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Episode 13 — How To Install & Use Habits For Maximum Impact

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About this episode

Do you have habits and you have no idea how you got them? Do you wish you could install some new good habits? Do you have some bad habits you want to get rid of? In this episode we will show you where habits come from, how to make the good ones stick around, and how to get rid of the bad ones.

Hosted by Dr. Nick Oswald featuring Kenneth Vogt of Vera Claritas.

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This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:00:09):
This is The Happy Scientist podcast. Each episode is designed to make you more focused, more productive, and more satisfied in the lab. You can find us online at Bitesizebio.com/happy scientist. Your hosts are Kenneth Vogt, founder of the executive coaching firm, Vera Claritas, and Dr. Nick Oswald, PhD, bioscientist and founder of Bitesize Bio.

Nick Oswald (00:00:39):
Hello and welcome to The Happy Scientist podcast from Bitesize Bio. If you want to become a happier, healthier, and a more productive scientist, you are in the right place. I’m Nick Oswald, the founder of Bitesizebio.com. And with me is the driving force of this podcast, Kenneth Vogt. I have worked with Ken for over seven years now with him as my business colleague and mentor, and I knew that his expertise could help a lot of researchers. So we decided to start this podcast together. In these sessions, we will hear mostly from Ken on principles that will help shape you for, for a happier and a more successful career. And along the way, I’ll pitch in with points from my personal experience as a scientist, and from working with Ken. Today, we will be talking about how to install and use habits for maximum impact. In episodes, one to nine of this podcast, we talked about the foundational principles of human needs, core mindsets, and charisma factors, which will be referring to, we will refer to in this and all future episodes.

Nick Oswald (00:01:41):
So if you find this episode useful, please go back and listen to episodes one to nine, to get an understanding of these life changing concepts. So let’s bring in the man himself. Kenneth, how are you today?

Kenneth Vogt (00:01:53):
Doing great, Nick, are you? Excellent. Well, today is, as you noted, we’re going to be talking about habits and specifically how to install habits and make sure that, that you get the most out of them. Now, one thing about habits that’s interesting is most of us have developed most of our habits without really consciously trying to do so. It’s just kind of happened. In some cases, you’ve, you know, you’ve just been fortunate, you’ve accidentally built some good habits, but every one of us has accidentally built some bad habits too. So we’re going to talk about how to get some good habits in there on purpose. We’re also going to talk how to get some bad habits out cause in some cases, no matter how many new good habits you add, if you don’t get rid of some bad habits, you’re going to still have trouble. And we don’t want you to have trouble. We want everything to go great for you. So, one thing to think about, sometimes people are intimidated

Kenneth Vogt (00:03:00):
By the idea of a new habit and they think, Oh man, it’s going to be so much work to, to put something in place that will actually make a difference in my life. But let’s, let’s just think of this in terms of simple math. If you were to improve 1% a day for the next year, how much better off would you be at the end of the year? And you might think, well, let’s see 1% a day, a times, 365 days. That’s 3.65 times better, but no, it’s not addition. It’s multiplication. So you’d actually be almost 38 times better. If you would improve 1% a day. Now that’s not asking much. You can, you can deal with 1% a day. And what that means too, is that if you’re improving your habits, you don’t have to be perfect. You just got to get a little better every day.

Kenneth Vogt (00:03:57):
Just take it up a notch every day. Now the beauty of this is that when you develop good habits on purpose, they can build. The downside is the same thing works for bad habits. If you have bad habits, they will build too. And the thing about it is sometimes the impact isn’t obvious. Cause again, if it’s only, if you’re only 1% worse today, you may not hardly even notice, but the impact can build up quickly over time. So it is important that we pay attention to both, both sides of this. What are we doing? That’s a good habit of what are we doing. That’s a bad habit. And I like to think also in terms of just those words, good and bad. It’s it’s not so I’m not, I’m not making a moralistic statement about your habits. What we’re talking about is is it a habit that gets you where you want to go? Or is it a habit that gets in a way of where you want to go? So you’ve got to think of it in terms of the outcomes. Think about is this, is this a helpful habit? Is this an unhelpful habit? Is this a habit that takes me forward? Is this a habit that takes me backward? You can, you can think of it as good habits or friends. Bad habits are enemies. I thought I heard, I thought I heard some breathing back there, Nick. I wondered if you had something you wanted to add?

Nick Oswald (00:05:24):
I’m still breathing. I would definitely the way that I like to look at this as, as kind of what you said in a way, the 1%, is just a direction, isn’t it? It’s a vector, like you said in the last episode. It’s basically what direction are you moving in? Are you kind of continuously making your habits better on average or are you continually making them worse and allowing yourself to spiral downwards? And yeah, and I think that’s helpful as well because what I don’t know about, well, I do know about you, you don’t do this, but most including myself do this thing where we kind of make a, make a surge to try and increase improve lots of habits at the same time and then get demotivated when things, you know, it gets better for a while, then it gets worse. And then, then that downward spiral continues. And so it’s about getting out of that, kind of, for me anyway, it’s about getting out of that, that mindset of trying to really push hard, to make a massive advance and just keep,just keep improving slowly. And even if it goes backwards, just get back on the bike and keep going, you know? A little bit better.

Kenneth Vogt (00:06:34):
Yeah. You can’t even worry about that. You’re going to have backward days that’ll happen. But if you’re, as you say, if your vectors pointed forward, you’re going to come right back to it. After that. Yeah. One of the things that spins around this all over the place is time. Time is this thing that we’re constantly encountering and in reference to our habits, good habits will turn time into a friend. But for most of us, we don’t see time as a friend at all. You think time is an enemy. Time is working against us. We’re always working to beat the clock. And, and that is because of bad habits. That’s why time is bothering you. It’s because of bad habits. If you had good habits, you wouldn’t be worried about it at all. You wouldn’t worry about like 1% improvement in any given time period of like a day.

Kenneth Vogt (00:07:30):
I’m like, Oh, that’s no big. That’s fine. It’s perfectly fine. But when you have bad habits that are beating you down, 1% improvement is not good enough. I need 50% improvement, a 100% improvement. I can’t take it anymore. You know? And we have a different mindset about it. But you know, the idea here is you can take a look at how you feel about time, and it will tell you the net impact of your habits, because when time is your enemy is because it keeps crushing down on you. Things keep happening, bad things, keep happening. Things don’t get done. All the things you worry about are constantly present. That’s what happens when you are at the mercy of bad habits and you know, again, bad habits, the habits that are not getting you, the outcomes you want, but when you’re getting the outcomes you want, time is awesome.

