plan? Your studies now are just one step on that path.

What does all this have to do with time management? If you don’t know who you are, where you are, and where you’re going, then you have no perspective. You won’t know how to prioritise, and how to get things done and when. You likely won’t take as much responsibility for your studies, since you’re not quite clear how they’ll be of use to you, except on an abstract level.

I’m going to repeat a few things here from my previous posts on time management, because sometimes we have to read the same things over again, in different words, before they sink in. Bear with me.

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10 MORE steps to improve time management and reduce stress

Thanks so much to the people at WordPress.com for choosing my previous post on this topic for Freshly Pressed! And a huge thanks to everyone who visited and left comments. I found a lot of great tips in there, and since I’m not sure whether everyone went through and read the comments, I wanted to share some here.

1. Listen to music or  nature sounds

This is an excellent suggestion, and one I often do! Having some kind of background music or white noise on headphones can help drown out distraction in your environment. Either load your background music onto your computer, and listen with headphones, or just use your iPod. Different people have different preferences: if songs you’re familiar with distract you, try listening to nature sounds, music without lyrics, or music in another language that you don’t understand.

Michael suggests Naturespace sounds. Check out their website. They look amazing. These or any other nature sounds are excellent distraction busters. And Rtcrita uses background music to reduce stress while working. When it’s time for a break, she’ll turn it up to add a little exercise and dance into her schedule. That’s another great stress reducer! It’s important to get moving during breaks.

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