Most of us cut toast without thinking about it. Whether it’s in twos or fours, squares or triangles, we each have a set way that we slice toast, an automatic response to a task built in our neural pathways, created the first time we observed someone cutting toast and strengthened each time we prepared our own.
Why do we slice toast this way?
What if we actively tried slicing our toast another way?
So much of what we do is simply performing rote tasks, and we don’t take the time to stop and question them.
Isn’t it worth thinking about why we do the things we do, and if they are the most efficient, productive use of our time and energy? Do the things that we do out of habit even align with our own personal beliefs, our goals, our end game?
The start to my days used to consist of hitting snooze. More than once. Coming home and starting dinner preparations included an automatic pop of a wine bottle or beer tab, because I “deserved” it after getting through the day and “needed” it to get through the evening. Putting the last kid to bed led straight to sitting on the couch, clicking power on the TV remote, and consuming mindless content for hours. And then, that routine simply automated cyclically, day after day, with no real intention.
It became routine simply by not trying to do something different.
Put that way, it seems a little silly, doesn’t it?
Start with slicing toast. Apply this introspection across every one of your seemingly mindless, habitual tasks. But, a piece of advice: start one by one, or you’ll get overwhelmed quickly. Work through one habit for a period of time and then start on another.
A trick that has worked and continues to work for me is to keep track of the days that I am successful at not following through with an old habit or creating a new habit. I do this for three months; each month I try to improve on the percentage of success over the last. I prefer to see this progress visually, so I print out a simple tracker made in Excel and fill in successful boxes in black and unsuccessful boxes in red each day. The act of referring to this sheet daily keeps me mindful.
By the end of the three months, I usually have a good success rate, and a habit formed. Then, I will start a new tracking sheet for the next three months, and add another habit, while still tracking the last until it is a three-month streak of success. That is when something that I want to do, or hope to do, or something that I wish to stop, moves from intention to habit to simply something that I do – or don’t do – almost without thinking about it.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
And it’s not about slicing toast.