Whether we realize it or not, our habits make up a lot of what we do each day. Think about it. We get up in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, and probably do other things that get us ready for the day. Often we complete these tasks without really thinking too much about them. They have become habits.
Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, says that a habit is a choice we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing, often every day.
While it’s all too easy to develop habits that are not necessarily good for us, it really is a chore to develop ones that will help us be more productive, healthy, and generally more at peace in our lives.
Three Habits That Can Hinder Your Productivity
- Being a “yes” woman
- Spending too much time ‘getting organized”
- Giving in to distractions.
Over the last few months, I have been reading a couple of books about habits and change. I’m fascinated by how our brains work, and I’m always looking for ways to develop good, productive habits that stick. These books are The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
I learned in The Power of Habit that our habits are made up of a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. When we are trying to either create a new habit or change an old habit so that it is more beneficial to us, we need to figure out what these three parts of the loop are for that particular habit.
How to Create a New Habit That Sticks
Narrow down what habit you want to create.
It is too easy to be very general when creating habits. Sometimes we look at them like we do goals and say things like “I want to lose 25 pounds.” That’s not a habit. You’ve got to drill down deeper and figure out what habit you want to create that will help you lose 25 pounds. This could be anything from working out on a consistent basis or eating 4 vegetables a day. The key is to boil it down to one simple action.
Determine the reward you will get for following through with the habit.
I think it’s important to start with the outcome you want to achieve. So let’s look at the weight loss example again. Maybe the habit you want to create is working out every day in some way. Maybe not hour-long workouts, but moving at least 15-30 minutes a day. The reward for working out consistently could be many things. It could be that you end up losing 25 pounds, other health factors improve, you get more energy, or you are more motivated to do other things because you are successfully working out every day.
The reward does not have to be something tangible. Although you could add a tangible reward when you’ve followed through on your habit for a set period of time. An example of this would be buying new work out clothes after you’ve been working out consistently for 30 days.
Figure out the routine that will help you accomplish the habit.
If your habit is to work out every day, then your routine could be laying out your workout clothes the night before, putting them on as soon as you get out of bed, and starting your workout.
Decide what your cue will be to start the routine.
The cue for our working out example could be when you are getting ready for bed each night you know to get out your workout clothes. Or if you’re not able to work out first thing in the morning, your cue could be once you drop off your kids at school you head to the gym.
I’ve discovered that if you can respond to the cue and follow-through, the chances of your habit sticking go up tremendously. If you ignore the cue, nothing is going to change.
Track your progress in developing the habit.
To help you track your progress, I’ve got a fun habit tracker you can download. It is for one month and has spaces to track several habits. You should not try to start more than one or two new habits at a time. However, there may be something else you want to track just to see how often you do it.
For example, one of the daily habits or actions I track is walking a certain number of steps each day. There really is no habit associated with walking all these steps. I just accumulate them as I go about my daily schedule. However, tracking how often I hit this goal helps me to see where I need to ramp up activity. It also lets me know I need to try something different to reach this goal.
Just fill out the form below and the habit tracker will be delivered straight to your email inbox.