One thing that I’ve noticed is that everyone has a set place, a default action that people tend to reset to. Think about it–when you’re not working or executing something on your calendar, what do you spend your time doing?
You might think you have no predefined place, but dig deep. Do you find yourself tending to default to Facebook, maybe television? What do you spend most of your wasted time doing?
For me, I know that I default naturally to email or Facebook. Both of these are negative ‘Set places.” By watching my successful friends, I see extremely stark differences between the successful and the average
The average person defaults to passive, distracting activities. The successful, however, default to an activity that furthers their mission. My photographer roommate spends his free time taking photos. My musician friends spend their free time producing and practicing music.
The major thing to take note of is the time requirement of excellence. Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. For people who have a set place as a passion, they’ll approach and achieve that goal just by doing what they normally do.
So, lets look at how you can diagnose your current set place…. and how you can replace it with one more in line with your goals.
Diagnosing Your Current Set Place
– So what do you spend your time doing now?
1) Install RescueTime on your Computer
RescueTime is an incredibly sleek, simple app that sits in your system tray and measures exactly how much time you spend on your computer; sorted by application, website, and level of productivity. For example, if I spend 4 hours on FB and 4 hours on a Word document, RescueTime will give me a 50% efficiency rating for the day.
This application has some pros and cons. Pro: it doesn’t require any work, other than simply installing toe app and waiting. On the negative side, because it is so easy to operate, it doesn’t tend to induce change- it just monitors what you’re already doing.
RescueTime will show you which web sites which apps you are using the most. To actually monitor what activities you’ve installed as a set place, you need a Time Log.
2) A time log
The best way to diagnose your current set place is to do a time log. For at least one full day, track everything that you do. Every time that you switch tasks, or check Facebook, or get up to grab a snack, jot it down.
I recommend the app Klok for this.
Two things will happen-first, you’ll start to become cognizant of what you’re doing to waste time. Secondly, you’ll notice that you’ll resist those urges because you won’t want to jot these notes down.
This is a great example of Peter Drucker, the famous Management scientist, and his statement of ‘that which gets measured gets managed. If you start tracking your time, you’ll naturally manage it better.
How can we improve?
So now that you know your set place, we need to figure out how to adjust yours to help you achieve your goals.
Achieving a new set place is the same process as creating any new habit. Let’s look at the form a normal habit takes, and the process to change a habit.
Trigger -> Routine -> Reward
Currently, something causes you to do something at a certain point in the day. Perhaps whenever you feel stressed, you smoke a cigarette. Whenever You get bored with your work, you switch on Facebook. Whatever it is, there is a trigger and a consequence.
Our goal then, is to break the bond between trigger and non-desired Routine.
But, just like breaking bonds between electrons and atoms, the trigger cannot exist in a vacuum. The trigger must instead be set to induce a different, desired consequence.
In order to instill a new set place, we must substitute our current set place for another.
What is your dream goal? Is it to become a musician, or build a business, or get in serious shape? What activity, if you were to practice it for hours a day, would help you achieve it?
Now you actually have to focus on making this action your go-to action. This part is just pure focus. Set specific goals, and find someone to hold you accountable.
Then, every time you find yourself off task, or distracted, instead of switching to your old outlet—the previous ‘set place,’—make a concerted effort to either return to your work, or do the new set task.
One example of this is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who told me that whenever he had an urge to smoke, he would do ten pushups instead. By recognizing triggers pushing him to negative habits, he managed to substitute positive ones in their place.
If you want to be a music producer, make an effort to replace your standard Facebook set place with Ableton Live instead. Every time you catch yourself distracted, either return on task, or work on music.
When you are done for the day, instead of relaxing with TV, go back to your new set place. You’ll need to force yourself for the first month, and that is okay. After a few weeks, your new set place will become a habit, and if you consciously monitor it, you’ll be able to induce a new set place—and build automatic success.
Photo by SaZeOd