Using Systems + Goals to increase success

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.  Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.” James Clear (6)

Many people start the new year by setting goals but less than 10 % of people keep their New Year’s resolutions each year (1, 2).

Is there a better way?

First, to set effective goals, consider the following:

  • For goal setting, consider S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound) (4).
  • A goal card (5) may also be helpful.

After effective goal setting, focus on the system:

In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear suggests the following strategies to think of systems (6):

  • Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making sustained progress (6).
  • For example, you might ahave a goal to clean up a messy room (6). But if you maintain the same sloppy, pack-rat habits (system) that led to a messy room in the first place, soon you’ll be looking at a new pile of clutter and hoping for another burst of motivation (6).
  • If you’re a student, instead of getting an A, a better goal could be to become a better student (a system).  This would shift your focus to the daily process:
    • How often and how much you study
    • Improve your study skills
    • With whom and where you study
    • How you address difficult topics
    • Your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.
    • Your method for tracking progress before grades/exam. This could be in terms of quizzing or testing yourself, etc.

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 

References:

  1. https://www.iflscience.com/brain/psychology-new-year-s-resolutions/
  2. Norcross, John & Mrykalo, Marci & Blagys, Matthew. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Year’s Resolvers and Nonresolvers. Journal of clinical psychology. 58. 397-405. 10.1002/jclp.1151.
  3. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/goal-setting#:~:text=Setting%20goals%20is%20an%20effective,the%20recovery%20from%20mental%20illness.
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/evaluation_resources/guides/writing-smart-objectives.htm
  5. Goal card: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954583/figure/fig1-2055102918774674/
  6. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear

Technology, Electronics, and Mental Health

With online classes, distance learning, homework time, and remote work; people are increasingly spending more time with electronic devices and technology than in the past.  This increased screen time for work, school may cause previously used screen time for leisure activities not as restorative; as this may increase total screen time and sedentary behavior.

Zhai and colleague’s review of 24 studies shows that too much screen time (> 6 hours per day) can impact depression (1).  Similar, a review of 31 studies concluded that sedentary behavior may also impact anxiety (2).

More devices are now available than ever before: computers, televisions, tablet pcs, smartphones, smart watches, etc.

While healthy technology use can have benefits of productivity, social connection, entertainment,  and improved health; unhealthy technology use can worsen our distraction,  isolate us socially, increase stress, expose us negative social influences; and negatively impact our health.

The American Psychological Association (3) offers the following strategies to use technology in healthy ways:

  1. Avoid distracted driving (3): APA advises us to turn off notifications and place your phone out of reach when driving.
  2. Avoid electronic devices before bedtime (3). Previous research showed blue light from electronic devices used at bedtime can impact sleep (4), stressful material on electronic devices can also interfere with our ability to fall asleep (3).
  3. When smartphone users turned off smartphone notifications, they reported lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity than they did during weeks when their notifications were turned on (3, 5).  Frequent notifications were also associated with lower levels of productivity, social connectedness and psychological well-being (3,5).
  4. Schedule time for email, when possible. People who checked email continuously reported more stress than those who checked email only three times per day (3, 6).
  5. Manage expectations (3). If possible, schedule time to check messages, email, notifications etc and if possible, let others (family members, boss, etc) know how often you do this, to help manage their expectations.
  6. While social media can help us connect with others, it can also impact feelings of sadness or depression (3, 7), other people may find it helpful. Consider how social media use makes you feel and adjust your use accordingly.
  7. Face to face interactions are important for mental health. The 2017 Stress in America survey found 44 percent of people who check email, texts and social media often or constantly report feeling disconnected from their family, even when they’re together (3). When you’re with friends and family, make an effort to unplug: consider silencing your phone and put it out of reach at dinnertime or during family outings (3).
  8. Disconnect: Instead of grabbing your phone during spare time, disconnect from electronics to reflect, recharge, relax; and collect yourself (3).

