[Note: This post is part of a 31 day treatise on habits. To see the whole list, go here: 31 Days of Habits.]
One of the simplest things I’ve done – that ended up being life-changing – is keeping a time log. One thing I learned that has to do with habits is this: some habits, even if they’re good habits, can become bad habits if they’re done at the wrong time.
I wrote a guest post on Laura Vanderkam’s blog in which I shared that I read … a lot. Which is a good habit. But after analyzing my time log, I noticed that I was often picking up a book at a time when my energy level and brainpower were high. For me, that’s not the right time to read.
That reading time would end up causing me to be less productive than I wanted to be over the course of the day. I would “use up” my peak time with a book. I needed to simply shift my reading time to a slot where my energy was lower. Reading doesn’t take much energy, but things like exercise, homeschooling, being a good parent, writing blog posts, housekeeping DO.
If that interests you, definitely go over and read the post.
“The problem with my reading is that I was doing it at the wrong time — typically, in the middle of the afternoon when my energy level and brainpower were still pretty high. I decided it would be far better to move reading to times where I wouldn’t likely be doing anything productive — working on my blog or writing ebooks — such as the late evening, or while nursing my youngest. It took a bit of self-discipline to set these rules for myself, but it paid off. These other things bring income to my family and a sense of personal satisfaction that surpasses the pleasure of reading.” – http://lauravanderkam.com/2013/09/guest-post-keeping-time-log-changed-life-attitude/
Another thing to consider when thinking about the best time for a habit is this: when are you most likely to actually DO it? When it comes to fitness, studies show that people who schedule it in the mornings are more likely to keep to a regular routine of exercise. They’re more likely to do it, instead of just intending to. If you have a good habit you’re trying to implement, attempting to accomplish that in the late afternoon or evening when your energy and willpower are lower may be an exercise in futility.
This is why I end up flossing in the mornings. At night after I brush my teeth I’m usually so tired (I get up very early, and rarely nap so by 9 PM I’m like an overtired, fussy baby), that I simply don’t have the willpower to do another important-but-not-urgent-has-long-term-benefits type of thing. But in the mornings, I am refreshed. While flossing before bed is probably best from an oral health standpoint, never flossing is far worse.
Here’s another example. I’m a coffee drinker, and I don’t plan on giving that up anytime soon. After casually studying the topic for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that coffee drinking in moderation is not a bad habit. But what IS a bad habit for me is drinking coffee at the wrong time. Let me explain.
I noticed that if I started the morning off with coffee, I would end up drinking too much and feeling jittery later. Thankfully, this didn’t bother my sleep because I only drink it in the mornings. But still, nobody enjoys that shaky feeling.
Turns out that I wasn’t actually enjoying my coffee when I drink it then either. You see, when I wake up in the mornings I spend about 2 hours writing. I’m not paying attention to my coffee, I’m just slurping it back. I decided it would be far better to shift my first cup of coffee to much later, and to drink it slowly and mindfully so I really enjoy it. (Mindless consumption of anything is a bad habit!)
This is working beautifully for me. After my writing, breakfast, getting dressed, chores and getting the kids going on their math is done, I reward myself with that first cup, and I sit down to drink it slowly, to savor it. The end result is, I drink less coffee and enjoy it so much more.
Do you have any good habits that could end up being bad habits if you pursue them at the wrong time?