Kenneth Vogt (00:08:27):
You won’t be bothered by it at all. Now let’s think about another thing that happens in reference to time with habits. You I’m sure you’ve noticed this. Bad habits offer an immediate payoff. You know, if I eat that ice cream, it tastes good right now. Good habits offered a delayed payoff. If I go to the gym and work out hard for an hour, I’ll look better next week, next month, you know that right now you look like a sweaty mess. And I mean, this is a good way to notice whether or not something is, is going to help you with your outcomes or not. And here’s the, here’s the thing. Getting a good payoff now is not the problem. It’s something that grabs you because it gives you a good payoff now at a cost that comes later, bad habits demand a heavy price in the future.

Kenneth Vogt (00:09:27):
Good habits collect their price upfront, but they have the payoff in the future. So you have to, you have to learn this thing called delayed gratification. That’s that is a step into maturity folks. It children want everything right now. They, you know, they can’t wait. It drives them crazy. We’ve all seen it. In fact, we’ve all done. It. We’ve all been children. And we’re like, Oh man, I can’t believe it. We’re going to go, we’re going to go to the park after school. And I can’t believe it’s still 10 o’clock. I can’t believe it’s still 10.05. I can’t believe it’s still 10.10, you know? Because, Oh, we were just, we’re just aching for this thing. We want it right now. Well, if you can put it off a little bit, you could, you could have a positive anticipation, like, Oh great after school today. We’re going to the park. It’s going to be fantastic. And you can still enjoy your day and still be engaged in your day just by having a, a somewhat different outlook on, on when the payoff is. Man, go ahead Nick

Nick Oswald (00:10:34):
And just to go back to the, you know, to the, what you talked about previously, but the 1%, I think this is a great way to look at this delayed gratification thing. Because for me, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in, Oh man, I just do this instant gratification thing all the time. And then you feel bad about yourself. So you do some instant gratification to make yourself feel better. And then you just feel like you’re never going to get anywhere. But actually, if you just set your goal to not solve that instant gratification problem, but just to chip away at 1% a day, and that can be some tiny, like you know, you were going, you’re going to have a piece of chocolate. I don’t know, three times a day, you take instant gratification in the form of a piece of chocolate well you just start chipping it away. I’m not going to have one that one time. And I’m going to allow myself to over the other two times, and then you become stronger. Then it’s easier to get rid of the second one. And the third one is you get, as you get stronger and stronger, rather than thinking, you have to climb that whole mountain at the same time.

Kenneth Vogt (00:11:34):
Exactly. And now we’re going to break this down. We’re going to talk about how to form a good habit, in specifics. We’re also going to talk about how to break a bad habit in specifics. And we’re going to give you a lot of, a lot of things you can use here, a lot of tools and a system that’ll that works. So if you like, man, I’ve never been able to install a good habit. I’ve, I’ve wanted to, you know, stop eating popcorn in front of the TV. But I just, I dunno, I just never stopped, you know, or, or, you know, I’ve really wanted to get up a half hour earlier and go running in the morning. But I can’t seem to, I can’t seem to get started. You know, this is, this is a common problem for everybody. And if you know anybody that has good habits and you look at them and say, yeah, man, it must just be easier for them.

Kenneth Vogt (00:12:23):
It’s not, it’s not any easier for them. They have a better system than you have. They’ve they’ve got a method to install a good habit. And you’ve probably also noticed too, that some people have really great habits in a limited area of their life. And then another area of their life, they’re a train wreck because they haven’t transferred over the system. So, you know, you have people that are very good at making money, and yet they drink themselves into stupidness. You know, how did they develop that terrible habit while developing these other great habits that other people just would, would, would do anything to have? Well, it’s a matter of, having some awareness of how it happens. Sometimes we have systems that are unconscious. And so we don’t, you know, since we don’t know they’re there, they don’t happen on purpose.

Kenneth Vogt (00:13:18):
They, they happen by accident or they have an arbitrarily. And, you know, we notice the outcome, but we don’t know how we got there. Well, we’re going to talk about how specifically to get there. And these are things that are universal. There’s nothing about any of this. That’s like, Oh, you have to be special. Or you have to have certain qualities. No, this is what works for humans. So you can look at these things, this, I mean, parts of it will probably be more appealing to you than other parts of it. That’s fine. You know, use what, use what works and, and get the job done. So we’re going to start with what it takes to form a good habit. And there are four things that you have to do. And we’ll talk about each of them in detail, but I want to hit the four upfront just to give you the foundation for this.

Kenneth Vogt (00:14:10):
If you want to form a, a good habit, the first thing you have to do is you gotta make it obvious. You gotta make it obvious to do the right thing, that will get you the outcome that you’re seeking. Next thing you have to do is you got to make it attractive. Cause just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it looks good to do. Doesn’t mean you think, Oh boy, I can’t wait to do that. The third thing is you gotta make it easy because it could be obvious. It could be attractive, but if it’s it’s too hard, you won’t do it. The fourth thing is you have to, to make it satisfying. And I remember we talked about how bad habits tend to give you an immediate payoff and good habits make you wait. So you gotta, you gotta do something to make it feel good now, as you’re forming the habit. So let’s, let’s take these apart one by one. So as far as making something obvious, so let’s let’s pick out an example. Let’s say that, that you want to start going to the gym every morning. Alright. Well, the first thing you can do is give yourself some visual clues. So in the evening, before you go to bed, lay out your workout clothes. So when you get up in the morning, the first thing you see is, Oh, there’s, there’s my workout clothes. That’s right. I’m supposed to go to the gym this morning.

Kenneth Vogt (00:15:36):
That’s the first step. The next thing you do is use a method like, like this. We say, when X happens, I will do Y. So when get, I’m in automatic mode, when I get up in the morning, I go straight to grabbing my gym bag. You know, I make a connection there that you don’t have to think about. So that it’s automatic. When I brush my teeth. The next thing I do is put on my running shoes, just to just an automatic pattern. It’s always tied together, or like, I’m not going to think about this. I’m not going to make a decision about this. I’m not going to brush my teeth. And then I go, okay, should I go running or not? No, I brush my teeth. I put on my running shoes end of story there’s you don’t give yourself any, any way out in between.

