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How to set priorities

At the core of John Brandon’s book, The 7-Minute Productivity Solution, is the development of good habits. Whether we are intentional about it or not, we are habitual people. I’ve got some good habits going on, and I’ve worked hard at those. For example, it’s now easier to turn thoughts of worry or complaint to thankfulness. But that took intentionality. I still have parts of my day that feel helter-skelter because I’m on auto-pilot with some bad habits. I still absent-mindedly grab my phone to scroll too often. Frequently, I fall into the trap of doing too much. My goal becomes to check-off everything on my to-do list as quickly as possible. As Brandon writes, “I fall into the trap of doing everything. The question to ask is, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’” 

I’m a stay-at-home-mom, and I homeschool my three children. Not unlike any of you, the task list for my day is long. Sometimes I need a brain reset to make sure what I prioritize is the most valuable. Often the high priorities we have don’t make our to-do list shorter, but those valuable priorities pack the biggest punch when we think with an eternal mindset. Building relationships, spending time with others, and serving our community are often tasks that aren’t visible like washing the dishes, turning in a report for work, or cleaning out the garage. Building relationships, spending time in scripture, and investing in others don’t make visible improvements in our day. However, I would argue that the accomplishments left unseen are the most important kingdom work.

Brandon has two routines that have helped me immensely. The first is making a list in the morning about what I hope for my day. This list is not an exhaustive to-do list. This is a list of hopes that I have about my day. Hope fuels our goals and it feels so much lighter to be fueled by hope than to be bogged down by a list of tasks. My morning hopes usually look like:

  • Connect meaningfully with each of my children
  • Connect meaningfully with my husband
  • Make sure progress has been made in educating my children
  • Find 15 minutes of quiet space to hear from the Lord
  • Find inspiration to write the next blog/article

Gathering up the things I’m hoping for and writing them down make sure I give high importance to the things that matter most. I only get one chance at each day. A day might not seem like a lot, but days add to weeks, months, and years. I’m really good at wasting a fair amount of time, so I try to be more intentional with how I’m spending my days. As a mother, these days with my children at home will soon be gone, and I want to look back knowing I used my time to invest in them and enjoy them. I don’t want regrets. Simply gathering some hopes in the mornings helps me do this. Of course, I still need to do the minutiae of life: scrubbing toilets, managing laundry, and balancing the budget. But, I don’t let these things consume my mindset for the day. 

To add accountability and focus to fuel tomorrow, I also recap my day as Brandon suggests. Were my hopes fulfilled? This helps me know what I might be hoping for in the coming day. Brandon writes, “Looking back is important. It’s not just hindsight. It helps with foresight as well. Where you’ve been often dictates where you’ll go.” If I don’t like how my day went, I take 7 minutes to regroup my list and start again tomorrow. Jesus generously gives us grace to right our wrongs. His mercies are new each morning. 

Immanuel Kant writes that “wisdom is an organized life.” We have three kids, we homeschool, and my husband works from home. You could walk into our house and make a good argument that maybe our life isn’t that organized. Currently, my youngest two children have a blanket fort taking over our family room. But looks can be deceiving and I think what Kant is saying is: Have you organized your life around your priorities? Are your hopes fueling your goals? Are you living out your day based on the goals that trump all others? This is how I organize my life. 

I think of Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

When I use my morning to write down the hope moments I want to capture, I make sure I’m adding kingdom oriented things first. First, Jesus. Next comes everything else. I think you’ll find that after putting Jesus first, not much else matters. “Jesus first” changes our mindset. The big things stay big, and the little things find their rightful place at the bottom of the priority pile.

Read to Lead Book Review

Read to Lead by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski is everything a non-reader needs to become a reader. 

Authors Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski write as though on a mission: make the reader into someone who reads regularly. 

If anyone reading is unsure if they should add books as a regular part of their lives, the authors clearly and emphatically explain just how beneficial reading really is. 

Read to Lead takes the reader through the many excuses people make to avoid reading. The authors explain why excuses such as “not having enough time” or “having too short of an attention span”, can be overcome and should not stand in the way of discovering the joy of reading.

