Modern life is increasingly busy, with growing time pressures often leading Australians to neglect their passions, hobbies and other fulfilling activities. However, while most of us would love to use our spare time more productively, we still waste time that could be better spent on fruitless pursuits, for example Australians spend over 18 hours per week passively engaging with social media.
To help combat this and assist people in pursuing their interests, Officeworks has engaged Dr. Timothy Sharp, Chief Happiness Officer at the Happiness Institute, to provide an easy to follow three week plan to help break bad habits and encourage Australians to use their time in a more fulfilling way.
Week 1: This week will help you break the habit of unproductive behaviours and identify how you can have a balanced life, doing what you enjoy most.
Day 1 – Step one has been completed – identifying and acknowledging the desire to break out of a bad habit. Now is the time to work out why you want to break out of this habit, look a little deeper and understand why you feel the need to change your routine.
Day 2 – Put pen to paper. Pick up a note book and identify why your habit is problematic. Is it making you unproductive in other aspects of your life? Your bad habit could be aimlessly scrolling through social channels for hours each evening. You may want to combat this by utilising your time and energy on a more fulfilling task. Write these points down as this will help you recognise your habit, why you do it and eventually, how you'll alter it.
Day 3 – Now you know why you need to curb your habit, ask yourself what you would like to replace it with. It could be a calming hobby like meditation to ease a busy work life, an active hobby to become fitter or a crafty project to reignite your creative side.
Day 4 – Think about how much time you would like to dedicate to your new hobby. This will help when you're reducing time spent on your current bad habit. Would an hour a week be sufficient, or would you like more time?
Day 5 – Research. Take the time to look into your new hobby to ensure you're 100% behind it. Thoroughly researching new behaviours is one of the most effective strategies used by psychologists and coaches to power motivation and behaviour change. So, if you're keen to start jogging, check out the running track at the local park and imagine running around it.
Day 6 – Set your goal. Research shows that appropriate goal setting is one of the strategies that can lead to happiness and satisfaction, plus studies reveal that 67% of successful people physically write down their goals. The important thing to remember when setting a goal is to stick to it. Many of us suffer from -the tyranny of when' phenomenon, where we say things like -I'll be happy when I move or get a new job'. This almost sets you up to fail, as you can never live in the moment or experience that so called -happiness' now.
Day 7 – Prepare. Gather everything you need to successfully start your new hobby, it could be picking up art supplies, new trainers or even organising a special place in your home where you'll carry out your hobby.
Week 2: You have done the legwork and realised your potential to cut out your bad habit and invest your time in something new and exciting. Now it's time to put this into practice.
Day 1 – Start by slowly reducing the time you spend on your current bad habit. So, if you scroll through social media or check work emails for hours on end each evening, start by cutting down the time you spend on these activities. You could set an alarm to remind you to -clock off' by 8pm, not checking your emails after this point.
Day 2 – Once you have reduced a little time and find you have more spare minutes in the day, get started on your new hobby. Get out your paint materials and be creative, pen a few lines of that short story or start those beginner Spanish lessons on your Kindle.
Day 3 & Day 4 – As you won't curb your habit instantly, use these days to continue to reduce the time spent on your habit. If you're working to a time, shave 25 minutes off each day. Although many people want to make major changes overnight, studies clearly indicate that -slow and gradual' is a far more effective long term strategy.
Day 5 – Remember not to -over do' your new hobby as you want to be left wanting more. For the first few sessions do -mini' activities, this will help feed your desire to switch up your routine and continue your new found hobby.
Day 6 – Keep track of the time you have saved reducing your habit in the same note book where you set your initial goal. By this point you will have racked up a spare hour or two. Seeing the amount of time saved will help highlight just how much time you potentially -wasted' each week.
Day 7 – Share your new found hobby, or pastime, with friends and family. By explaining what you're doing, you'll further cement your decision to alter your behaviour. Positive relationships are also one of the most significant contributors to success, so including others in your efforts can massively boost your chances of achieving your goal.
Week 3: You have considerably cut back your bad habit and successfully started your new hobby. This week is all about staying on track and rewarding yourself.