Kenneth Vogt (00:16:29):
You make it obvious. And this can be true for, for anything. You know, if you, if you want to have a habit of eating better and you go, okay, well, every time I take a bite of something on my plate that I really enjoy, I take a, I take a bite of vegetables that I might not enjoy as much. You make it, you make it a deal with yourself. Every time I have that piece of steak, I will also have a piece of broccoli, not just eat steak, steak, steak, steak, steak, aw, I don’t have room for broccoli. Oh, well, what can I do? You know?

Nick Oswald (00:16:59):
So I, I had a, a way that I trained myself to get you know, the X, when X happens, I will do Y to, to get up. When my alarm went off, was that during the day I set, or one day I set the alarm and lay in bed. I wasn’t sleeping, just lay in bed. The alarm went, I got up and I did it, I repeated it about 30 times so that I got, and I did that over a few days. And it was almost like you train yourself to respond so that you just kind of do that. As soon as you hear that you associate the alarm with getting out of bed. And that worked for me anyway, I helped to tip the balance to I’m not saying it’s perfect. And it just, it just reminded me of it that maybe I need to top it up again. But it certainly helped tip the balance for me into, okay, when this alarm goes, I move. And, um, yeah. And that’s one way to do it.

Kenneth Vogt (00:17:50):
Right? So let me put this in a, in a different, a different framework. You gotta pick the right time for making choices versus decisions, and you might think those are synonyms. Would that be right? Choices, decisions to same thing, but actually it’s not. See a decision is a data-driven activity. A decision is something you do where you gather information, and then based on the information you make a decision. So I’m going to make dinner tonight. All right, well, I’ll look in the refrigerator. What’s available here to cook with. All right. Well, based on what’s here, I guess I’m going to make a chicken breast and some cauliflower. All right. That’s a decision. A choice is different. A choice is merely choosing among your options. See, looking in the refrigerator, those aren’t your only options.

Kenneth Vogt (00:18:57):
For dinner, you could go to the grocery store and buy something else. You could go to a restaurant, you could choose to fast tonight. Those are all within, within your option. So a choice is something that you do that is just choosing from among your options, where you’re not being affected by the data available to you. You’re, you’re opening yourself up to more data. Now you could see, you could see the positive points of each of these things and the negative points of each of these things decisions become bad when you have limited information. So the end decisions don’t allow you to rely on intuition is they’re looking for data and the data and the data is in charge of the outcome. Whereas choices, choices are very open ended. I could do anything that’s possible. It’s it’s, if it’s, if it’s available as a choice, I can choose it.

Kenneth Vogt (00:19:49):
Well, that can allow you to make some really bad choices sometimes like when all the evidence says, do X and you go, ah, you know, I can still do Y so, you know, all the evidence says I should go to the gym, or I could just stay in bed for an hour, you know? So you got to pick your times – when to make choices and when to make decisions. And so the obvious question is, well, how do I, how do I choose? And this is where you have to make a choice about whether or not it’s choices or decisions, but this, this kind of drives to the point. Choices are things that you should make a as they’re, they’re the application of the values that, that you want to live, decisions are more the day to day, you know, things I’m going to do in support of the values that I already chose.

Kenneth Vogt (00:20:41):
So you shouldn’t make a lot of choices, but the ones who make it should really matter, they should be important to you. And you shouldn’t change your choices very often, because remember that because you’re choosing among your options, choices could just bounce all over the place. You could just one day, I’m going to, I’m going to be someone who regularly exercises the next day. I’m never exercising again. The next day I’ll exercise when I feel like it. The next day I’ll exercise when the calendar says, I must, you know, you can drive yourself crazy with that. So better to pick a position, choose it. And then after that, make your decisions based on your choices. That’s part of the data. Well, since I’m somebody who goes to the gym three times a week, and I’ve only been there once this week, and there’s only two more days left this week, I guess I better go to the gym today.

Kenneth Vogt (00:21:39):
You know, that’s a decision now, you know, you took the data and the data supported taking a particular action. So weigh things in that way, start thinking in terms of decisions versus choices. And, and you’ll realize then developing a good habit as a choice, developing bad habits often as a result of decisions. So, you know, I don’t want to denigrate decisions like the only lead to bad outcomes cos they certainly don’t. In fact, they’re, they can be very supportive of good choices that you’ve made previously, but you gotta recognize the difference between it’s when it’s time to choose and when it’s time to decide. Another thing about forming good habits is be specific about things. Get detailed. If you got it in your head, that I’m going to start eating better. Well, you’re not going to develop much of a good habit out of that.

Kenneth Vogt (00:22:38):
You gotta get specific. You gotta, you gotta say, okay, from now on I’m I’m not going to have more than 2000 calories a day, or from now on, I am going to eat vegetables at every meal. From now on, I’m going to have a salad before every meal. From now on, I’m not bringing any high-fat salad dressings into the house. You get specific about the things that you’re going to do, and that’s where you’re developing this good habit. And you know, the whole thing about, you know, how it is going on a diet is always a bad idea. In your mind because it’s, it says, this is a temporary change, but we’re going to tolerate suffering for a period of time. And then we’re going to go back to air quotes, normal you know, that’s, that’s not a habit. Whereas if you really want to affect, you may have an effect you want to say, okay, I’m going to change my eating habits from, I’m going to start cooking more at home.

Kenneth Vogt (00:23:39):
I’m going to stop buying packaged foods. I’m going to start, I’m going to start eating more vegetables. And I’m going to, you know, and again, I’m not, I’m not pressing any particular kind of diet here or any particular kind of exercise regime or whatever, you know, what, whatever you’re feeling drawn to, but get specific about it. So, you know exactly what you’re doing, because it’s really easy to talk yourself out of things and say, well, you know, I know I said I would run, but I did walk all the way from the heart of the mall today, you know? And we start to, we start to give ourselves all these outs because well, that’s exercise. Yeah. Well, if, if you’d been specific about what you mean by exercise, you wouldn’t be trying to trick yourself that way.

