How often do you read? It is often said that the person you will be in 5 years depends on who you meet and the books you read. I agree with that and try everyday to read even if it is just a few pages. Sometimes, that reading is books, sometimes it is online articles and posts, but I try to learn something everyday.
Most of the books I read are from the public library so I take notes (if you want to know how I take notes, here is a post that explains how I read a book) My goal each week is to take one idea, one takeaway, from the books I read and apply that concept in my life and business. The number of concepts I gather from each book varies but there is always at least one. Some are just interesting quotes or passages but a few are actionable ideas.
Today I am going to discuss a takeaway idea from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. It is a great book with a ton of ideas, many of which can be acted upon. As with most books, there is a list of recommend reading from the book that I have added to my reading list (now over 100 books…)
Switch provides recommendations and actions to change your behavior and help others change theirs. It describes some ways to give direction to people so that they will do what you ask as well as being a leader that everyone can follow. I am fascinated by change and choices due to their prevalence in our lives and in the world. Choice has been the subject of numerous studies but in public, it is not well understood. This book does a great job of educating the reader.
Takeaway #1 from Switch
This takeaway is from page 10,
Self-control is an exhaustible resource – you can run out
It is important to realize how difficult it can be to control our own actions. We often have so many habits that are at odds to what we really want in life and we don’t even realize it. Take for example eating; we all want to eat healthier but we buy junk food. We mistakenly believe that we can have self-control enough to not eat the entire box of cookies in one sitting (not that I have ever done that….)
We are busy all day with work and kids and by the time we sit down to relax at the end of the day, our self-control is exhausted. We eat a cookie, then another, then another. By the time we realize what is going on, half the box or more is gone. We berate ourselves for not having more self control. The truth is that our actions (buying the cookies) is sabotaging our goals. So what can we do?
I believe that self-control, although exhaustible, is like a muscle and can be strengthened. The more you practice self-control in a structured way, the more of it you have next time. There is actually a benefit of being tempted. Just like everything else in life, the more you do something, the better you get. If you want to be an expert, it takes focused practice but even if you are never an expert at self-control, consider how much better your life will be if you just improved 10%. What if you applied this takeaway in just one area of your life or business? How much better would you feel?
To apply this takeaway, I have setup plans and goals to encourage progress and reduce wasted time. I have a limited amount of time I work on my business and therefore, I am forced to focus to get things done. I have a goal of publishing new content 5 days a week for this site and 2 days a week on my personal site. At times, it has been hard and I have had a few long nights. By setting up that goal, I know what I need to do that evening. If I need to laser engrave a product for a customer, I do that first. If I don’t have a new post ready to go, I work on the post next or finalize it for the next day.
I know things have to get things done and that I have a very limited time to do it. It is like having a Most Important Things to-do list for today and sticking with that list no matter what. If you don’t accomplish anything else during that day, you will feel that you accomplished what you wanted and that you had a good day. At that point, self-control is less about control and more about obligations; I don’t want to let myself down.
I have made creating into a habit and through that habit, the self-control required to work on my work is reduced. I don’t have to decide to work on my business or personal site, I have made a habit of working on new content every night and getting things done. As Seth Godin would say (from the book Linchpin), I ship. My self-control does not help me ship, it helps me build the habit of consistency which empowers me to ship.
If you haven’t read it yet, Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is a great book and I highly suggest that you put it on your reading list. Remember, just one idea can change your life.
How will you apply this takeaway from Switch?