Many people value the present more than they value the future; an instant reward often gets in the way. That reward is only a possibility in the future; it’s a sure thing at the moment.

Let’s use, for example, having a glass of wine at the end of your day- the enjoyment is in the moment, the cost is in the future. On the flip side, take exercise- the ‘cost’ of working out is in the moment (exercise instead of sipping a lovely glass of chilled rose), and the benefit is in the future (healthy body and improved energy).

Behavioral economists call this Time Inconsistency.

Do you have a habit that you’re trying to shift or change, and you’re struggling to be consistent? Pause and have a look if Time Inconsistency may be what’s happening for you.

When you’re working on implementing a new habit, the cost is in the moment.

Perhaps it’s struggling with healthy eating habits or picking up the phone to make the sales calls you know you need to.

Or maybe it’s establishing boundaries so that you can create the time structures required to help you say no to requests and distractions and yes to increased productivity.

Again, the cost of implementing the habit (boundaries) is in the moment (discomfort of saying no). In contrast, the benefit of it is in the future (better boundaries, less overwhelm, and improved relationships).

There was a time when I was struggling with implementing a new habit of minimizing distractions during my day so I could increase productivity (and decrease overwhelm). I was super busy all day yet made little traction on the goals that matter in my business.

I was stuck in the habit of checking off the quick and easy things on my to-do list (urgent items) before focusing on the activities that move the dial in my business (important items) because it felt good and was easy–and felt productive.

Saying what I needed to do to break the habit was easy, but hard to implement consistently. Time Inconsistency had me in its grip. I was connected to the endorphin rush of watching my to-do list decrease in the moment and disconnected from the long-term impact of saying NO to the distractions and yes to revenue-generating activities.

Once I noticed what I was doing, with compassionate curiosity and no judgment, I was able to shift my habits to ones that support my success instead of consuming my day with busyness.

My new habits that support my productivity?

  • Not checking email before 10 am so my day doesn’t get hijacked
  • Moving all the apps with notifications on my phone to the second page, so I don’t see them and react like Pavlov’s dog (and it’s an extra step to get to them)
  • Starting each day with intention by looking at my big goals before anything else

So, if you’re having a difficult time implementing a new habit, check to see if
Time Inconsistency is tripping you up along the way. Then take a moment to connect to the benefit, the WHY, of shifting that behavior and implementing a new healthier habit.

Let’s use one more example a friend just asked me about and break it down:

Eating ice cream every day when you know it’s impacting your long-term health.

• Is it a particular time of day?
• After an especially hard day?
• Does a specific memory trigger you to reach for the pint of ice cream?

Knowing when or what the trigger is will allow you to set up a new habit and be more intentional rather than reactive.

For example, if it’s always at 7 pm, maybe schedule a call with a friend, or go out for a walk, or put on your favorite music for 20 minutes and dance.

Often the pause is enough for you to think about whether you’re reaching for it out of habit or because you just plain and simple, want a scoop.

Connect to the long-term outcome you’d prefer to have that’s different from what the ice cream gives you in the moment.

For example:

• A healthier body
• Decreased brain fog from the sugar
• More money to put towards a new pair of pants.

Here’s a quick 3-part structure to help you unhook from Time Inconsistency that’s getting in the way of your success :

1) Be curious about what your triggers are (without judging yourself),
2) Get clear on and connect to the outcome you want– to the person you want to be–and,
3) Gift yourself some compassionate curiosity as you shift not only your habits but also your image of the person whom you believe yourself to be.

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