Kenneth Vogt (00:24:26):
Okay. Let’s talk a bit about now making it attractive. So you’ve made it obvious. You’ve, you’ve got your, you’ve got vegetables. You bought them at the grocery store, and now you have them at home. You’ve got your workout gear. You’ve got, you know, you’ve, you’ve got your toothbrush and toothpaste ready for brushing your teeth every day, whatever it is you’re going to do now make it attractive. So the idea of making it attractive is to take an action that you, that you want to do, you know, a new habit you want to install and, or, well, I said, let me put back up here, take a habit that you want to do and couple it with a habit you need to do so. The need to do is the one, you know, like something, a new habit you’re trying to install. So I use an example.

Kenneth Vogt (00:25:07):
Let’s say that you have been finding, I don’t brush my teeth every day. Okay. Well then now take it to something, you know, you want to do, like, I put my contacts in every day. I really want to do that. I want to be able to see. So whenever I put in my contacts, I brush my teeth. You, you couple these two things, something that you want to do coupled with something that you need to do. And it’s, it’s just a way of making again, an automatic connection. So you’re no longer making a decision. Remember, you mean, you’ve made the choice now to connect these two things, but it becomes attractive because the notion of going out today without your contacts probably sounds pretty undesirable. I was like, man, I don’t even know if I can drive to the office this way. So, you know, you’re never going to not do certain things and find, you know, take those things and couple them together. So, you know, you know what you need to do and, and you could look at the let’s, let’s look at something here in the lab, Nick, I’m going to, see if we could pull out an example there, is there an example you could think of where there’s something that you want to do? You know, that there would be easy to do that you could couple with something that you need to do.

Nick Oswald (00:26:20):
Hmm. Good question. You could I mean, one, one habit that you have to form in the lab or helps you to form in the lab is if you if you update your notes regularly, instead of leaving it to the end of the day, you know, update your notes as you do them, rather than leaving it to the end of the day. So you could say something like when I you know, the thing that you want to do is you want to go and I don’t know, check, check your messages or something. Every, you know, you’re at the bench, it’s time to check messages or stop for a coffee or, or something like that. Then at that point you will you know, once you’ve done that, then you’ll update your notes so that you put in a you know, you’re at the bench. You need regular breaks anyway, to just get away, clear your head, then come back. When you take those regular breaks before you get started again, you will write the notes up. That’s one example you could use.

Kenneth Vogt (00:27:21):
I like that you reminded me of a scene in the movie, Avatar, whatever the, what, the main character he had, he had just come back from his out of body experience and he’s starting to do a video log. And he turns to the scientist and to the scientist, do I have to do it now. I’m really need to get some sleep. And she goes, no, do it now while it’s fresh, what she was she was tying some things together. There was something he had to do that he didn’t want to do. But you know, it was look, you got back from this exciting experience. That was the thing that, that you wanted to do. Now, the thing you need to do is make your record. So, you know, go forward.

Nick Oswald (00:28:05):
Possibly the way to do, you know, in that exact example that I gave there is that before you stop for coffee, then you write up your notes and then you reward yourself by taking the coffee break. So then you, cause then the, the, the, the payoff is that you feel relaxed, more relaxed, cause you’re like, yeah, okay, now, that’s completely done and dusted that little segment of work. I don’t have to remember any of the bits that are floating around, any of the numbers or the, or the sequence of what I did. Now, I can go and properly, properly, relax, and then you’ll get, you’ll get the you know, the, the, you get used to that pay off that feeling of now I can relax and have the coffee rather than feeling guilty about it. And so that’s more likely to form the habit.

Kenneth Vogt (00:28:47):
Yeah. That’s it. What you’re doing then is you’re, you’re saying I’m going to do something that I don’t want to do, but I’m going to get an immediate reward for it. Yeah. And you know, it’s like, when I, after I take my notes, I can go have a coffee. Excellent. Okay. Another thing you can do is, is join a culture where whatever your desired behavior is, normal behavior. So yeah, just looking outside of the lab, I would say things like, you know, you can join a book club. Well, that’ll get you to read. You can join a cycling class. Well, now you’ve got to show up on time to take your spin class with everybody.

Nick Oswald (00:29:26):
Join journal club, join journal club, make sure to join a journal club. And then, and then you get into the, into the habit of, of re you know, you should be in that habit anyway, but it helps you to form the, the, the skills around around reading and analyzing papers. And it’s there, normally most places have that have a journal club, they have a seminar program. Just use those as structure to help yourself stay in the orbit of the science that you just in the orbit of.

Kenneth Vogt (00:29:57):
Well, that’s a great idea. I just learned something, I didn’t know. There was such a thing. So this is why Nick is on the podcast,

Nick Oswald (00:30:05):
The small pieces, the 1%

Kenneth Vogt (00:30:08):
He knows the, he knows the stuff that actually happens in the lab. So now that’s great. That’s, that’s great. Like I said, the F the F the fourth, or the third thing to do then is make it easy. So you want to reduce the friction. That is so, you know, for instance, let’s say you decided you want to start running well, buy some running shoes that you just love. Running shoes that you will be excited to put on. It’s like, Oh man. And, you know, and, and it won’t hurt if they’re expensive. I was like, man, I get to put on those $200 running shoes today. You know, no, I’m not, I’m not advocating being materialistic here.

Kenneth Vogt (00:30:44):
Pointing out that if it’s something you find valuable, something that you will have a positive connection to, that’ll make it easier. And, you know, just again, have stuff ready to go. If you want to, if you want to, you know do more cooking at home, well, get yourself a nice set of knives that you’ll be excited to work with. And they’re there instead of, you know, that one dull rusty knife, that’s in the, in, in the bottom of the drawer that you gotta dig out and, you know, and then you hate working with, make it something you will really enjoy, and that makes it easier. And in, prime the environment make everything around you supportive of this new habit you want to have. So if, if you want to want to do a better job of keeping up on journals, well have those journals in a place that’s convenient to read them. And you know, whether that’s on your desk or at home next to your easy chair, or right next to the commode, I don’t know whatever works for you.

