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Last Updated on March 20, 2018

Science Tells You How Long It Takes to Break a Habit

Science Tells You How Long It Takes to Break a Habit

Habits arise through a process of triggering, actions, and rewards.[1] A circumstance triggers an action. When you get a reward from the action, you continue to do that.

If you aren’t intentional about actions and rewards, you’ll develop bad habits. These lead to self-sabotage, failure, and poor health. On the other hand, good habits enable health, happiness, and dream-fulfillment.

So how long does it take to break a habit? Some say 21 days, some say approximately a month. What is the real answer?

How long it takes to break a habit

There’s no magic number of repetitions that’ll get you to internalize the habits you want. Researchers have proposed several different ways of understanding habit formation.

The 21-day rule (or myth)

One of the earliest and most popular pieces of literature on the subject is Psycho-Cybernetics (1960) by Maxwell Maltz. Dr. Maltz who was a plastic surgeon wanted to understand how people viewed themselves. In particular, he was curious about how long it took for patients to get used to changes he made during surgery.

Based on observing his patients and reflecting on his own habits, he determined that it took at least 21 days for people to adjust. He used this information as the basis for many “prescriptions” in his self-help oriented Psycho-Cybernetics.[2]

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Since then, self-help gurus have latched onto the idea of taking 21-days to change habits. People began to forget that he said ‘a minimum of about 21 days’ instead of ‘it takes 21 days to form a new habit.’

Give yourself a month?

Another popular belief in self-help culture states that habits take 28 to 30 days to form.

One proponent of this rule, Jon Rhodes, suggests:[3]

“You must live consciously for 4 weeks, deliberately focusing on the changes that you wish to make. After the 4 weeks are up, only a little effort should be needed to sustain it.”

This was a generally agreed-upon figure, but the 21-day rule popularized by readers of Maltz was more appealing to many people because it was easy to understand, and it was faster than the general 28-30 rule.

If you want to know more about the myths of how long it takes to break a habit, check out this video:

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The time-frame for changing habits varies?

While the 21 and 28-day rules appeal to our desire to change quickly, a 2009 study from University College London suggests that the window for change can be much wider. The research, published in The European Journal of Social Psychology, followed habit-formation in 96 people over a 12-week period.

The UCL study looked at automaticity, which is how quickly people engaged in the actions they wanted to turn into habits. Researchers explained:[4]

As behaviours are repeated in consistent settings they then begin to proceed more efficiently and with less thought as control of the behaviour transfers to cues in the environment that activate an automatic response: a habit.

The amount of time that it took for actions to become habits varied. Participants anywhere between 18 and 254 days to form a habit. The average number of days needed to achieve automaticity was 76 days.

Make habits to break habits

Understanding the connection between forming new habits and getting rid of old ones makes the process easier.

Dr. Elliot Berkman, Director, Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, states:[5]

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“It’s easier to start doing something new than to stop doing something habitual without a replacement behavior.”

Quitting something cold-turkey is tough because you’ve wired yourself to want to do it. For example, quitting smoking is challenging beyond a physical nicotine addiction. The ritual of how a person prepares to smoke is another aspect that makes it hard to quit. In order to do away with this bad habit, the person needs to find something to fill the void left by the smoking ritual. The same goes for quitting drinking.

Look beyond time

There’s such a wide range in the amount of time it can take for someone to turn an action into a habit. That’s because time isn’t the only factor you have to think about when it comes to changing behaviors. Dr. Thomas Plante, Director, Spirituality & Health Institute, Psychology Department, Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine explains:

“One important issue is how strongly do you really want to break the habit in question. Second, how established is the problem habit? It is easier to break a new habit than an old one. Third, what are the consequences of not breaking the habit?”

It’s one thing to make a generic goal to exercise more, but if you thoroughly enjoy being a couch potato, it’s going to be harder to get into the exercise habit. If you’ve had a bad habit for a long time, it’s much harder to ditch it because you’ve had more repetitions of that behavior.

If exercising more won’t do much to change your life, you might find it tough to be active. On the other hand, if your doctor tells you that you won’t live to see your child’s 18th birthday unless you start moving, you have more incentive to change.

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Plante also notes that people who tend to be obsessive and those who struggle with addiction may have a harder time breaking habits than the average person.

Set aside time to change

The most powerful changes don’t happen overnight, and they probably won’t happen in 21 days. Set aside at least two months to change, but understand that altering habits is different for everyone. If you’ve had the habit for a long time, or you have to break an addiction or obsession, you may need more time.

We all make changes at different speeds based on lots of variables. The intention behind your actions, your ability to interrupt negative patterns, and the possible consequences of changing (or not changing) can also affect the time it takes adjust your habits.

