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by Michael G. Miller (MMM 2020),

One of my favorite books I read last summer, The Power of Habit, argues the best way to change your habits is to hack your existing routines. Needless to say, recent events have created a vacuum where we no longer have routines and must develop new ones. This is going to lead us to form new habits, both good and bad.

We’re not just talking about washing your hands here (which you should ALWAYS be doing!). These habits are more of a mindset of what to prioritize: mindlessly refreshing IG or finally finishing Ronan Farrow’s new book? I have found it helpful to be extremely intentional about building new routines for success, this way I can develop healthy habits and avoid unintentional bad habits.

Creating new habits

Here are five ways I’m building new routines:

1. Avoiding couch-lock

With the Kellogg gym and pool temporarily closed (“Where can I focus all my energy? Pacing? Scrolling TikTok?”) I’ve found that I need to regularly put my energy somewhere physically. So, I downloaded a bunch of different apps to test out new routines, scoured the internet for a set of highly sought-after dumbbells, and I even made my flat-footed-self go for a run (not for me). I have found that in working under these new constraints I have an opportunity to discover new ways to push myself physically. For now, I’ve built a space in my apartment to work out 40min/day. It’ll be an iterative process, but that’s just part of the design thinking I’ve come to integrate into my life at Kellogg.

2. Building my brand

Social media sucked all my time at the beginning of the pandemic. Rather than quitting outright, I intend to use this time to invest in myself instead. In Entrepreneurial Tools for Digital Marketing, Professor Sean Johnson stressed the importance of putting your brand out there, with Twitter being one of the best platforms. While I’m currently at a modest 29 followers (plz follow me @MikeGMMiller11), I’ve already been contacted  about new opportunities as a result of my Twitter feed. In fact, it’s how I’m writing this post. To take my personal brand to the next level, I’m committing 1hr/day to working on my personal website to continue to build my presence online.

3. Tackling my books backlog

Since coming to Kellogg, I’ve found it hard to fit reading into a long day of class, interviews, coffee chats and group meetings, and my backlog of books has only grown longer with time. While commuting on the Metra for my internship this past summer, I spent every train ride reading. I always felt happier, healthier and significantly more productive after reading. Now I’m spending at least 30min/day reading and letting my mind relax.

4. Learning how to e-Learn

With schools changing to a virtual classroom, the final quarter of my MBA will be drastically different. In undergrad, I took a virtual half-credit course and (**spoiler alert**) a virtual Friday 8:30am does not align with a senior’s attention span. The biggest challenge for me is actually knowing how to learn virtually. One of the best resources at Kellogg is LinkedIn Learning. Northwestern provides full access to enrolled students, which has helped me pick up skills to help me in interviews, projects and life. I have committed myself to 3hrs/week e-Learning, giving me ample time to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t.

5. Knowing when to “just chill for a sec”

Practicing self-compassion is the most important habit I’m working on. In Personal Leadership Insights with Professor Shana Carroll, we discussed identifying our needs. Sometimes when we aren’t aware of our needs, we find ourselves doing things unconsciously to fill them. For example, last week I noticed I was getting frustrated with my JV being glued to MSNBC and providing constant updates. In high stress situations, I need to focus on my day-to-day and step back from the news. Communicating this to him helped me feel more in control. Similarly, my JV feels more secure by focusing on the news. Rather than overwhelming him, it helps him feel informed.

If you’d like to read more about the mechanics of habits and routines, and learn how to manage them more intentionally, I recommend Atomic Habits and The Power of Habit, and follow me on Twitter where I’m trying to keep it positive (@mikegm11 #shamelessplug). Just remember: there will definitely be days where you need to kick back and play the new Animal Crossing for hours on end, and that’s okay.