Nick Oswald (00:31:44):
Well, we, you know, we used to have a thing in the last company I worked for where we would encourage, encourage each other to kind of make a pile of papers that we wanted to read and just have them sitting there so that when you have something like a centrifugation step, where you’re waiting for two minutes for the thing to work, then you just pick up the paper and start skimming. And just, you know, it’s not the same as getting down deep in the paper, but it just keeps you, it just keeps it flowing so that you just fill up those little gaps with you know, you know, with reading some literature and I, that, you know, that does, that’s a bit double sided because sometimes those two, those two minute gaps are just a good way to let your head clear and things. But I always find that a useful way to you know, just have a pile of papers that is kind of like, okay, now just grab easy to go easy to go and read it when you have a few minutes.

Kenneth Vogt (00:32:36):
Right. And, you know, there’s sometimes there are things that you need to keep up with that are two minute tasks that they’re not that hard to do. There are other things like, man, I’m gonna need a half hour to really dig into this. Well, you know, you’ll plan each of those separately. And if you have the quick and easy task right there available to you, when you have those gaps of time, then that makes it a lot easier for you. When it comes to a longer task, which you need to do there, is give yourself some carved out time like – I’m not going to get interrupted for the next half hour. I’m not answering email right now. You know, I’m, maybe you’ve stepped away from, from your desk. You know, you’ve gone somewhere else so that you can have some uninterrupted time, you know, that’s another way to make that kind of thing easier for you.

Kenneth Vogt (00:33:24):
So the fourth part, and to me, this is the best part is making it satisfying. So, you know, take, take some small step that will give you an immediate payoff. In other words, be happy with incremental success. So it, if you are thinking, you know, I have to get up and run today, I’m going to hate this. It’s going to be awful. Well, the deal make a deal with yourself. You know what I’m going to do. I’m going to get dressed to run and whether or not I run after that, I’m not worrying about it. My deal with myself is I’m going to get dressed to run. And then maybe the next day it’s, my deal is I’m going to, I’m going to get dressed to run, and I’m going to step out into the street. Maybe the deal next day is I’m going to dress for and step up to the street.

Kenneth Vogt (00:34:19):
And I’m going to run to the end of the block, you know, give yourself a reward of, of as simple as a reward of approval for taking a step in the right direction. You don’t have to say, look, I, I promised myself I was going to run three miles a day, and you’re gonna hate yourself until you hit the three mile mark. No, that makes it miserable for you. Reward yourself steps along the way, give yourself the satisfaction of, of recognizing I’m going in the right direction. You know, and it’s not just about the final step, you know, that, that final step into three mile mark. No, it’s, every step is good.

Nick Oswald (00:35:03):
So I have an anecdote of something of a running specifics. It’s not lab specific, it’s a running specific anecdote. I’ve run for, been running for like 20 years or something like that. And but never really, I always kind of went in peaks and troughs and never really got into a regular satisfying running schedule. It’s always a struggle. And I recently got a coach who set up a structure for me to run and, and, and it’s really hit the spot. And the, and the, the bottom line of why it’s hit the spot is because I do a lot of, much more slow running than I did before. It’s the art of slowing down because as we talked about in the previous episode, it’s because what I tended to do was think of, I have to, you know, when I do a run, I need to really push myself and otherwise there’s no point, and it’s not that at all, because now if you, if you throttle it back and, you know, sometimes do faster runs but the most, most of what you do is a slower run then that still builds your fitness actually builds your your aerobic fitness more than your anaerobic fitness.

Nick Oswald (00:36:21):
But also more, just as importantly, it feels easier and it feels much more enjoyable. And so you can actually listen to like an audio book or something like that without, you know, the feeling that kind of panic you feel when you’re pushing yourself to the max and enjoy the scenery or whatever. So, yeah, that’s definitely a thing of, for me, a way that, that that makes it attractive and easy, cause I’m not kind of dreading the next training session. And I’m also just enjoying the training session when it comes.

Kenneth Vogt (00:36:53):
Right. And you know, I mean, this is true of anything that you’re doing in your life. If you’re going just flat out, you know, pedal to the metal all the time, life is not good. You won’t enjoy your life. You won’t enjoy your work. You, you won’t feel satisfied. You got to go at a pace that is sustainable. And you know, so I love that as a metaphor for this. Now, I just mentioned that one of the things you can do to make it satisfying is to give yourself approval for incremental steps, but you can go further than that and you can give yourself rewards for doing good things. So when you do finish that, you know, you’ve been giving yourself approval along the way on your run. But when you do finish your three miles, give yourself a reward. Now obviously make your awards ones that aren’t counterproductive to your, to your new habits.

Kenneth Vogt (00:37:42):
So, you know, if you’re, if you’re developing your ability to exercise the answer, isn’t the, and now I get to have that candy bar, you know, you know, it may make it something a little better. Like now I’m going to make a fruit smoothie, you know, that’s, you know, that’ll be really tasty. If you’re in the lab, I I’m certain in the lab that cleanliness is is terribly important in many cases, well, if you need to develop habits to make sure things are pristinely clean, work on that. And then when things are clean, you know, you have, you have the satisfaction of seeing it done, but that is an opportunity to then reward yourself like, okay, I really, you know, I’ve got this place top shelf. And you know, now, now I’m gonna reward myself by, I’m going to look into, you know, say a journal I’ve been wanting to read, or I’m gonna, I’m gonna take a break.

Kenneth Vogt (00:38:37):
Now I’m going to have a cup of coffee. I’m gonna have a cup of tea, whatever, whatever floats your boat there, you find a reward that matters to you now. And another little, I’ll add another little thing in here. And this is kind of talking about breaking bad habits, but because it’s so tightly tied, you could also reward yourself for not doing something bad. If you find yourself feeling like I’m going to leave that mess for somebody else to clean up and you go, no no, I’m not going to do that. I’ll take care of it. And you take care of it, reward yourself for that, give you more than just a pat on the back. Like, you know, you actually do deserve something. When you, when you, when you saw bad habit coming, like, man, I’ve always been leaving a mess for everyone. And I’ve been getting, I’ve been getting chastised from, from my colleagues and even my boss about this, well, this time I didn’t do it. And I didn’t. And if you get it in your head, I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to be hassled by them. I did it because I know it’s the right thing to do. And I feel good about that. And therefore, now I will reward myself and, and you know, what rewards you like. So, so go for those.