To counteract excessive screen time, sedentary behavior from remote work/learning, consider the following:

  • Periodic breaks away from the screen, even a few minutes per hour may help.
  • Stretching, walking during these breaks may be helpful.
  • Instead of mindless “infinite” scrolling, consider your goal before starting a device or program.
  • Consider time outside, in nature and other leisure activities for mental health.
  • Exercise, playing sports can also help address the negative mental health effects of excessive sedentary behavior and screen time.
  • Check out mindful technology use by OSU Digital Flagship

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Zhai L, Zhang Y, Zhang D. Sedentary behaviour and the risk of depression: a meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jun;49(11):705-9. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093613. Epub 2014 Sep 2. PMID: 25183627.
  2. Stanczykiewicz B, Banik A, Knoll N, Keller J, Hohl DH, Rosińczuk J, Luszczynska A. Sedentary behaviors and anxiety among children, adolescents and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2019 Apr 30;19(1):459. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6715-3. PMID: 31039760; PMCID: PMC6492316.
  3. Ballard D. Connected and content: Managing healthy technology use. American Psychological Association.  https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-technology-use
  4. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/07/17/blue-blockers-and-other-ways-to-reduce-electronics-induced-sleep-disruption-and-daytime-tiredness/
  5. Kostadin Kushlev, Jason Proulx, and Elizabeth W. Dunn. 2016. “Silence Your Phones”: Smartphone Notifications Increase Inattention and Hyperactivity Symptoms. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’16). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1011–1020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/2858036.2858359
  6. Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Checking email less frequently reduces stress, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 43, 2015, Pages 220-228, ISSN 0747-5632, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.005.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214005810)

  1. Lin LY, Sidani JE, Shensa A, Radovic A, Miller E, Colditz JB, Hoffman BL, Giles LM, Primack BA. ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS. Depress Anxiety. 2016 Apr;33(4):323-31. doi: 10.1002/da.22466. Epub 2016 Jan 19. PMID: 26783723; PMCID: PMC4853817.

 

Mental health impact of interruptions

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

While there are benefits to having roommates, living with others, electronic devices, studying with others; even brief interruptions of work can have drawbacks.  A study (1) by Mark and colleagues looked at this issue.

What was the study?

  • Mark and colleagues (1) studied the impact of interruptions via phone or interruptions via instant messaging on 48 college students, average age 26 years old.
  • Participants were given information and asked to answer related emails as “quickly, politely, and correctly as possible”.
  • During the task, participants were subjected to phone or instant messaging interruptions related, or unrelated to the task or no interruptions.

What were the results?

  • Mark and colleagues (1) found that people in the interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort.
  • Depending on the type of interruption, they also found that it could take upto 23 minutes to return to the original task (1).

What are some potential strategies to minimize interruptions?

  • When studying minimize/turn off unnecessary notifications on your electronic devices.
  • Students may want to time some of their studying around the schedules of others in their living situation (house with family members, roommates, etc); and parts of the day when there are fewer interruptions by others.  It may be helpful to proactively communicate with others about your wish to not be interrupted for certain times of the day.
  • Identify study areas on campus that have few interruptions.
  • Some students may benefit from white noise or instrumental music to help maintain focus others may prefer a quiet space.
  • It may be useful to study or do a key task or two first thing in the morning before using electronic devices or doing other tasks.
  • Try keeping a notepad handy to make a note of any ideas or thoughts that may occur while you are working on a task.
  • Experiment doing 1 task at a time for with various chunks of time, to determine how long an ideal chunk of time is for you to stay focused on a single task.  This may help you schedule things more effectively in the future.
  • Consider meditation practice to improve your focus.
  • Consider the OSU Dennis Learning center to improve your study skills.
  • For stress management and mental health: Go to our mental health support options page: https://ccs.osu.edu/mental-health-support-options/

Other thoughts:

  • This is a small study and further research in this area is needed.
  • It is possible that some people may work better in high interruption environments.
  • It is also possible that interruptions have a different impact depending on the type of work you are doing and they type of interruption.
  • Further research in this area is needed.

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Gloria Mark, Daniela Gudith, and Ulrich Klocke. 2008. The cost of interrupted work: more speed and stress. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’08). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 107–110. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/1357054.1357072