In this section they also dissect a few of today’s distractions that make it even more difficult for us to want to read, particularly our phone usage. 

The rest of the book explains how to be a good reader. The authors tackle comprehension, retention, reading faster, and a host of other topics that even helped me, an embarrassingly avid reader, to improve my reading.

They provide suggestions, such as a reading plan, to become a reader. The authors also spend a chapter tackling changing habits, particularly the steps to achieve becoming a reader. Their main advice in this is to start small: read a page each morning as you drink your morning coffee, then later add a page to your afternoon break, and so on. They finish the book with extra tips to become a better reader, as well as the benefits of joining (or starting) a book club.

For anyone with the goal of becoming a regular reader, this book has to be the starting point. It is packed full of hands-on ways to accomplish reading goals and practical steps to establishing good reading habits. 

Towards the beginning of the book, the authors use a simple equation to estimate how many more books one will read in their lifetime. Using their equation, I estimate I will read another 5000 books. To say I enjoy reading is a bit of an understatement.

I am therefore ready to encourage every non-reader friend to give this book a try and perhaps another and another until they become readers. This book is a great start to reading, laying out the facts for why it matters and the tools to achieve the new habit of regular reading. 

I specifically appreciated their idea of how books can make us better in our careers, teach us new skills, and often achieve similar results to expensive courses. Although I love reading, I never thought of the possibility that I could become qualified for promotions at work simply with the help of certain books. 

I’ve been interested in switching into the field of digital marketing and have decided to take the author’s advice and pick up a book about it. I have almost exclusively used books to read enjoyable fiction or learn about interesting subjects; I have always read for pleasure. 

But the authors pointed out to me that I could also use books to become less cluttered, or become more qualified for a promotion, or learn how to sew. 

Read to Lead is specifically geared to non-readers. Individuals looking to form new reading habits can benefit greatly from the author’s advice. I would not recommend this book to avid readers however. 

I think someone that loves reading can benefit from particular chapters; I would therefore encourage, as the author’s do for certain books, skimming or picking out certain sections to read. 

This is the type of book I would purchase, glean out the parts that are geared towards me, and pass it on to a non-reader. I enjoyed reading Read to Lead, but it is definitely geared to someone trying to read regularly, or read more. 

Read to Lead is for every individual wanting to learn a new skill or become a regular reader. Books are one of the most wonderful ways to grow, learn, and even become a better person. Enjoying books is something everyone should experience, and with Read to Lead you can.

Why the concept of ‘Instagram Christianity’ doesn’t work

It wasn’t my best moment.

I was frustrated and a bit upset. As a young father, I was trying to balance a complex job with the pressures of providing for those under my watch. On one particular day, the sun shining brightly and a soft wind blowing on a still lake, I decided to go out on a paddle boat with three of my kids.

They weren’t fighting, but they were bickering. You know the feeling. They say one unkind word and it escalates from there. There’s mild tension, the kind only a child of six or seven can muster.

I snapped at my son Josh, who was only about four at the time. Then, the unthinkable happened. We were a good half-mile from the shore, but the rudder broke off and sank to the bottom of the lake. We were stuck, and the only option left was to drift into shore.

“Dad, why don’t we pray,” my son announced. I stopped short, smiled at him, and we bowed our heads. Eventually, we towed the paddle boat back to the dock. It was what you might say was an Instagrammable moment in our family history. Except that Instagram didn’t exist back then, smartphones were a distant dream, and the only proud moment was when my son said we should pray. If we had posted on social media, it wouldn’t have included the tension or my crabby attitude.

I wrote about this incident in my new book, called The 7-Miniute Productivity Solution, which comes out in January. I must confess, it might have been my daughter Hannah who suggested we pray. It really did happen, and I was proud to relay the details of this story. The suggestion here is that, as parents, we had modelled prayer enough that the idea made sense, even for a young child.

