Ep. 53 – Productivity & Habit Swapping: One More, One Less

When exploring the philosophy of fewer things better, the underlying question each of us has to answer is: which things should be fewer? 

That’s an individual question, to be sure. In order to focus on the better with the fewer, we must move aside some of the more things. That’s not always easy to do – or easy to admit what extra has become part of our routine and rhythm. Look at technology. When each new device came into our life, the initial instinct was likely, oh, this will help me do more.  And it did – until it didn’t. 

Yes, we can be more mobile with where we are thanks to our tech, but that same tech also goes where we go. This constant companion who brings much more; more than it does fewer. 

We don’t always recognize the steady accumulation of all this extra. It can take on many disguises. Episode 5 looked at three common procrastination habits and one is the happy hum of research. This is when we put off doing the thing by reading about it, talking about it, researching all about the thing. Whether it’s doing price comparisons, reading online reviews, clicking on all those articles, or the phone-a-friend feature to get one more free opinion, we keep sending our brain out on errands instead of putting our butt in gear. 

I do that with this podcast! I love to dig into the science, psychology, and research behind a topic when I’m really here to simply offer brain snacks about that topic. 

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that sometimes an effective way to take action is to swap opposite actions.   

By this I mean the concept of One More & One Less. This is an approach when you want to nudge yourself into a new routine, behavior, or accountability and train your brain to see it as a simple switch. 

Let’s use an example. If your goal is to increase hydration during the day, an action can be to have one more healthy drink and one less of another drink. So a glass of water is added, and a soft drink is reduced. This is a subtle swap  but an impactful one on your goal. It can even start as a one-to-one, so in this case, drink a glass of water for every less-healthy drink. Or drink them simultaneously – a give-to-get of sorts. 

The swap is a signal to your brain that action is now in motion. Sometimes that action is the signal such as when there can be time between a More or Less but it still works in conjunction for the same goal. In this case, if you have one more glass of water before noon; and one less caffeine or alcohol drink after noon. Done at different times but towards the same goal. Replace these examples with your own desired action and it really starts to take shape in your day. 

Speaking of timing, Episode 29 outlined how sleep is a critical productivity tool. It pairs with the timing element of the One More One Less swap. More than 40% of our daily actions are based on habit – not from conscious choice – according to research from Duke University.

Going back to the hydration example, there is a direct correlation to improved sleep when both alcohol and caffeine are stopped within three hours of bedtime. If there is a sweet spot of when actions taken can boost future progress, it’s this window. What we feed our bodies and brains before we sleep in those critical hours  is a direct input into our energy, motivation, and mental battery for the next day. 

So what does this have to do with One More One Less? Watch your fatigue. When we’re tired, we’re even more likely to follow habits than intentions. And we’re tired throughout the day, not just at bedtime.

Habits are patterns that have been repeated so often that they are activated subconsciously. It’s hard to make a conscious swap when we’re operating on autopilot. This explains why we go to look at our phone for one thing and are still swiping and scrolling 20 minutes later. 

So what about looking at One More, One Less with this framing but also bringing in our senses. We can add in movement and sound with one more conversation taken while walking versus sitting-that’s a more and a less. Even if our more is walking  around a desk, the brain gets a whole next set of stimuli for the senses. 

Or back to bedtime, consider more sound and less screen – such as listening to music or a podcast vs. watching a device. Sound is a powerful tool at any time of day. From meditation to music, scientific research has shown that certain sounds can positively impact neural activity.  

One example is binaural beats, which is when your brainwaves shift when listening to two different tone frequencies through headphones. Even an add of something like this to try becomes a More and part of the Less is interruption or distraction.

These are examples of the creative ways to try the One More, One Less approach and they help interrupt the regular routine through the power of positive psychology. Leading with the One More helps your mind register the addition vs. logging only the takeaway. Many previous episodes speak to the power of momentum and One More One Less builds on that as well. 

The idea for today is to think of one goal where a simple swap actually feels, well, simple. No extra hardware, tricks, or tools needed. What if a More or Less is there to elevate your goal, instead of grading it? Explore your own personal give-and-get and see how your brain responds. 

Sometimes the best thing we can give ourselves is a little more, and a little less. Both are ways we can take care on this journey to take good care. 

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.