Nick Oswald (00:39:45):
It’s interesting when you strip it right back, that what we’re really doing here is training is that we follow the dopamine or whatever, you know, we follow the whether it’s a good thing that we do, or a bad thing that we do. We generally do it because it makes us feel good. And so what you’re, and as you said, that the bad thing makes you feel, generally makes you feel good in the moment. And the good things are often a bit more delayed, but what you’re talking about is putting some dopamine into, into the instant dopamine, into the, doing the good thing, like consciously making yourself feel good about going to the gym, even though it hurts. So that, so that you then, you know, you’ll follow the, as the animal part of you will follow the dopamine. And yeah, so that’s or at least it will follow the feel good part anyway. And that’s what we’re doing here is we’re setting up a system where we train ourselves to do good things by by making them feel good and making the bad things either more difficult to do or, or they start feeling bad.

Kenneth Vogt (00:40:51):
So one of the things that, that you mentioned here, and I love the idea of, of get yourself a dopamine hit there’s. Now let’s talk about breaking bad habits. And one of the ways you’re gonna, you can do this. So let’s, let’s keep you from getting that cortisol hit of feeling bad. When, you know, when you’ve left something half done, you know, it’s coming back to bite you, and you have that moment of, of that pain, that strain. But for whatever reason, you don’t have the habit of, of doing what you should do in that moment. And, and so we’re going to talk about how to break a bad habit, and it’s going to be the opposite of the four things that you do to make good habit. Remember making a good habit as you make it obvious you make it attractive. You make it easy and you make it satisfying.

Kenneth Vogt (00:41:40):
Well, when it comes to breaking a bad habit, what you want to do is you want to make it invisible. You want to make it unappealing. You want to make it hard, and you might want to make it unsatisfying. So if you want to make something invisible, radically change your environment. In other words, if you want to stop eating junk food, throw away all the junk food. I mean, I mean, radical change, not just like, okay, when I finally finished this bag of potato chips, I won’t get another one, no, take that half full bag of potato chips, mash it up and stuff it in the trashcan, you know, radically change your environment, feel that you are like, no, I will do this no more. I’m done with it. And you know, anything, anything that’s drawing you away to something negative that you don’t want to do.

Kenneth Vogt (00:42:28):
So yeah, if you’re finding that I get caught up every day, every day I come in and yeah, the first thing I do is I sit down to email and then two hours later I look up and nothing started and, how did this happen to me? And okay. Then make it invisible, have that, you know, if you’ve got a laptop, have the screen closed don’t so you don’t see it. No, don’t have your, your email application open on your, on your main screen where you can’t help, but keep noticing, Oh, there’s another email. There’s a new one came in, you know, turn off the notifications or to put down the phone or turn off the sound on the phone. So you don’t hear it, you know, make it invisible. And you know, this is all the stuff, all these tools that we use, they are our environment, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s the stuff we have to change. And we think that all we have to do this this way. You don’t, you do that. Okay? You have to answer every phone call that comes in when it rings, you don’t have to answer every email in the next 30 seconds. You just stop. So stop making those assumptions about this stuff.

Kenneth Vogt (00:43:43):
Now, one of the reasons that you’re making those assumptions and you got to look at this, like, why, why do I feel like I have to answer the phone? You got to watch for what emotions are queuing this trigger. When a phone rings, do you feel fear? Do you feel embarrassment? Do you feel, you know, insignificant? Like, you know, I’m just an underling that has to jump when I’m told to jump watch for what emotions are, are queuing these things. Because oftentimes all you have to do is shine a light on that. When you realized, you know, I feel afraid every time I see an email notification, well, that’s not, no, I’m no, I’m just not going to do that. I’m not gonna, I there’s, no, there’s no reason for me to be afraid. Every time an email comes in, just that I never noticed it before.

Kenneth Vogt (00:44:33):
I was just having this feeling. Well, when you, when you have those feelings that give you that, that cortisol hit your body and mind are going, gonna do what they’re supposed to do. You know, it’s like, Hey, this is the fight or flight situation. I need to do something. Whereas if you can, if you can decouple that stuff and recognize an emotion that comes up and before you act on it, go, Oh, I’m I feel pressured. I’m like, wait a minute. It’s just an email. I’m okay. You know, or it’s the phone is ringing. It’s like, I don’t even recognize this number. I don’t have to answer it. You know? So, you know, don’t, don’t worry about it. And realise to that, if an important call comes in, they’re going to leave a message and you can listen to the message right away. And then you can, you can make an actual choice.

Kenneth Vogt (00:45:24):
Do I call back now? Or not? Because they don’t know whether or not you heard the message. All they know is you weren’t, you weren’t able to answer the phone at the time. And I don’t care if it’s your boss. I don’t care if it’s your spouse and whatever’s going on with that often you can get that. And it’s going to be like, Oh, Hey, I was just checking in on this, that or the other thing, or give me a call when you have chance, when you get a free time and you realized, wow, I didn’t actually have free time now. They weren’t, they weren’t calling me to demand my time at this moment. They were just informing me, that, that, that they would like to have a future conversation. Well, you know, make that a possibility in your world when you make it impossible for that to happen. And we’ve all done this. We’ve had people we’ve called and they pick up the phone and it, Hey, how you doing? I was wondering if we could talk about X, well, I’m in the middle of something right now. Then why did you answer the phone?

Kenneth Vogt (00:46:20):
Let’s, let’s be leaders on this and, and not be automatically reactive to everything that happens around us, we are, we are, we are humans. We are, we are masters of our universe here. We can actually be in charge of some things, and you can certainly be in charge of yourself in that regard. Another thing you can do is, just look for things that are steering you wrong. So, you know, this is, we’ve kind of touched on that a bit, but if there, if there are things that are triggering your bad behaviors, watch for those things. So for instance, we’ve been using the analogy of keeping the lab clean. Why do you leave stuff to be done? Oh, because I got to get to the next project and you know, so we, we focused on something else. It’s like, well, don’t have it. Don’t schedule your time in such a way that you don’t have proper time for setup, action, tear down.

Kenneth Vogt (00:47:14):
You have to have them all. We often look to task and we only think about the action, but there’s set up and there’s tear down for a lot of things. And I mean, that could be like, say, let’s say you have to write something. So you can, you need to write a paper. Well, the writing is the action, but they’re set up, well, maybe some things you need to gather together, information. You’re going to need, you need to take a breath so you can get your head into this. And then the same thing’s going to have to happen afterwards, there’s stuff to put away. There’s, you know, I got to turn my head off about this and let it go. I finished it. It’s done. And now I can switch back to another task, start giving, cutting yourself that slack and watch for those, those opportunities where, where you’ve allowed things to steer you off in other directions.