My question for anyone who has experienced these moments, though, is whether we have decided those proud moments are the only ones worth talking about. The truth is, social media has become a way to not only share the best moments of life, but as Christians it is also a way to present a false image of our spiritual demeanor. We’re “always on” and always like Jesus.

For years, experts have said this is a serious problem from a humanistic standpoint. When we scroll through the feed of friends and family, we only see their shining moments. Yet, we also see them at their spiritual best. No harsh words, no putdowns, no jabs. I was probably a jerk that day on the boat, or at least a little tired and annoyed. I like to publicize the best parts, though.

I’m not sure that is the best way to live. When we only reveal the best moments of our spiritual lives, we’re pretending we don’t really need the Holy Spirit to guide us. What we’re really saying is – we got this. We’re fine. We have life figured out. There are no problems here.

And yet, of course there are problems. As a dad, I had to learn to have patience one day at a time. I didn’t suddenly become patient as though all it takes is clicking that option in an app. Patience comes through long hours of suffering, waiting, praying, and hoping. Fruit grows slowly over time.

Social media doesn’t really portray that growth accurately. Instagram Christianity, a term I heard recently from writer, speaker, and talk radio host Carmen LaBerge. It’s a way to present ourselves to others as fully formed Christians who have everything figured out. It means an influencer who is representing a “brand” on Instagram to a Christian audience, possibly by paying an assistant to post nice photos. Is it real though?

I doubt it. To be honest, none of this is real.

There are no fully formed Christians. There are only those who are fully flawed. Instagram has taught us that we can hide our imperfections, but we can’t hide them from a Father who knows all about us and loves us anyway. He doesn’t even have an Instagram account.

Capturing Hope Moments

My husband called me one morning to tell me he was on his way home from work. The entire senior leadership team at his company was let go. He signed severance and was officially unemployed. My heart sank. He was our sole income earner. We had moved halfway across the country, left our home and family behind, and had a lot riding on this job.

Before my husband even arrived home, I had called the realtor to list our house. I also called a friend because I needed a shoulder to cry on. My friend came over and said, “Look forward to what God is going to do next just as you would look forward to a Christmas present. You know Christmas presents are good, just as God is going to do something good. Be full of joyful anticipation.”

My friend didn’t know it at the time, but those words carried me through the next few weeks. I would wake up in the morning and refuse to think about the tasks I dreaded during the day, but instead think about the future with hopeful anticipation. I would hope that my husband’s next job would be less stressful, maybe it would be less hours, and maybe we could move back home and live close to our family.

In fact, we began to work towards making those hopes come to fruition. Hope is a pathway to our goals and it’s not surprising that it is always correlated with higher achievement outcomes. It was those hopeful thoughts that carried me through and directed our day.

All that happened a couple years ago, long before I had read the 7 Minute Solution, and long before capturing the hope moments was even a defined practice.

John Brandon uses the beginning of his book to bring hope to the front and center. What should we do to start our day? According to Brandon, our first thing upon rising shouldn’t be making a task list, but rather capturing our hope moments. Brandon writes, “Hope should take precedence over goals and it should ultimately drive us. Hope can help us overcome disappointment and suffering, and it helps us connect the dots between what we do today and what is our life’s purpose.” I’m not sure anything resonates with me more.

Have specific hopes been motivating for me in the past? Yes. But they were never connected to a routine. When I read about the routines Brandon outlines, I was on board. Now I keep a journal on my nightstand. Before I even get out of bed in the morning, I write my hopes for the day and I also write down the thoughts I have that are causing stress.

I’ve found it so helpful to do this brain dump before I get out of bed. Once I get up, my day doesn’t stop until I find myself crawling under the covers at night. I’m amazed at what a purposeful 7 minutes in the morning has done for my daily focus and overall daily outcomes.

We are long past the unemployment stage. My husband likes his job, and we’re living in our home state close enough to visit grandparents often.

As I’ve had time to practice capturing my hope moments, I like to think of hope as setting the stage. It’s like an intro into my day that makes me excited about what is to come. When I record daily hopes, I’m filled with positive thoughts and feelings. Hope isn’t bogging me down with worry and it’s not a to-do list that makes me feel overwhelmed.

