When you wake up in the morning, you check your emails, probably from your phone. First thing. Yes? Why?
There’s no good answer to why. Even brain surgeons can wait until they’ve done other things before checking in on the world outside of your immediate proximity. So why do you do it? Because it’s a habit, a pattern.
Do you read the top tech and marketing blogs? Why? Why do you read this blog? Because you’re subscribed? Are you getting something from it? If no, then why are you still doing it?
Twitter and Facebook are hugely pattern-driven. They thrive off the same game dynamics as slot machines. Hit with even a small win every once in a blue moon, and you’ll reinstate that pattern incessantly. In the slot machine and gaming industry, they know that they can bleed you out of all the money you might spend with this method. They even have a term for it: “time to expire.” They look at you as a clock running down.
Breaking Patterns Is A Starting Point to Success
If you want to find great success, learn to recognize your programming, to assess whether it’s actually doing something useful for you, and then to break the pattern. This works with all things. Julien Smith asked me why I blogged daily. I said something lame and forgettable. He asked me to try blogging less than daily. Result: just as much traffic, just as much engagement, and probably better posts for you to read.
I’m moving my pride and joy, my free newsletter from Tuesdays to Sundays, because I’ve decided that I like the concept of the intimacy of being in a conversation with you on Sunday. It’s a break from my previous pattern, and I will see whether it yields better results for my goals.
Deciding to unfollow most everyone on Twitter was a huge shift and a break in my pattern. From it, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve reclaimed some needed cycles.
What Are You Missing?
One of the biggest reasons we do a bunch of the things we do, especially online, is for fear that we’ll miss something. When eBay first came out, its explosive growth came from the ability to watch auctions spool out in real time. Twitter is like that, and so is Facebook and Google+. We love watching information roll past in real time. Further, we really love it if people reply to us, or share our stuff, or like or whatevers. We crave it.
When we are alone, we start worrying that we’re missing something. We check our phone for phantom texts. If nothing we regularly follow is updating fast enough, we might go off and scan things of lesser value, just to see something new.
But why? What’s the big value in that particular kind of “new?”
There are so many patterns you can break. Your choice of snack. Your choice of after-work activity. Your choice of online haunts. Your reading materials. Your target goals for your efforts. Your lack of planning. Your over-abundance of planning. Your reliance on the calendar. Your disregard of the calendar.
What patterns could you break? Which patterns are you missing? What are you doing on autopilot and is that serving you? How much time and opportunity can you get back by breaking some of these patterns?