Habit building – 3 easy ways to improve your success rate.
Perhaps you want to drink more water, be more present and engaged in everyday activities or maybe you want to cultivate better movement habits at work? The key to sustaining change is making these behaviours habitual and one of the most efficient ways to create new habits is linking them with ones that you have already established– for example brushing your teeth or drinking your morning tea. I bet you rarely forget to do these things because they are established habits and require little or no conscious thought.
When you want to get better at habit building – linking the new behaviours with established ones will improve your efficiency and your chances of success. So, for example if you wanted to remember to take a multivitamin – put the bottle next to your toothbrush and take it immediately before doing your teeth. Or if the first thing which you do when you get to work in the morning is to boil the kettle, this would be a great time to link in any work related task which you wanted to get into the habit of doing- for example planning your time and priorities for the day.
In the early days reminders will help you to build and embed new habits. So in the example above, leave the vitamin bottle out on the shelf next to your toothbrush- instead of tiding it away neatly in the cupboard. Or leaving your pad and pen next to your cup so that it’s the first thing that you see when you arrive at your desk – that way you can plan and remind yourself of your own priorities before you get overloaded with others.
Do the behaviour at the same time each day; this is another way to make your behaviour automatic. For example, get into the habit of preparing your food for work the night before, or meditate at the same time each day. I know that this is not always possible for more time consuming habits like exercise, but it is possible for movement reminders and many of the everyday health, lifestyle and productivity related habits.
Think back to the teeth brushing example- has there been an occasion when you forgot to brush your teeth? Was it because you didn’t brush your teeth straight before or after you got dressed as you usually do – or perhaps you were interrupted by your children, a phone call or something else? Everyday often predictable interruptions get in the way of you getting the important things done. This is likely to leave you feeling dissatisfied and frustrated, so plan your change in at the time when you are least likely to be interrupted or challenged and repeat to build a strong neurological connection which will make the habit automatic.
It’s easy to get distracted and live your life reactively, responding to interruptions – be it the latest fads, fashion or social media and this is why planning is of paramount importance for behavioural change.
Take a few minutes to note any thoughts which have come in to your mind. How could you use this information to improve your health and reduce your frustrations? Consider your personal of professional life. What habit do you want to build? What current habits do you do everyday without fail, whether it rains or not and in spite of your mood?
Take action: List 3 options and consider the pros and cons of them all. Consider things like the time of day, environment and any other people involved in the change. Take action to initiate the change today.