In many ways, it’s hope that puts the wind in my sails. According to Charles Snyder who developed the Hope Theory, hope is like a vehicle to get you where you want to go. Higher levels of hope are associated with higher academic performance, greater life satisfaction, and even a lower death rate. It’s not surprising that psychologists have found these things about hope as scripture tells us the same.

Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

Hope anchored in our Creator gives us an eternal mindset. It’s hope in eternal life that drives us when our finite life here bogs us down. Hope that God is working for our good and that he is preparing an eternal home for us. Now that’s a hope worth waiting for.

Master of One by Jordan Raynor

The idea of the book Master of One by Jordan Raynor is simple: find something you love and are good at, and then master it. 

While he opposes the idea of being a jack of all trades, Raynor offers biblical concepts and practical insights to help every reader decide what and how to become a master at their craft. 

Each chapter begins with a story of a real-life person who became a master of their chosen profession and the path they took to reach mastery. Raynor then offers genuine guidelines and applicable ideas to help the reader find their one thing. Each chapter ends with biblical encouragement…and a lot to ponder.

The first portion of the book makes a compelling biblical case why we as Christians should pursue excellence in work. Through biblical exegesis and quotes made by prominent theologians, Raynor thoroughly explains the importance of mastering something, not for wealth or fame, but to use it to glorify God and serve others. 

He argues that we as believers can and should master the work we have chosen to pursue, because by doing so we bring praise to God.

The next portion of the book is full of  ideas to mull over. Raynor has an art of writing in a way that invites the reader to dig deep into themselves. The questions he asks and the tips he suggests for how to decide what to master are so spot on, I had to stop reading every two pages to think. 

With each chapter he invites the reader to analyze who they are, what they love, and what career they want to pursue. 

The last portion of the book is about the point of mastery. Once we’ve decided what to master, how do we master it and why? It’s about mastering your one thing. Once you’ve decided what you want to master, how do you do it?

The last part of the book gives many good suggestions that are easily transferable into our lives (like finding a mentor) and include several challenging insights to us as believers (such as “mastering” our witness). 

There are two kinds of great books in this world: the page turners and the brain turners. Raynor’s is definitely the second. 

Since this book was exactly what I needed to help me decipher what I want to do with my work life, I read it very slowly. The questions he poses and ideas he has are so compelling, I genuinely had to stop and simply sit and think and think and think. 

There is perhaps nothing I love more about a good book than its ability to make me think deeply. Master of One did that so much and so often, I hope I can thank the author one day.

I am a 31-year-old stay-at-home mom to three growing kids and a pastor’s wife. Picking up this book at this moment in my life seemed God-ordained. After having my eldest after only two years out of college, and choosing to end my career to stay home full time, we’ve reached a place as a family where it’s time for me to go back to work. 

Deciding on a career path at my age is different than when I entered college. I now spend a lot of time pondering what would be best for my family, what would bring God the most glory in my life, and what I can master. 

An interesting point to this book, perhaps surprisingly, is all of the theological meat there is to chew on. Raynor is himself an entrepreneur, not a theologian. I was regularly taken back by how much theology I had to mull over as I read Master of One

The concept of pursuing excellence in work can be dangerous. It can edge desperately close to a worldly pursuit, a fixation on work and wealth and fame that causes us to neglect our souls, our families, and ultimately our God. I was skeptical at first. I was happy to discover that Raynor doesn’t go over the edge. 

His theology in this is sound: we work with all our hearts to bring glory to God and witness to the world. We don’t achieve mastery by neglecting our spouses or families, and we don’t glorify God to pursue excellence as the world pursues excellence. 

We become the best chef or pastor or electrician or educator we can be because God has called us to be excellent and joyful and loving in all our pursuits. 

That is exactly why Raynor calls us to mastery: only by finding our one thing can we give it the excellence God asks of us. 