Regardless of how long it takes, tackling bad habits and replacing them with good ones is essential for you to live your best life. Bad habits can keep you from achieving your full potential. They can make you sick, unproductive, and unhappy. The worst habits can even cost you your relationships and your life. Good habits set you up for success all-around.

Your health and wellness, your ability to connect with others, and your ability to live out your dreams start with good habits. If you’re ready to make changes, learn more about breaking bad habits by checking out How to Program Your Mind to Kick the Bad Habit

Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

Reference

[1] Habits for Wellbeing: What is a habit, how do they work, and how can I change them?
[2] Maxwell Maltz: The New Psycho Cybernetics
[3] Selfgrowth.com: Change a habit in 28 days
[4] European Journal of Social Psychology: How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
[5] Hopes and Fears: How long does it really take to break a habit?

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019

7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019

There’s nothing more fulfilling than the sense of accomplishment you get by achieving your business goals.

Gone are the days when you used pen and paper to take notes and manage your work day. As millennials are relying heavily on technology to manage almost everything from finances to their personal fitness, goal tracking apps are also becoming increasingly popular.[1]

In this piece, we will shed some light on 7 such goal tracking apps that you can use to streamline your operations.

I have handpicked these apps from a software rating web services site Best Online Reviews. Industry experts review software on these websites and help businesses to find the right solutions to meet their various, unique business requirements.

1. Aha!

    Aha! is a California-based roadmap software provider and offers excellent goal tracking app that lets you define goals and objectives for projects. The app also lets you list out primary tasks and allows you to focus on them.

    Hosted securely on the cloud, the app offers enhanced communication tools for sharing updates through emails with select colleagues or the entire organization.

    Aha! is available on multiple platforms such as the web, Android, iOS, Windows, etc. and starts from $59 per month per user.

    Available for Web

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    2. Asana

      Asana is one of the more popular project management apps available for businesses. It lets you organize all your team’s work, such as setting up and tracking goals, creating tasks, sharing files and notes, etc.

      Asana also allows your team to organize all their tasks and focus on urgent priorities. Moreover, the app offers a delightful user experience that makes task management simple and easy.

      Asana is available on multiple platforms from PCs and Mac to iOS and Android. Multi-channel adaptability makes Asana the perfect choice to track your goals anytime, from anywhere.

      Available for iOS | Android | Web

      3. Basecamp

        Basecamp is an excellent tool to manage all your team’s projects and keep your activities organized. It opens a new thread for every task and that task is visible by the whole team.

        With Basecamp, you can schedule tasks, add to-dos, discuss tasks by adding comments, add files and attachments, and much more.

        The app is available on both mobile and desktop platforms and costs $99 per month. It is available on the web, Android, and iOS platforms and offers excellent multi-channel access.

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        Available for iOS | Android | Web

        4. Forecast

          An efficient tool for successful task management, Forecast is also a popular goal tracking app. Apart from effective milestone tracking, the app also offers convenient status reporting.

          Forecast uses project history to let you know the status of your current work. Moreover, it uses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to provide high-quality assistance. It is a robust app for small teams to track goals and time.

          Forecast is available for free and comes with Android and iOS app support. The premium version of the app starts from $19 per month per user.

          Available for Web

          5. Wrike

            Wrike is a cloud-based collaboration and project management app that successfully manages projects from start to finish. It lets you create tasks, track work progress and retrieve reports with ease.

            The app also gives real-time work updates and helps team members to understand their work priorities. A custom report builder helps you to generate in-depth reporting.

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            Wrike’s premium version is available from $9.80 per month per user and is available on multiple platforms.

            Available for iOS | Android | Web

            6. Todo.vu

              Todo.vu is a unique platform that delivers enhanced customer relationship management (CRM), task management, time tracking, and billing functionality in a single app.

              According to Capterra, it’s an ideal app for freelancers and consultants, who are looking for tools to improve efficiency and transparency.

              Although the app is free to use with basic features, the premium plan starts from $5 per month per user. The app also comes with calendar sync and task reminder functionality to keep you on track, always.

              Available for Web

              7. Flock

                Looking for a tool to simplify task management? Try out Flock.

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                Flock comes with enhanced goal tracking and additional features like instant messaging.

                Moreover, Flock offers tons of integrations with tools such as Google, MailChimp, Jira, Dropbox, etc. It is a powerful tool that’s packed with robust features such as reminders, notes, polls and to-dos.

                Even though you can use the tool for free, the paid version of Flock is available from $4.50 per month per user.

                Available for iOS | Android | Web

                Conclusion

                Businesses need high-quality project management tools to streamline collaboration and operations. Enhanced goal tracking apps make it easy for your team to improve productivity by keeping its tasks organized.

                But it’s essential that you choose an app that meets your unique business requirements. You can choose from the above-mentioned apps to streamline operations and improve the productivity of your team.

                Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                Reference

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