Day 1 – Remember to keep track of your progress so far, note down how your new hobby makes you feel. It's important to capture these emotions and feelings, as you may need some inspiration if you feel you're slipping back into your old routine.
Day 2 – To keep motivation levels high, it may be worth sharing your journey with a friend or work colleague. Simply sharing how you're getting on can keep you feeling encouraged.
Day 3 – Your habits are really starting to change and you've successfully switched up your routine. So it doesn't feel like a chore in any way, make sure you reward yourself. Several studies have found that people often give up when trying to make a change is because they think they're not making progress, when in fact they are. Be sure to monitor your activity and reward yourself with something that incentivises you.
Day 4 – Take a moment and revel in your new found time. Another well researched motivation boosting strategy is to list all the positives you've gained from the changes you've made. If you've taken up exercise, is it making you more energised? If you've cut down working at home and replaced with meditation or yoga, are you more centred and able to work more productively in your working day?
Day 5 & 6 – Remember to slowly reduce your habit and not just stop it completely. If you're used to doing something in the evening, try and allocate a few minutes at lunchtime. This could be spending 10 minutes on social media while eating your lunch. Giving yourself a little leeway will help you avoid reverting back to your old habit full time.
Day 7 – Reflect. Look back on the positive changes you've made over the past few weeks. Think about how much you enjoy your new hobby and how it will evolve in another three weeks and into the future. Simple things like setting phone reminders or creating a mini wall chart will help keep you focussed and highlight how you've achieved a more balanced routine and lifestyle.
To offer some inspiration, Dr. Timothy has highlighted three bite-sized activities you can do when starting a new hobby.
If you have 10 minutes: Getting your creativity flowing doesn't need to take up too much of your time, sketching, painting or doing some adult colouring can be done in 10 minutes. Perhaps set some time aside during your lunchbreak - taking time away from your daily routine to do something you enjoy will help your productivity. Essentials like colouring pencils and a new colouring book are the only items needed to get you started and can be easily stored in your bag for the commute home.
If you have 20 minutes: If your new hobby is to take up a form of exercise, dust off your joggers and take a stroll around your local park to kick start your goal. Getting active helps relieve the stress of day to day life and gives you time to reflect and relax, probably a key reason why you're switching up your routine. Try a couple of times a week after work and stock up on a pair of headphones and a fitness tracker to keep you entertained and motivated.
If you have 30 minutes: If you want to try your hand at something completely new, give yourself a little extra time to adjust. 30 minutes is a great starting point to get familiar. If it's something like photography or filming, take the time to work out what equipment you'll need – it could just be a simple Polaroid camera to start. Decide what you'd like to capture, the location and if you need people to feature in your film or picture. This quick 30 minute process will give you clarity for your photography project and set you up for your new hobby.
Watch -The Benefits of Having A Hobby' video by Dr. Timothy Sharp here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8z1wwkiAtI
Question: What is the 3 Week Good Habit Plan?
Dr.Tim Sharp: The 3-week good habit plan is something I developed in collaboration with Officeworks whose research indicated that a significant number of Australians engage in numerous time-wasting activities. The plan has been designed to help people break these bad habits and to use their time more efficiently and in a more fulfilling way.
According to the survey conducted by Officeworks, watching TV is by far the most popular time-waster with 84% of Australians spending their spare time in this activity. Further, 3 in 5 Australians regularly check social media during down time and instead, the plan encourages them to replace these unproductive behaviours with more fulfilling ones such as hobbies and other interests.
Interestingly, and importantly, the research indicates that most people actually want to make such changes with 80% of people stating they'd like to use their spare time more productively. And although they might not realise why, taking up hobbies would help because the mood benefits that come from engaging in social and recreational activities provides energy and motivation to then engage in other productive pursuits. In short, happiness inspires us to be more and to do more.
Question: Who should follow this 3 Week Good Habit Plan?
Dr.Tim Sharp: Anyone can follow the plan and anyone would benefit from the plan! It's specially been designed for anyone who'd like to change their behaviours and for anyone who'd like to waste less time and engage in more productive time; and let's face it, that's essentially all of us!