I would highly recommend reading this book. It provided me with so much guidance on how to find my one thing. It even helped me decide what my one thing is. It provided me with the biblical ideas I need to use that one thing for God’s glory and the pursuit of his mission of making himself known and praised in the world. 

To quote Raynor himself in closing: “Following Christ means viewing our entire lives (including our work) as service to God and others rather than as a means of getting something from this world.” 

Read this book, and then go out and “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” -Colossians 3:23

Why taking breaks is so important

I took a break before I started writing this blog post. Since the subject I was writing was about taking a break, I decided following its advice may be the best way to get my writing done. I made myself a cup of tea, a snack, and played a silly game on my phone. My break lasted roughly 7 minutes. Then I got to work.

Taking breaks is an important part of the workday. John gives it a whole chapter in his book. Many of us would assume the most productive among us are those of us taking the fewest breaks and putting in the most hours each day. Workaholics are also the most productive, right? Not really. 

 Our attention wanes as the hours go on, making us less productive and far more easily distracted. By taking breaks we can then give what we are working on the full attention it deserves. Breaks make us more productive because it allows the rest of the time to be fully focused on our work, which thereby produces better work. A break combats waning attention spans and gives us the moments we need to complete impressive work with joy. 

The seven minutes I took before writing this blog post gave me the hour I needed to focus and complete the task before me. As you will find in John’s book, productive people are intentional people. Intentional breaks are important parts of a productive person’s workday. 

The interesting thing about taking breaks is it makes the work within the next hour or two really good work. Have you ever noticed that? The work I do right after my morning coffee or afternoon lunch break is often the work I enjoy doing the most. In those moments I’m focused and intentional. Our work benefits from the planned moments we take to not be working. 

Breaks also need to be genuinely refreshing. Discussing work projects or stressing about all the things we have to still accomplish doesn’t have a place in a break. My favorite way to take a break is to make myself a tea. The process of walking to the breakroom, waiting for the water to boil, and then walking back to my office is all I need. Maybe for you it’s a walk around the block or writing a text to a friend. Do whatever takes your mind from your tasks and stress and allows you to breathe for a few moments. 

Give it a try tomorrow and let us know how it went. Did you feel more productive at the end of the work day? Did you feel less tired? Add a seven minute break to your lunch break in the afternoon and see how your workday benefits from it. 

Should I be writing lists?

Imagine you’re standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. You’re close enough to see the completely open space spread out before you, but far enough that you can take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. 

Maybe it’s the beauty of nature in front of you, or maybe it’s because you’re taking a moment to reflect on your life — but suddenly you ask yourself, what do I really care about? What do I want to do with my life while I’m living it? 

For most people, the actual answer to this question (if you ask yourself) usually doesn’t reflect the standard “bucket list” we create when we brainstorm or “think big” about life. There’s nothing quite as pointless as making a habit of creating lists you never follow through on. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and I’ve made this mistake myself.  

Anyone can create an amazing bucket list and have the greatest intentions to check off each item one by one. But the list itself doesn’t mean anything will happen, it doesn’t even mean it’s what you actually want to focus your energy on. 

Wait a minute. I’m not by any means saying that all lists are bad, or that they won’t help you achieve your goals. A friend recently shared a list with me titled 100 things I learned in Australia. It was brilliant. Keeping a list of things you learned in a particular season of life is a great way to reflect on the moment you’re in and bring those life lessons with you. 

However, if all your energy is focused on creating a great list, or coming up with goals because they sound cool, then you’re probably not going to accomplish any of the items you wrote down. Ask yourself, what do I really want to focus my time and energy on? Then stop waiting to check off the boxes. Start doing whatever it is you know you’re called to do. 

Back to the question: Should I be writing lists? Maybe not. Not everyone needs to keep a catalog (it’s kind of overrated.) Take the focus off the documentation for a second and instead ask yourself how you should live today. After a moment to reflect and some soul searching, you’ll know whether you need a list. 

Think back to the Grand Canyon. Suddenly, the breeze hits your face and leaves behind a smile — you realize there’s more to life than anything you can accomplish on a bucket list. You have a purpose that goes beyond anything you can dialogue. What will you learn from the situations you’ve encountered and what will you share with others?