Nick Oswald (00:48:00):
It’s the art of going slow again, isn’t it setting up that, you know, not trying, not trying to rush through things is a, it’s a, it’s a counterproductive to do that. You think it’ll save you time, but doesn’t, it just adds more stress and it reduces the effectiveness of what you do or your, or the success of what you do.

Kenneth Vogt (00:48:21):
We’ve all heard the adage that ‘there’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over’. What a terrible way to live. If you have not been enjoying your work and your career, I promise you, you’ve been living that, stop that start instead, do it right the first time. And if it can’t be done right, the first time speak up, oftentimes the only reason you haven’t been given the proper resources and the proper proper schedule is cause you didn’t say anything at the time when you saw that it was a problem. And those who gave the assignment to you, weren’t aware. Well make them aware. You know, that make it possible, have conversations with people, communicate

Nick Oswald (00:49:07):
That’s it’s again, from, from that you know, the episode 12, I think, which was the art of going slow. And the idea behind that is that by going more slowly and being more focused, then then you will, you will actually end up getting more done than you will if you’re rushing.

Kenneth Vogt (00:49:29):
Yep. It’s the tortoise and the hare thing – slow and steady wins the race. So here’s another thing to think about a lot of times with bad habits. What we try to do is we try to willpower our way out of them. We try to make self control the way that we stop things. Well self-control is a fine and admirable thing, but it is a short term strategy. It’s not a long term strategy. If you think the way you’re going to beat your bad habit is by self control. You’ve already lost. So keep this other stuff in mind to get it invisible first. And then you were going to find it’s going to be a lot easier. Now, the next thing is to make whatever your bad habit is unappealing. And I’m going to give you a story from my own life about this. When I was a boy, my parents both smoked cigarettes and my dad decided to quit and he quit cold turkey and it was tough for him.

Kenneth Vogt (00:50:24):
It was hard, but he did, you know, and he, he was highly motivated. He really, really, really wanted to quit smoking. My mother, however, was not particularly excited to join him in this. So one, one evening after dinner the, the deal that my sister and I had is that each of us traded off drying dishes as mom was washing dishes, you know, day after day. So it was my day to dry dishes. So I’m in the kitchen, my mom’s washing the dishes and I’m drying the dishes. And then I look over and my dad, he’s just kinda leaned up against the door jam with his legs crossed. And he just has the cigarette just hanging out of the corner of his mouth, with the stupidest look on his face. And he looked over at my mother and, you know, we both turned and I literally did a double take.

Kenneth Vogt (00:51:14):
I, I, I saw it once I turned away and I had to turn back, cause I couldn’t believe it because I knew how militant he had been about this. And he looked at my mother and she looked at him and he said, this is how stupid you look. And he walked off and that was it. Mom, quit after that. And the habit had become unappealing to her. She, you know, part of this is part of the motivation. Sometimes you, you, you develop habits because you do want to please other people. And often you can use that as a lever. So if, if something is unappealing to you or unappealing to people that you care about, you’re going to have an easier time breaking that habit. Next thing, making it hard. So increase the friction that is, you know, make whatever this bad habit is hard.

Kenneth Vogt (00:52:06):
So let’s say that you you’re eating way too much ice cream. So here’s the deal. You change how you eat ice cream. You know, in the past you grabbed that half gallon out of the freezer and a spoon and you sat down in the easy chair and yet you had turned on comedy central and you ate until yeah, decided you didn’t want to eat anymore. Now from now on. Now, if you want ice cream, you get out a small bowl, you get out the half gallon of ice cream, you get out of spoon, you scoop a small amount into the small bowl. You put the ice cream away. Now go over to the, to the Barcalounger with your small bowl and eat your ice cream. If you want more, that’s fine. Put that dish in the dishwasher, get out another small dish, get out the ice cream, get out another small spoon, you know, make yourself go through a bunch of emotions and it’s going to help you be more aware of what you’re doing. So now instead of just going, wow, I ate two thirds of this half a gallon ice cream in one sitting without even noticing now, like after two bowls, when it’s time for a third bowl, you’re going, you know what? I am not going to bother. And, and it slows you down on the bad habit. And another thing you

Kenneth Vogt (00:53:26):
Can do is only out. Remember we talked about choices or decisions. Well, you know, whether or not you’re going to have ice cream tonight is a choice, but only allow that choice under predetermined conditions. That is the only time I’m going to have ice cream is if I’ve had a proper meal that included that included a vegetable and included a fruit and you know what, whatever standard you set. And if all I did was sit down and have a cheeseburger, no, no ice cream, no, Nope. Not going to happen. I didn’t meet the predetermined conditions. That mean I can have ice cream. I think about the the Pink Floyd song, you know, eat your meat. You know, how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Kenneth Vogt (00:54:14):
But you know, it’s, it’s the same thing. You know, again, if you’re in the lab, if you’ve had a bad habit there, something, you know, that, you know, you haven’t done properly. Well, make it harder to make that mistake, make it, make it add more conditions before you’re allowed to make that mistake. You know what this does for you too, is that you don’t, you don’t have to be perfect. It says, okay, look, I know I I’d like to improve this, but just going cold turkey, will be too hard on me. So I’m just gonna make it. I kind of jumped through some hoops before I can, I can goof up. And, and you know that again, that’ll help you break the habit and it finally make it unsatisfying so that it’s, you know, if you can hide your failures, I say in quotes, that’s, that’s not unsatisfying, but if you have made an, if you have made a deal with somebody else, if you have an accountability partner for whatever it is you’re trying to do, if you said, okay, I am going to make sure that I read three papers every week. Well have an accountability partner was also mean whatever, you know, whatever they’re going to commit to.

