...in my case, not posting regularly to this blog and procrastinating with other writing goals.
Read this article from the Chicago Tribune and thought it bore repeating here.
Breaking bad habits
They're a hassle. Here are 12 ways to break them.
By Karen Ravn | Tribune Newspapers
May 3, 2009
Maybe you chew your fingernails when you're nervous. Or scarf down chocolate when you're sad. Or take home a stray kitty whenever you see one, until the local animal control has to come rescue them all and have you arrested for being a hoarder.
Chances are you have a few habits you wish you didn't have, and possibly you've tried (and tried) to break them. Scientists are learning why you may have failed (and failed and failed). In fact, they now know that once you have a habit, you can never really unlearn it.
"Once it's there, it's there," says Ann Graybiel, the Walter A. Rosenblith professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
But even though you can never simply delete habits from your brain, you can stop indulging in them if you really want to. Here's how:
1 Eliminate whatever payoff the habit gives. If you have a habit of eating ice cream every night before bed, get rid of all the ice cream in your freezer. You might still head to the kitchen for a few nights, only to find the freezer bare. But after a while, you'll stop making the trip.
2 Don't leave a hole where a bad habit used to be. Substitute new, improved behaviors for old, bad ones. Try bringing your lunch instead of buying it, or eat a piece of fruit before bed instead of a bowl of ice cream.
3 Choose wisely. If you try to replace a bad, old habit with a good, new one, make sure the new one isn't too unpleasant. If you try to replace ice cream before bed with cod liver oil, you're probably doomed to fail.
4 Be risk averse. Suppose you can't go into a shoe store without buying three pairs. Stay out of shoe stores. Figure out which situations are most tempting and avoid them.
5 Get down to specifics. Sometimes you can identify triggers that are most likely to bring out your bad habit. These can involve people, locations or preceding actions. Maybe it's safe for you to go into shoe stores to look around -- just don't do it with the friend who's dying to buy a pair, but only if you do too.
6 Practice. Practice. Practice. Suppose you want to stop gossiping. You practice not gossiping at work with friend X, and you get very good at it. Then one day you go shopping with X. Watch out! You're at risk for a relapse. Plus -- if you break your gossip habit at work with X, you may still keep gossiping with W, Y and Z. A habit can be associated with different places, people and activities.
If you're trying to break one, practice in as many situations as you can.
7 Use cues and rewards. Maybe you want to save money for a trip to Hawaii, but you have an unfortunate habit of maxing out your credit cards. Try taping a picture of Waikiki Beach to your billfold to remind yourself not to splurge on non-necessities.
8 Try a simple "if-then" plan -- it helps. In one study, having such a plan helped one group achieve its goal of eating less of a particular snack food and helped another group achieve its goal of performing well in a tennis match.
Participants in the eating-less group were given this line: "If I think about my chosen food, then I will ignore that thought!" and were told to say it to themselves three times and to commit themselves to acting on it. The tennis group was told to compose four "if-then" statements of their own, in the form: "If I feel angry, then I will calm myself and tell myself, 'I will win!' "
9 Show how highly evolved you are. Suppose you procrastinate whenever you ought to be doing something you don't want to do. Procrastination provides instant gratification, and even though you will pay, that doesn't come till later. Remind yourself of the future cost when you're tempted to work on your tan instead of doing the housework.
10 Tap into your willpower. It's easy to succumb to old, familiar habits. But a 2007 study found that we can resist temptation more successfully if we consider it a test of will. Undergraduates were asked to squeeze a dynamometer, or handgrip, as hard and for as long as they could. Those who considered the task a test of willpower squeezed the device longer than those who didn't.
11 Don't believe everything you read. You may have found precise numbers stated about how often you need to do something to make a new, good habit -- and how often you need to not do something to break an old bad habit. Some say three weeks! Some say 30 days!
"There is no data on this," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md.
12 If you fall off the wagon, don't quit trying. Studies (in rats, admittedly) suggest that occasional lapses don't make you more likely to fail. If you're trying to stop chewing your nails, just one little nibble won't condemn you to eternal onychophagia. (And if you're trying to forgo your habit of using showoff-y long words -- that would be hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism -- one use of a word like "onychophagia" isn't the end of the world either.)