What is the purpose of productivity?

Why does it matter whether or not you’re productive? 

You might first think about productivity and confuse it with being busy — everything is about doing more. 

Hang on. Being productive doesn’t equate with busyness. It’s actually about doing less. Productivity is when you become more efficient at what you need to do, so you have more time for what you want to do. 

If there was a way you could finish a task in half the amount of time it normally takes, then suddenly you have twice as much time as before. How you spend it is up to you. You could relax, start a new project, but at the end of it all, you’ll be less busy. 

Maybe you’re thinking, that sounds nice, but why would I want to be productive? There’s a deeper reason besides suddenly having more free time on your hands. It’s really so you have time for the important things in life. 

Being productive and having more free time doesn’t guarantee purpose. Two people can spend their time doing exactly the same thing everyday, but the one who finds purpose in what they do will be joyful because they see meaning in their actions. 

Once you spend your time with purpose, then you will see the value of productivity. Maybe you get to spend more time with your family, take a trip to a new place, or bike to your favorite view. 

If you’re still not convinced that learning the art of productivity is worth your investment, there’s another reason you should give it a second thought: Be productive for the people in your life who care about you. I’m sure when you find time to call your grandparents out of the blue, the extra time in your day will be worth one thousand times over. 

Learning how to be productive requires a certain amount of risk — anytime you change your routine, try something new, or shift your life goals — the change of trying something new means it might work or it might not. But ultimately, if you don’t take the chance to change your life for the better, then you won’t see the growth and improvement that comes from purposeful productivity. 

Moving towards something new is when the fun part begins. What will you do next? What endeavour will you put your energy towards? The possibilities are endless, but the time is yours.

4 ways to run a meeting and change your work life

Meetings can be more tedious than productive

My first job out of college was at a domestic violence shelter as an advocate. I loved that job and still appreciate all that I learned when I was there. One of my favorite parts of the week was the shelter team meeting. For one or two hours each week, we would discuss who was at our shelter, what their struggles were, and make an action plan of how to assist them. Working in social work is incredibly stressful. For one moment each week we got to sit down as like-minded women and brainstorm how best to help the people in front of us, there was something often stress-relieving about it. For many, though, meetings are torture. They are long, tedious, and sometimes pointless. 

    If I’m being honest, those meetings that I enjoyed weren’t actually that productive. Don’t hear me wrong — some of it was productive: we created action plans, we assisted each other in brainstorming solutions, and we shared resources. But in between all that was a lot of fluff, time spent complaining, arguing, rabbit-trailing, or gossiping. The rabbit trails were at times more prominent than the actual point of the meeting in the first place. Meetings are important and need to happen in the workplace, but maybe there is a way for them to fulfill their purposes more efficiently.

What dysfunctional meetings are costing us

    A study released in 2019 concluded that the cost of poorly led meetings will reach $399 billion in the US alone. Another study found that dysfunctional meetings poorly influence market share, innovation, and employment stability. How we do meetings is actually costing us money, and lots of it. Studies have also shown that managers and employees alike feel that meetings cause them to be unable to complete their work on time, requiring them to work late or on weekends. A dysfunctional meeting is not just stressful and boring, it is affecting our overall job satisfaction, our company’s innovation and financial gains, and takes away from the work hours we need to actually finish our tasks.

How can we change this? How can we make our meetings more productive and less time-consuming, allowing us the time we need to actually do our work?

4 tips to help improve meetings

    I received a few tips from my husband. He is the king of productive meetings. He works as a pastor at a small church plant and has never made our church member meetings longer than 45 minutes. I regularly complain that I would like them to be more exciting. I’ve also noticed he manages to do this with Zoom prayer meetings, Bible studies, and even church services. I’m not suggesting he is cold or controlling. I think the opposite may be the case. The people in his church trust him as their leader and feel comfortable with him as they would a friend. He can be depended on to make meetings enjoyable, but still productive. 

