We all have great New Year’s resolutions, don’t we, that we keep until about 3.37pm on New Year’s Day? Well, this is one resolution that will change everything because it teaches you how to do something you don’t actually want to do. It is one of the tiny changes that has transformed my life.
Actually, I’m lying. It’s the only tiny change that has transformed my life. Although, I’m learning to apply it to lots of different things, one step at a time. It’s my trick for getting out of bed at an ungodly hour.
It’s about avoiding that inevitable conversation in your head. You know, the one that goes: “I’m tired, I’m still sleepy, I can get up early tomorrow, I’ll wake other people up in the house, it’s freezing outside, I have nothing to wear, I don’t need to get up this early this morning...” You know, the voice that stops you getting up when you intended to get up.
There’s one way to shut that voice up. Put your feet on the floor before it can even kick in. The first thought I always have now when I wake up is: “Put your feet on the floor.” After that, I am allowed to think what I like. But the fact is, I am up and my feet are on the floor — it would be weird to go back to bed. It sounds too stupid to be true. But it works. Getting up is a nightmare. But putting your feet on the floor once you are awake is easy.
When we want to form new habits, we need to harness them to things we’re already doing (like taking vitamin pills whenever you brush your teeth, for example) or we need to make them really easy and impossible to disobey
I am, of course, not talking about getting out of bed on a daily basis. I can just about manage that. I am talking about getting out of bed when you don’t have to and when you’ve set the alarm at a certain time for a certain reason (but a reason that is easy to blow off – in my case, exercise, which I get up early to do, in order for it to be done). If you’ve fallen into the trap of being the person who always hits the snooze button (and I was that person for about 10 years), this is the key to change.
Perhaps this only works for me because I am monumentally idiotic. But the trick is to find something so moronic that you can’t argue with it. The second that alarm goes off, my brain says: “Feet on floor.” Another part of my brain says: “But...” The first part kicks back in: “Non-negotiable. Feet on floor.” By this point, I have indeed put my feet on the floor. Ta-dah!
This is yet another trick I learnt from Gretchen Rubin’s book about habits, Better Than Before. I bang on about it so much I ought to be on commission. But it really is a brilliant guide to understanding why we all sabotage ourselves and don’t stick to resolutions at New Year or any other time. As Rubin gently points out, when we want to form new habits, we need to harness them to things we’re already doing (like taking vitamin pills whenever you brush your teeth, for example) or we need to make them really easy and impossible to disobey (put your feet on the floor when the alarm goes off).
Now all I have to do is find more habits to kick. Biscuit addiction? You can have one biscuit when you have eaten three apples. (Because you will never eat all those apples.) Want a dry month? Drive everywhere whether you need to or not. Admin fail? No social media allowed until basic admin for the day completed. Guys, at this rate I will be running the UN by next Christmas.