Flowcharts are powerful tools. You can use them to streamline your work and your life or to make important life decisions. But, did you know you can even use them to create or remove habits in your life?
The first step in making or breaking a habit in life is making the decision to do so. Once you’ve decided that change is important to you, you can make it happen.
If you’ve made the decision to add new healthy habits into, or remove bad habits out of your life, I’m going to show you how you can make use of flowcharts to do just that.
Best Flowchart Tools for This
There are lots of amazing flowchart tools out there that you can use for mapping out your habits. This article isn’t about choosing the best one, it’s about making use of the flowcharts in the right way, for the right purpose.
For the purposes of this article, I chose two tools that I use often — Google Drawings, and Mindmup. You can add both to your Google Drive account as add-on tools. No matter what tool you choose, all the same principles outlined below apply.
Breaking a Bad Habit
Good habits like flossing or working out at the gym are hard enough to start, but if you’ve ever tried breaking one of your habits, then you know the meaning of the word “impossible”.
The human mind is hard-wired to maintain habits. So, when you’ve established a routine of doing something like drinking, smoking or anything else that you’re convinced brings you some form of pleasure, stopping that bad habit means rewiring your brain.
One way to rewire your brain is to understand how the wiring works in the first place, and a flowchart can help you get a handle on that. For example, let’s say that I’ve realized that I need to drink a glass of wine every single day after work. To break this habit, I would open up Google Drawings and break down that habit into all the reasons I believe that I do it for.
Don’t hold back. Be honest with yourself when you are outlining the reasons for your habit.
Once you have all the positive things that the habit offers you, continue with your flowchart by breaking down each of those reasons into the negative side effects that comes after that pleasure.
For example, maybe I drink a glass of wine to ease my sleep at night. But, even though I go to sleep faster, I do find that I wake up in the morning feeling like I haven’t slept well. I also find myself dehydrated in the morning, causing other health issues like dandruff and dry skin.
Another reason could be that I drink a glass of wine to de-stress. But, the negative side-effects caused by the wine — like headaches and weight-gain — end up creating even more stress.
List the negative side effects caused by the habit that seem to counteract the positive effect you were looking for by doing the habit in the first place. Next, come up with replacement habits that provide the same original positive effect, without the negative side effects.
This will be the last line of your flowchart. For example, I drink wine to relax. However, it also gives me a headache and makes me feel nauseous in the morning. An alternative behavior that can provide the same relaxation benefit without those negative side-effects would be daily meditation.
By seeking out new habits to replace those old bad habits, but with the same positive reinforcement that the old habit provided, you’re rewiring your brain to no longer need that bad habit at all.
Building a Healthy Habit
If there is a healthy habit that you’re trying to start, like going to the gym at least once a day, flowcharts can help with that as well. I’ve used Google Drawings for this flowchart too.
Like the bad habit flowchart, you’re going to start out by listing reasons — but in this case the reasons are why you usually decide not to do the habit each day.
In the case of working out at the gym, my reasons might be:
- I don’t have time after work.
- I can’t stand the gym experience.
- I find exercising at the gym too boring.
- I’m exhausted after work.
Once you’ve gotten those excuses out of your head and onto paper with your new flowchart, the next step is to tackle those excuses with solutions.
For every “reason” (a.k.a. “excuse”) that you’ve given for not doing that healthy habit every day, give one or two alternate solutions that might help you overcome those obstacles.
For example, one of my excuses is that there isn’t enough time after work. Well, the truth is I have an hour for lunch, and a gym ten minutes away. I could easily get a workout in and eat later in the afternoon while I’m working. And, if I hate the gym so much, I could always set up a workout area at home and do the same exact exercises there.
Achieving Good Financial Habits
Achieving financial habits that benefit your family and your life is hard work. The hardest part is to know the habits you should work on. For that, I would recommend talking to a financial adviser.
An adviser will help you figure out whether things like a 401k, a college savings plan, or other options are a good idea for you. Once you talk to your adviser, you should have a list of financial goals — things like saving up a retirement income, cutting down your monthly expenses, or reducing financial waste in your daily life.