I asked him his secret and he shared a few ideas: 

  1. He is confident as the leader of the meeting.
  2. He knows the material that needs to be talked about in-depth.
  3. He provides a very short intro and ending.
  4. He decides on a time limit and tries to stick with it. 

My husband’s advice and the data from the studies on meetings align almost perfectly: stick to the agenda, come prepared, and focus on the important things. We don’t have to spend our entire work life in meetings, and the more productive meetings are, the less of them we need. 

Developing Good Habits

The 7-Minute Productivity Solution is based on developing good habits. The 7 minutes you use to accomplish a goal are pre-planned and completed routinely. As I read the book and contemplated using a 7-minute process to accomplish a goal, I started thinking that overnight success stories are mainly a myth.

Of course, we all can think of some person that became an internet sensation overnight. Or maybe we can think of someone who put some money in the stock market on a whim and became a millionaire in their sleep. But mainly, success comes through diligence. Research suggests that people who are successful in controlling their behavior in line with their life long goals rely on effortless strategy. Effortless strategy is a fancy way of saying good habits.

Breaking a bad habit is so hard. If you’ve tried and failed, you’re not alone. Bad habits, in large part, are due to neurons firing in a specific region of your brain and at specific times during a behavior. Over time, this becomes a pattern, both in your brain and in your behavior. Thus, you need to make a conscious effort to retrain your brain.

I had a terrible habit of waking up each morning and reaching for my phone. I’d put myself in a trance scrolling through Facebook and elevate my blood pressure scrolling through the news. As I write about this habit, I can’t really think of a worse way to wake up. I hated it, yet I couldn’t seem to do anything to change.

Breaking a bad habit and developing a good habit often happen simultaneously. I think this is good news. It’s almost like two for the price of one. The 7-minute solution already had a developed plan to help me get rid of my doom and gloom phone scroll each morning.

I laid aside the phone and grabbed a journal instead and mapped out my day and how I’d spend my time. I recorded what I hoped for the day and how I was going to fill the 9 or so hours I had before dinner. Thus, I had a plan for what I was going to do instead of reaching for my phone. I was serious about not rolling over in the morning and staring at a screen for half an hour, so I also actually started plugging in my phone somewhere else overnight. I set myself up for success. The point is, to develop a good habit you need a plan.

Good habits also take time. The neighbor kids and I used to run back and forth between our houses when we were children. Over time, the grass wore down and the path was mainly dirt. When we were grown, my parents had to diligently lay grass seed and water to allow the lawn to regrow. This took time in the same way creating a new habit takes time. In fact, I often think of neurons in your brain creating a pattern over time the same way I think of someone taking the same path day after day and wearing down the grass. Just as the worn grass and later the regrowth takes time, the same is true for habits. 

It’s not possible to say how many days it takes to form a new habit. If you believe the popular thought that a new habit will be developed in 21 days, you’re probably going to find yourself mistaken. There are so many variables in developing habits, it’s nearly impossible to give a set time-frame. However, time aside, it’s important to start with your best foot forward.

If you want to get rid of a habit, it’s necessary to have a plan in place. I cannot stand tracking our home budget. I have a bad habit of ignoring our scheduled reminder on the Echo every Monday night at 6:30 that it’s time to track my spending. I hate numbers, pie charts, and decimals points that much. However, I was able to take the 7-minute productivity solution and make myself a plan for Monday night. I was successful in getting the job done, or at least more done than it’s ever been, in 7 minutes. 

Early in your journey to replacing your habits, you may not be successful. Even with my morning routine to get rid of my screen scroll on my phone, I’m still a work in progress. I think the key is to have a plan and be gracious with yourself. If you back-slide after you quit something cold-turkey, don’t throw in the towel. Adjust your plan and start again.

Changing behavior is hard work and getting to a point of effortless strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Overnight success wasn’t true for J.K. Rowling, Jeff Bezos, or anyone else I know. But I do know people, myself included, that have celebrated successes in their lives, both big and small, because they had a plan and worked the plan until they had a well-developed good habit.