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Productivity hacks to jumpstart your dreams

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January 29, 2020
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This blog post is part of my FREE training for 2020 called Best Decade Ever. You can sign up here at any time by going to MelRobbins.com/BestDecade

It’s the last week of #BestDecadeEver, and I bet you’re already starting to ask yourself, “what do I do when this ends?” 

Programs are great for getting you started and teaching you new skills, but it’s when they end that the real work begins. The hard work. The scary work. It feels like you’re on your own again.

Here’s the big lesson: change is a process, not an event.

You’re not always going to feel like it. There are going to be weeks or even months where you feel like you’ve made no progress at all. Your life is going to get really busy and you’ll fall back into old habits. It happens to all of us— yes, even me.

Whenever I feel myself slipping into one of those times where my dreams feel farther away than ever, I dig into my very own toolkit of habit hacks to get me back on track. I’ve been using these for years, and they always help me move forward again. In this blog post, I’m sharing them with you so you can use them too.

The 5 Second Rule

You can change your life in just 5 seconds. I know because I’ve done it.

Before I was a speaker or had written a best selling book or had a syndicated daytime talk show, I was an absolute mess of a person. I was on the brink of bankruptcy, unemployed, sure I was about to get divorced, and I was drinking way too much bourbon. The worst part was, I knew exactly what I should be doing! I just could not even get myself out of bed to do the most basic things. I felt like such a loser. And then one night, after a few too many Manhattans, I had a crazy idea. The rest is history and you can read more about how I discovered it here.

The idea behind the 5 Second Rule is simple: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

For more on how to use it, read this. Turns out it’s backed by some pretty powerful science, which you can learn more about in this video.

I even wrote a whole book about it, that’s been translated into X languages and sold over X copies. It’s even got a brand new cover this year. If you’re interested, you can buy it here. If audiobooks are more your thing, you can get that version here. If you’ve never tried Audible before, you can even get it for free with a trial.

Environmental Triggers

I bet you’ve used an environmental trigger before without even realizing it. If you’ve got to bring something to work the next day and absolutely can’t forget it, you put it next to the bag you usually take. Or maybe  you put a note next to your keys. Seeing it reminds you that you need to bring it. Those are both examples of environmental triggers.

I first read about these from these awesome authors Dan and Chip Heath. Their research found that when you place visual cues in prominent places to trick yourself into accomplishing your goals, you are more likely to achieve your goals because the clues are right in front of you.

Another example that I love from their research is from a man who wanted to quit smoking. He made his password “quitsmokingforever” so that whenever he logged into something, he remembered his commitment. He quit within a week.

I use environmental triggers all of the time. Every night before I go to sleep, I set out my exercise clothes and sneakers right next to my bed. This is my visual cue to remind me of the commitment I made to go to the gym.

There’s a ton of ways you can use this to your advantage:

  • Vision Boards: What you focus on expands. Seeing your goals and aspirations daily will help engrain them into your mind.

 

  • Bracelets: Carry your reminder right on your wrist. If you’re ever feeling discouraged or beaten down, the word on your bracelet will serve as a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. I always wear one from MyIntent, but you can get one almost anywhere.
  • Phone Background: This is a super easy way to set up an environmental trigger that you have no choice but see every time you pick up your phone. It could be a quote, a photo, or a picture of someone who inspires you. Anything that triggers your mind to think “this is what all this hard work is for!”

 

  • Yes, even tattoos: A much more permanent option than the bracelets!

The options are endless. If you want to learn more, check out this video from MindsetReset that explains the science behind environmental triggers. The whole video is great, but if you’re short on time the content on environmental triggers starts around 5:15.

Visualization

The science behind visualization is powerful– it’s not some new age “woo woo” concept. Studies show that your brain actually can’t differentiate between a real memory and a visualized one. So when you practice the skill of visualization, you’re tricking your brain to help you achieve your goals.

Your brain has this thing called the Reticular Activating System, or RAS. Simply put, it’s a filtering system that protects your brain by only letting in stuff that it agrees with. That filter gets programmed by your experiences and beliefs– the good and the bad.

Visualization is a trick you can use to completely reprogram that system. Remember how your brain can’t tell the difference between a real memory and a visualized one? When you visualize, your brain encodes it as a real memory and it changes that filtering system. Your brain starts spotting opportunity, evidence that things are working out, and coincidences so you can build momentum.

