I get as many emails about breaking bad habits, as I do about creating new ones.
“It is remarkable how little friction is required to prevent bad behavior. When I hide beer in the back of the fridge where I can’t see it, I drink less. When I delete social media apps from my phone, it can be weeks before I download them again and log in.” James Clear, Atomic Habits (See my disclosure)
I love chocolate. I love it because it tastes good, but also because my ADHD brain loves the temporary “hit” I get when I eat a piece.
For years I have been buying 88% dark chocolate and eating 1 piece per day. More on days when I’m stressed, or sleepy, or have some other excuse.
The real problem with this is that it keeps me in a bad habit cycle, where every time I feel stressed I reach for the chocolate. When I really should be practicing what I preach and trying a one-minute meditation.
So last week I was in the aisle where they keep the many varieties of chocolate. Coincidentally I had just read the quote above from James Clear. And guess what?
I kept walking and didn’t buy my chocolate.
Only one time over the weekend did I think about it and wish I had it. The feeling passed remarkably quickly when the trigger (chocolate) was not available.
If I can create enough friction to change a years-long habit in one weekend, then so can you.
Tiny habits are easier to form than big life-changing habits. It is also easier to break a bad habit than to create a whole new one.
Creating Friction is the best cure for breaking bad habits
Here are some ideas for creating some habit-changing friction in your life.
Create an evening routine
Another note I stole from Clear’s new book was about “priming” your space.
Clear tells the story of a guy named Oswald who has a habit of resetting his living room every night. For example, if he is finished watching television he puts the remote back in its home, and then straightens the pillows on the couch.
I do the same thing, except I go around priming my space so I can get out the door in the morning.
Load the dishwasher and start it
Get my son’s backpack ready to roll
Set the coffee to brew at exactly 6 a.m.
Pick out my clothing and place it prominently (The less thinking the better.)
Set 2 alarms (alexa and regular)
We are both “priming” to make our lives easier, later. And really this whole process only takes me like ten minutes.
Check out my post on evening routines, where I go deep into prepping the night before.
The evening routine primes your space so that it is easier to get out of the house in the morning. If you don’t have one, start creating one.
Randomly delete apps
If you find that Facebook or Pinterest is taking up more of your already divided attention, just delete it. Really, it’s not that hard to reinstall next week. It will be fine.
You might be surprised how easy it is to get things done when you aren’t hyperfocused on your phone all the time.
I guarantee that your phone and the apps on it are at least 50% of the problem when it comes to your ability to motivate yourself to get things done.
Ignore all the advice about the best apps for productivity. The best, and easiest app I have found to date is not on my phone. It’s Alexa.
Raise the stakes
Say for example you want to start eating better or lose some weight.
First, make a list of the foods that you think are holding you back or causing cravings. Then organize your pantry and start tossing.
Need more friction? Put all of the food you are trying to avoid in a trash bag and put it in your garage. Or even directly in the trash.
If you have to go to the garage, or dig in your trash for chocolate you will lose interest. (hopefully.)
This all sounds a bit extreme, but with ADHD we need real friction to break bad habits.
We think in very black and white ways, so removing the trigger eliminates the decision making part of it – it’s not even an option.
I recently pledged to stop trying to “fix” you.
So I must add here that this idea will not correct the neurochemical underpinnings of ADHD and your executive function issues.
Creating friction is another tool in your toolbox if you’re into breaking bad habits.
Here’s to creating new neural pathways! And disrupting old ones.
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