Kenneth Vogt (00:55:30):
It doesn’t have to be the same thing. They might commit to one paper a week. Doesn’t matter. They might come at 10 and you’re doing three. But at the end of the week, you got to check in with each other and go how’d you do. And you have to admit, well, I said, I’d do three. I only did two. And they go, huh? Well, I said, I’d do 10. I did 11. In your face! You know? Again, that’s not a fun experience, but you’re making it unsatisfying you for yourself and you’ll know that’s coming too. It’s like, you know what? I am not going to, I am not going to let him get his smug face out just because I didn’t meet my goal. I’m going to meet my goal. Another thing you can do it. You don’t even necessarily need a specific partner, but you vocalize your new regime.

Kenneth Vogt (00:56:16):
So that, that it’s publicly noticed when you don’t walk the line. So you say, you know, I am never ever going to leave this station a mess again, I am from now on the way you’ll know I have used this station is because it’s pristinely ready for the next person that, and you, you just, just spread it out, spread it out to the world, let people notice. And again, you’re making it unsatisfying. And if you don’t cause now, you know, you’ve said that and you’re like, man, I don’t want to take this 15 minutes. That’s going to do this. I can sell this stuff I want to do, but I really don’t want everybody to look at me and go, yeah, right. Big mouth, shooting it off again. You know? So, so now you’ll know.

Kenneth Vogt (00:57:02):
So there’s, there’s a resource that, that we can recommend about all of this, about developing great habits and believe me, we have only scratched the surface. There’s so much more than we could say about this, but it’s a book by James Clear called Atomic Habits. It’s a great read and very practical. You know, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re somebody that really likes to be rational, this book is going to speak to you. Now for somebody that’s more creative. This book is still going to speak to you. It’s it’s, it’s someone who’s really spent a lot of time thinking about this and, and has lived it. He is, he’s made sure to have the experience of having of developing good habits and have the experience of getting rid of bad habits. And he has an interesting, personal story too that’s compelling too. So again, just something you might, might enjoy and we’ll have a leveling to that in the show notes.

Nick Oswald (00:58:00):
Yeah. I’ve read book as well, it’s highly recommended from my side as well.

Kenneth Vogt (00:58:07):
So that’s that’s pretty much everything I’ve got Nick. Is there anything you wanted to add?

Nick Oswald (00:58:12):
Yeah. I just wanted to kind of sum up by saying, you know, for me, and it might just be where I’m personally am just now, but I just what’s really resonating with me about this is this 1% a day thing. In that all the things that you’ve read out. Okay. So you’ve, you’ve or that you’ve discussed today, how to form a good habit by making the, the change obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying. And how to break a bad habit on the other hand, by making it invisible, make it unappealing, making it hard, making it unsatisfying. Those are all different ways you can approach the habits that you identify that you want to form or break, but you don’t have to do it all in one go. You can just approach you can you just add 1% on every day and that will be, that will compound.

Nick Oswald (00:59:00):
And so it’s, it’s using that framework that you have set out there, but just as a way to just focus on a little bit every day, a little bit of improvement every day, rather than I want to be able to run a marathon tomorrow. So I’m going to you know, I’ll be running the I’ll be aiming for for 13 miles tomorrow, when I haven’t run you know, in a year or something like that, it’s, it’s just giving, get being patient and just aiming, keeping your vector in the right direction and just using these possibilities as ways to find different ways to, to keep stomping down the bad habits and keep building, building up the good habits.

Kenneth Vogt (00:59:44):
Yeah. And we’re not saying you have to use all of these tactics at once. You could use one tactic and it may be enough if it’s not enough fine add another one or two, you know, just do do it until it works. And, and you’ll, and you’ll get to a point where he’ll know, you’ll recognize him, I’ll know, okay, this habit here, I’m going to have to throw everything I have got at it. And other ones it’s like, okay, well I’ve just been getting lazy and slack about something. I go, okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna make this a little hard to do. And I’ll, and I’m sure that’ll be enough. And the same thing about good habits, you can tell when you’re on the precipice, when I’m right there, it’s like, you know what, I’ve been running three miles, three times a week, you know, I’m going to sign up for the, for the 10 K run cause I can run 10 K. I can do that. Even though you’ve been running half that. So, you know, watch and see how much, how much do I need to devote to developing this new habit or breaking this bad habit and you’ll know you’ll get good at it.

Nick Oswald (01:00:44):
Yeah. It’s all about the dopamine so just make it relaxed and make it, make it

Kenneth Vogt (01:00:51):
Dopamine so much better than cortisol. Oh yeah.

Nick Oswald (01:00:59):
Okay. Let’s wrap that up there, Ken. Thanks, I didn’t have much to contribute there actually, a couple of bits and pieces, but I think you absolutely nailed it. I was really that was very timely for me. That one, I think

Kenneth Vogt (01:01:13):
You had some specifics about the lab that I didn’t have. So, you know, that’s what this is for. This is to help scientists in the lab.

Nick Oswald (01:01:20):
Definitely. Okay. So thanks to everyone for sticking in and and hopefully that gave you some some things that you can, you can take away. We will, of course be talking about this episode and the content of this episode, episode, and every other episode that we that we cover in the Facebook group, which is @facebook.Com/Thehappyscientistclub, all one word, we’ll see you in there if you find that this is useful. And we will be, we will be posting exercises, discussions, and things in there that will help you to get to grips and break down some of these concepts. If you want to get the link for the Atomic Habits, habits, book, and any, anything else that we covered in this episode, you can find the show notes, which contain all that at Bitesizebio.Com/Thehappyscientist, which is all one word.

Nick Oswald (01:02:22):
And look for episode 13, which is this one. And all of those details will be in the show notes. And finally, if you are enjoying this and you haven’t done so already, go back and listen to episodes one to nine of this podcast in which Ken and I discuss some of the fundamental concepts that that will provide you with a framework that will, that we will refer to throughout these episodes. And those are the concepts of the principles of human needs, core mindsets, and charisma factors. Again, those are discussed in episodes one to nine of this podcast. So again, thank you for joining us. Thanks, Ken, for the great content. And we’ll see you in the next episode.

Kenneth Vogt (01:03:05):
All right. See you next time. The Happy Scientist is brought to you by Bitesize Bio, your mentor in the lab. Bitesize Bio features, thousands of articles and webinars contributed by hundreds of PhD, scientists and scientific companies who freely offer their hard, won wisdom and solutions to the Bitesize Bio community.

Hosted by Dr. Nick Oswald featuring Kenneth Vogt of Vera Claritas.

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