Question: What do you hope people achieve from the 3 Week Good Habit Plan?
Dr.Tim Sharp: The 3-week good habit plan should help people focus more on what really matters; and when they focus more on what really matters they should achieve more and ultimately enjoy more happiness.
This can then lead to innumerable other benefits, that come from achievement and happiness, including benefits that reach into every area of life. Happiness has been shown to be associated with better health, better relationships, and better performance in the workplace. So taking up hobbies in the way suggested in the 3-week plan really will have a significant and positive impact on people's lives.
Question: How can we use this plan to become more proactive?
Dr.Tim Sharp: Many people know what they 'should" do to live a better life, but many of these people don't 'do" all they think they should. This is what I call the 'knowing-doing gap". The 3-week plan, however, has been designed to help people bridge the gap and to make necessary changes slowly and gradually. For most of us, it's unrealistic to expect all bad habits will be eliminated completely; but what we can expect and what we can aim for is a reduction of bad habits and an increase in good habits.
Whether it's cutting back on scrolling through social media for hours on end and swapping them for more productive and meaningful behaviours, Officeworks' 3-week plan provides a daily breakdown people can follow to slowly begin to break out of their bad habits.
The first week helps people break out of unproductive behaviours and identify how to live a more balanced life, doing more of what they enjoy. The second week focuses more on better using the additional time created from reducing bad habits and investing that time in newer, more exciting hobbies. And finally, the third week focuses on reinforcing and maintaining the positive changes made over the longer term.
Question: Can you share your top tips of stress-free parenting?
Dr.Tim Sharp: It's probably important to note that there's no such thing as stress free parenting!
What we can have, however, is parenting with less stress and this will largely come from parents taking care of themselves first and foremost. I'm not suggesting parents be selfish; but in order to love and care for children parents first need to love and care for themselves.
To do this, all the principles in the 3-week program will be relevant because by spending less time in unproductive activities and more time in pursuits that are more meaningful everyone, parents and children, will benefit.
Question: What is the correlation of positive psychology and happiness?
Dr.Tim Sharp: Positive psychology has sometimes been described as 'the science of happiness"; but more realistically, it's the science of thriving and flourishing. What this means is that happiness is an important part of positive psychology, but there are other equally important components including purpose and meaning, physical health and wellbeing, the quality of our relationships and the extent to which we focus not just on feeling good, but also on doing good.
Question: What benefits are associated with finding new hobbies?
Dr.Tim Sharp: There are many benefits associated with finding new hobbies; a centrepiece of this 3-week plan. Essentially, spending more time engaging in pleasurable hobbies enhances our mood and happiness which in turn creates energy and momentum to be more productive. Being more productive then, not surprisingly, leads to achievement and accomplishment which then brings pride and satisfaction, another form of 'happiness". As noted previously, as all of this leads to more happiness, more happiness also leads to better health and wellbeing, better quality relationships and even longevity. So over the long term the benefits of finding new and enjoyable hobbies are many and considerable.
Question: How can we learn to ditch wasting time on social media?
Dr.Tim Sharp: Once again, the 3-week plan isn't about completely giving up or completely stopping all bad habits; that would be unrealistic. Spending some time on social media and some time watching TV is OK; but reducing the amount and spending more time in more meaningful and productive pursuits would be helpful for most of us. And remember from the research, 80% of Australians are already saying that want to make this change!
So this is why we developed the 3-week plan; to help people make the important change they already want to make, slowly and gradually reducing bad habits and slowly and gradually increasing time spent in more meaningful ways.
Question: Does the 3-week plan cost anything or is it something easily done at home in spare time?
Dr.Tim Sharp: I'm very happy to say that the 3-week plan is completely free and can easily be implemented anywhere and anytime by anyone. You can access the plan on The Happiness Institute's website. And Officeworks has also created a video along with other relevant content on their Workstyle site (here: http://www.officeworks.com.au/workstyle).
Interview by Brooke Hunter