How can your habits make you better…?

Habits, habits, habits.

What word springs to mind when you see ‘habits’ – Good? Bad? Clerical? – I bet the main one was ‘bad’, right?

Most of us would agree that we have a few bad habits wouldn’t we? Some of them wouldn’t be polite in company (except in the company of our nearest and dearest anyway) but some of them are known only to ourselves.

I’m reading IRRESISTABLE by Adam Alter at the moment (a very thoughtful pre-Christmas gift from one of my Edinburgh-based friends) and it’s all about how addicted we have become to technology…specifically Computer Games and Smartphones. The first chapter suggests that we underestimate the amount of time we – as adults and children – spend ‘just checking’ things on our phones daily. Kevin Holesh, who created the Moment App to trace smartphone usage finds that in 2016 Average Smartphone Users were spending 3 hours a day on their screens.

How long before ‘just checking’ becomes a compulsion to check?

How long before we get agitated if we can’t check?

Here’s a simple set of self-assessment questions – as part of some research carried out by English psychology professor Mark Griffiths. Answer it honestly and see what level of internet ‘dependency’ you have. Go on, you will be surprised.



0 = Not Applicable

1 = Rarely

2 – Occasionally

3= Frequently

4 = Often

5 Always

  • How often do you find that you stay online longer than you intended?______
  • How often do others in your life complain to you about the amount of time you spend online? _______
  • How often do you check your email before something else that you need to do? ______
  • How often do you lose sleep because of late night log-ins? _____
  • How often do you find yourself saying ‘just a few minutes’ when online? ______

What the scores mean:

7 or below = no signs of addiction

8 – 12 suggests mild addiction (Generally in control but showing signs of addiction)

13-20 indicates moderate internet addiction which implies you have occasional problems with you internet relationship.

21-25 highlights severe internet addiction and implies that the internet is causing significant problems in your life.

I scored 13 – which means I am showing signs of addiction. It also explains why – according to some new research from The University of Minnesota – I’ve not been feeling so happy of late. This research – shared by the World Economic Forum’s blog contributor Travis Bradbury – found that people who exhibit lower levels of self-control are less happy than those with more structure (and better habits).


The report highlighted seven bad habits to break and the best ways to do this (please make a mental tick of those you are guilty of as you scroll through the list):

  1. Compulsively surfing the internet: – it’s easy to get sidetracked when ‘researching’ something on YouTube or engaged in ‘discussions’ (let’s call them) on Facebook or Twitter. The brain takes 15 minutes to get into the state we call ‘flow’ where ideas and thoughts come naturally – if these 15 minutes are interrupted by texts or notifications then you need to start again. Be conscious in your use of the internet – whether on the web or via the Apps on your phone. If you think about it, ALL of the distractions one could EVER want are in the palm of your hand or back pocket in a smartphone – it’s no wonder it’s so addictive! Hint: switch off notifications or leave your phone off if you need to focus.
  2. Perfectionism: – There will NEVER be a perfect time to start, but once you do there will be something to work on. Also don’t be fooled into thinking anything you do will ever be perfect – make whatever you do the best you can do. Hint: take the plunge when you are thinking about something – once you start you’ll have a better idea whether you really want to continue.
  3. Meetings: – these things eat up your time like nothing on earth. Make them short. Take them standing up. Avoid them if possible by having phone calls or Skype / Conference Calls. Hint: When someone suggests a meeting, question them (politely) as to whether a face to face meeting is essential or whether an alternative would be more efficient.
  4. Responding to emails as they arrive: – although some office cultures ‘expect’ you to reply to an email instantly, it’s not always possible…nor is it desirable. If an email needs an instant response then either the sender should’ve sent it earlier or a phone call would have been better. Hint: try and schedule a time slot for emails in the morning and afternoon. DON’T do emails at night.
  5. Multitasking: – This is the enemy of efficiency. If you r mind needs 15 minutes to get into flow and you’re flitting from one thing to another this isn’t efficient or effective. Hint: Stick to a task until it’s complete (or until you’ve lost focus) and do one thing at a time.
  6. Putting off Tough Tasks: – when you need to do something tough, you need to be on top form. Don’t leave the tough stuff to build up – it’s like leaving all your homework until Sunday night as a child…its still there! Hint: Tackle the tough things first thing in the morning. (Well, after your coffee and emails!)
  7. Using your tablet or phone in bed: – you KNOW this. Blue light affects your sleep AND if you get a late night email with bad / tough / upsetting news it’s going to affect your sleep. Hint: at last, a positive one I can confess to – plug your phone in downstairs.
[NB: teenagers will always use the ‘but I need the phone for my alarm…’ excuse – get them a basic alarm clock and try and get everyone to charge phones downstairs in the evening. If the teens use the ‘I can’t work out the alarm clock and I’ll be late getting up’ excuse, patiently show them how to use the alarm clock and make sure you can rouse them if the clock mysteriously ‘fails’!].

This research and the excellent book have really made me think about how I use technology AND more crucially, my time. I’m all for trying something new*…what about you?


*I wrote this blog with my phone in another room so I could focus!



Bernie. x