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Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies
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I’m sure you have been there. You write down goals and resolutions, clench your teeth and swear that you will follow through.

Then you miss a day. And another. And another…

Soon, days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. Before you know it, that book you said you would finish has been lying under your bed for a year, and that diet you said you would follow has become the last thing that comes to mind when you are in front of a dinner table. At one point, you felt immensely guilty, but now you just feel numb. Your guilt from missing your goals has been squashed mercilessly and cast to the back of your mind so often that doing so has almost become a reflex action.

“It’s not like I don’t want to do it – I just don’t have time for it anymore,” you protest weakly.

It’s normal to be slow in our journey of forming habits.

Hey, it’s okay. Relax. We’re not here to yell at you for being human. The truth is, it is completely normal to run into obstacles on our trek towards building and forming new habits, especially when it’s something that we are not used to doing or even something that is the complete opposite of what we are used to doing. A simple and common example is making it a goal to completely cut out fast food and replace it with salads, fruits, and vegetables. The first few days might be all right, but as time goes on, the urge to revert to grabbing a burger grows stronger and stronger. Eventually, you throw your hands up and say, “whatever, it’s just one day,” and you know the rest.

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However, all is not lost. I turned my life around with five simple steps. Now it is your turn to do the same.

1. Gamify your life when building habits.

Gamification is a self-designed system that operates along a daily exchange of productivity and reward.[1] To put it in simpler words, it helps make completing chores and work fun!

It goes like this:

  1. Identify tasks you don’t like doing.
  2. Assign points to them – the more you hate doing it, the more points it should get!
  3. Set up small, regular rewards to keep yourself incentivized.
  4. Set long term goals and reward yourself with a super prize!

Ultimately, you want to use this system to achieve those long-term goals – your goal could be anything from eating healthy to getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night! Just don’t forget to make it worthwhile by setting up rewards to give yourself when you succeed, like getting yourself that camera you really want or booking a trip to Japan!

2. Share your goals with the people around you.

This may come across as a little weird in the beginning. Broadcasting your goal of improving your eating habits to your friends sounds ridiculous. But is it really?

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Your friends might laugh at you if fall, but they will also be the ones who help you up from the ground. If you tell your friends that you want to eat healthier meals from now on, you can count on them to remind you to stick to your diet every time you meet up for lunch. When I was trying to go meat-free a few years back, I even had friends who were nice enough to pick restaurants with vegetarian options for meals out with me. Sharing your goals is more effective than you may imagine – so go ahead and talk to your friends!

3. Set your target as your wallpaper.

    It is difficult to forget something you see every day. In this age when smartphones and computers are more frequent companions than the people around us, you might want to remind yourself of your target by setting a quote or a relevant pretty image as your wallpaper. This way, every time you look at your phone, you will be reminded to drink a glass of water, get a quick workout done, or take whatever action you need to take to meet your goal.

    4. Put in the minimum effort needed to form a habit.

    What?

    You didn’t read it wrong. The key to habit formation is for it to be easy. The more difficult it is to follow through, the higher the temptation is to give up. In his article “The ONE Success Strategy that’s so Simple YOU may actually do it,” Greg Clement puts it like this:[2]

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    Instead of putting MAXIMUM effort into my goal each day, I decided to set a floor, a minimum.

    Anything above this minimum performance I’d consider a bonus.

    Set a core goal. It could be about work, relationships, personal health – something that covers an important part of your life. An example might be improving your relationship with your children.

    Then, create your Minimum Acceptable Day (M.A.D.). Following up on the previous example, it could be spending 20 minutes with your children. This is your baseline. Finally, every time you achieve this target, put a BIG CROSS on your calendar. Let them build up.

    If you managed to spend a healthy 2 hours playing Lego with your kids – awesome! However, it’s just as amazing if you can only spend 20 minutes with them. That’s because you are moving forward every day that you adhere to your minimum goal. This creates momentum for you to go on, and before you notice, you will have already been doing this for a year!

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    5. Crave the reward from your new habit.

      In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg proposed the idea of a habit loop. There is the cue: the trigger for your habit; the routine: the behavior itself; and lastly, the reward: the joy you derive from the habit. On top of that, there is the craving, which links the cue with the action and the reward.

      I used to work until 3 AM every day. Needless to say, my eyelids would start to droop after 1 AM (this is the cue), so I would head to the fridge and down a can of Red Bull (this is the routine), rejuvenating and preparing myself for the work ahead (this is the reward). Eventually, whenever I was tired, I would immediately think of getting a can of Red Bull because of the 2-hour energy spike I would get (craving).

      Therefore, herein lies the last tip for creating habits that stick: develop a craving that drives you to maintain the habit by connecting it with the action and the reward. In my case, I could train myself to crave a different reward (rest and better sleep quality) as soon as I encounter the cue (being tired). I could do this by developing a craving for becoming better rested and thus develop my new habit (going to sleep earlier)!

      Get moving!

      You have all you need – so set your goals and get moving!

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      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

      Reference

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      Eamon Suen

      Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

      Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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      1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

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      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

      More on Building Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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