Life’s “DMZ” for habits


From 43 Folders, Merlin Mann talks of the “email DMZ” concept to quick
start your good habits by giving you a clean workspace with little
initial effort.

If you ignore for a moment the puzzle of reforming bad habits so that
the same bad state isn’t reached again, this same concept can be
applied to other habits that you want to break.

Putting my own spin on it, you reframe the problem of changing your
mind gradually to effect the new habit
to the problem of avoiding
discomfort/guilt/shame due to breaking your currently perfect streak
of new behavior
. If you’re able to act in a zero tolerant,
self-disciplined way with little or no slippage back to old routines
then this can work great. It may be some effort, so choose your
battles.

So in the examples,

  • keeping your office and workspace clean

    put all crap into boxes in the corner or closet until you have a
    clean office. Then along with keeping office from ever getting dirty
    again by not letting one paper or thing start to rest on the desk
    overnight, also start the task of periodically emptying out boxes
    into the trash, into a file, into your notes, etc.

    In cleaning my office, i still have boxes and big manila envelopes of
    “organized stuff” stacked, and a couple of isolated piles out of
    eyeshot which I still need to process, but it doesn’t get in the way
    any more.

  • spending of time in ways that you don’t want to such as web surfing

    just stop reading your favorite sites with intention of never going
    back there unless you’re searching for something specific. If you
    start to click towards that old area, call it to your attention and
    ask, “am i going to do that again?” as if you had broken that
    habit for so long and now you’re about to fall off the wagon.

  • eating of foods you want to stop, such as sugary, fatty, blended caffeine drinks

    stop cold turkey. As you walk by the store in the morning, if your
    feet fail and turn into the door, you can try to game your mind to
    make yourself feel guilty.

Then again, I might not want to fight this particular battle.

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