In this case, I use MindMup, because a mind map lets you start with a central habit, and then draw behaviors alongside that’ll achieve that core habit. In the example below, I started with working toward having a healthy income when I retire. The habit here is saving constantly toward that goal.
Around that central theme, you add what you need to make that happen. In this example, it’s creating residual income from a novel, creating residual income from a pension fund and a 401k, and also formulating a weekly savings plan.
These sound a lot like goals, but once you get to the outer level of this flowchart, you’ll find that you always end up with a list of habits that’ll get you to that core goal.
For example, to have a residual income from a pension fund, I need a job that offers one. So a daily or weekly habit would be searching job sites for jobs that offer a pension fund (if a pension is that important to you).
Another example would be residual income from a novel. The weekly habit to get there is to work on the novel each day, obviously.
Developing this flowchart will provide you with the habits you need to develop to get you where you want to be financially. The next step is to make those a regular part of your life.
Being a Better Father or Mother
A similar area where a visual diagram comes in handy to create healthy habits is in parenting. Similar to financial goals, you need to develop parental goals that’ll keep you working on becoming the kind of parent you aspire to be.
They say being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever love, and boy is that true. There will be areas that you struggle. You may need more patience, or your child may develop behaviors that drive you up the wall and test your limits. The truth is that being a parent isn’t easy, but since when was anything worth doing very easy?
A nice way to make sure you have habits that are guiding you toward being a great parent is by listing all the behaviors you feel would classify you as a perfect parent. These will obviously be different for everyone, because ideas for “perfect parenting” are different for everyone. So, come up with your own list.
Okay, so now you have between 5-7 behaviors you want to try and achieve as part of your work toward being a good parent. Take each of these behaviors and attach real-world, concrete examples. These should be things you can actually do with you kids, and the more specific the better.
For example, I want to do at least one thing together with my two daughters every weekend. So three examples of this would be to go to an amusement park, go to the beach, or go to the library.
This diagram should be a living thing — you should keep adding new ideas, or taking away old ones. Keep revisiting it and make sure that you’re taking actual and making the core areas you’ve listed into habits that are an important part of your daily life.
This may be one of the most important diagrams you’ll ever make, because most of the other ones in this article are centered around you — but this flowchart is centered around your children, who will eventually become your legacy. Make sure you do it right the first time, because you get no second chances here.
For the final flowchart of all, we’re going to go back to Google Drawings. This flowchart is all about procrastination.
What you’ll do in this case is start with some important task you often procrastinate on. In this example, it’ll be studying for a certain class in college. The starting point for this flowchart will be all the reasons you can list for why you tend to put off studying for that class.
Some examples might be that you just don’t actually enjoy your coursework. Or it might be as simple as being too tired. Be honest with yourself and dig deep for the answers. This will make your final result much better.
The next step is to draw decision boxes under each of those reasons for procrastinating. These will be potential ways to remove those reasons. They don’t have to be ideas you immediately agree with — just ideas that would eradicate the reason.
For example, if you don’t like to study, maybe it’s because you don’t even like the degree you chose, so changing your degree would be one option.
Under each reason, list as many of these decision boxes as you can think of to resolve the reasons for procrastinating.
Finally, under each of these decisions boxes, make a decision. If the decision is “no”, then draw a circle with an “X” through it. If the decision is a “yes”, then jot down the habit you want to adopt to eradicate your reason for procrastinating.
An example might be that the material you’re studying is too hard to understand. The decision is whether you need a tutor. If your answer is yes, then the habit will be to stop by the service board every day or week and look for a good tutor at a good price. Another example may be just that you don’t have enough time in your schedule. So the habit would be to get up a little earlier every day so you can make the time you need to study.
Flowcharts Organize Your Thoughts
Why should you use flowcharts and mind maps for these things rather than just jotting down lists?
It’s because the human mind thinks better and more creatively when the ideas are visualized and flow logically. If you can trace the logical flow of your ideas and thoughts, it’ll help you find your way to a solution to any issue in your life.
And when it comes to understanding, creating, or changing habits in your life, flowcharts are an analytical dream come true.
Do you ever use flowcharts to make important decisions or to form new habits in your life? Share your own thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!