Studies even suggest that simply visualizing yourself doing things actually develops and helps you improve the skill, just as if you’re actually doing it.

Wondering where to start? Here  are 10 questions to help you visualize your future.

If you’re still not convinced, watch this video.

Mental Cookie Jar (David Goggins)

I absolutely love David Goggins. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re totally missing out and I can’t recommend his book, Can’t Hurt Me, enough. There’s one concept of his that really sticks with me: the mental cookie jar.

The Mental Cookie Jar is a place in your mind where you put all of the experiences and memories that have shaped you– the good and the bad. It’s a place where you put all your greatest achievements and happiest memories, and also your epic failures.

Whenever you’re facing a challenge in your life, you go back to your cookie jar and pick the relevant lesson.

I love this concept because it reminds you how strong you are and how much you’re capable of getting through. It’s easy to forget how strong you are, and this is an awesome reminder.

You can have a cookie jar in your mind, or you can literally fill a cookie jar with pieces of paper that you’ve written down your proudest moments, tough lessons, or things you’ve done that make you happy to give yourself a boost any time you need it

Habit Loops

If your dreams involve having new habits– this will be a game changer for you, especially if you have trouble sticking to them. The key to sticking to new habits? Rewarding yourself.

Every habit has three parts: a trigger, the pattern you repeat, and a reward.

The reward is the MOST important part of changing a habit. Once you have the reward in place, here’s the freaky part: Your brain won’t even think about what you need to do (exercise), instead your reward will just pop into your head randomly.

My reward as of late? TACOS.

Here’s how I’ve been using this hack: when the alarm rings at 5:30am (trigger “it’s time to exercise”) — tacos immediately pop into my mind. When I head to the gym to work out (new habit) — tacos. When I am dripping in sweat and hyperventilating during squats (new habit) — my mind is all about the tacos. And when class is over, I walk down the block and get that reward — a taco.

You’re forming a loop in your brain that makes the annoying and hard part of the habit more appealing because you know you’ll get a reward at the end of it. Before you know it, you’ll be going to the gym every morning or writing 500 words a day for your book.

Anything can be your reward! Mine is almost always food, but use whatever works for you. Maybe yours is reading another chapter in the book you’re really into, or watching another episode of that Netflix documentary, or calling your grandkids. Make sure it’s something that makes you happy, and it’s something you’ll be looking forward to.

#DoItAnyway

Let me guess: you’ve held yourself back because you don’t feel like it. The truth is that you’re never going to feel like it. There are always going to be times when you’re too tired, or it’s too hard. Stop waiting to feel like it.

You’ll never get anything done if you do. Acknowledge that you don’t want to do it. And then #DoItAnyway.

If you want to learn more about using this mindset hack to get yourself to #DoItAnyway, you can watch this video.

If/Then planning

This is a powerful tool if you’re trying to stop yourself from doing something, like drinking or eating unhealthy foods.

If/then plans are exactly what it sounds like: you come up with a plan B for the situations that trigger the behavior you’re trying to change. To come up with your own plan, write down the behavior you’re trying to change and the things that usually trigger it. Then, come up with your new plan.

It is SO much easier to stick with your commitments when you have a clear set of instructions for the situation.

Here are some examples:

    • If I get the urge to smoke, then I will go for a walk instead.
    • If I want to get a glass of wine, then I will swap in a mocktail or a seltzer.
    • If I want to get fast food on the way home, then I will stop at the grocery store instead.
    • If I get stressed and want to go to the mall to go shopping, then I will go through my closet instead.

 

 

Research at Columbia University found that if/then planning makes you 60% more likely to stick to the commitment, so you know it’s worth a try.

Here’s a video if you want to learn more.

Other ways you can maintain momentum:

Accountability partners: Get yourself a buddy who’s working on their dreams too. Schedule monthly check-ins that make it fun. Go out for coffee and talk about your progress and the challenges you’re facing. Change is much more fun with a friend. It’ll also keep you motivated to make progress.

Keep using the toolkits: The toolkits I’ve sent over the course of this program have been designed so that you can use them over and over again.

Schedule check-ins for yourself: Take out your phone right now. Schedule a recurring meeting once a month to check in on your progress this year.

 

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