How to Create Habits That Stick
It’s February, which means it’s the month to celebrate love and heart health. It’s also the month after many people drop their habits, nixing their New Year’s resolutions.
Actually, New Years resolution dropping happens much earlier. Fitness tracking app,
If you’ve found yourself or your team in a motivational rut without the new habits you’d hoped to develop in 2018, here are a few tips to help.
Give Yourself Time
In the 1950s, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed a trend amongst his patients. Any time a major surgery was performed, such as a nose job or amputation, it would take approximately 21 days for the person to adapt to the change. He went on to observe his own behavior and found the same. It took him about three weeks before he was able to adopt a new habit.
“These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell,” he wrote in his book, Psycho-Cybernetics.
This holds true for you too. If you’re changing a familiar behavior, you must give yourself time to adjust mentally – 21 days, at least. During that process, you’re going to have up days and down days, but recognizing that habit forming takes time will help keep you motivated to the end.
Find an Accountability Partner
On the days when you are tempted to revert back to your old way of doing things, it’s important to bring in some outside help.
Having an accountability partner can help you avoid looking too much in your rear view mirror. Choose a person you trust and feel comfortable working with, and then ask him to hold your feet to the fire in adopting a new habit. If you’re a runner, choose a running buddy to hit the pavement with. If you’re trying to adopt new technology at work, ask your team members to only accept requests or changes via this new technology instead of your old pattern of doing things. The more people you have forcing you to stick to a new habit, the more likely you are to break out into the uncomfortable new pattern.
Make It Routine
It’s easier to stick to a routine than it is to constantly feel like you have to remember to do something. For example, if your goal is to run 10 miles a week, it’s easier to plan out when you’ll run than to rely on yourself to make it out the door a few days a week. Big goals are vague while routine is precise.
When you’re working to form a new habit, schedule it into your day. If you want to start journaling, schedule a time to journal and force yourself to stick to it. Don’t let yourself slack or drop a day – especially not during the first few weeks. Make the new habit a routine and soon it’ll become so ingrained in your daily behavior that it will feel more uncomfortable to not do it than to adapt to the change.
Keep It Simple
Forming a new habit is hard enough. Don’t add difficulty to it by making it more complicated than it needs to be.
The simpler you can make your new habit, the better. For example, if you’re trying to create a new habit of looking at your next day’s schedule every night before bed, set a reminder for yourself and then follow through. Don’t come up with an elaborate plan to sit in a specific chair with a cup of hot tea in your hand while you mull over the schedule. Instead, set a reminder and when it goes off, look at the schedule on your phone. This way, no matter where you are, you can follow through, even if it’s a quick glance instead of an in-depth analysis of the day ahead.
Replace What’s Lost
When you create something new, you’re also leaving something old behind. This something old can feel like a loss, and in a way, it is. For example, if you’re giving up smoking, leaving those cigarettes behind is a loss.
Fill that void with something else to avoid any setbacks. Instead of having a cigarette when you wake up, have a cup of coffee. Instead of having a cigarette after lunch, go for a walk around the block. By filling that void, you won’t miss the old quite as much, which will help you stay on track toward the new behavior you’re striving to achieve.
Focus on the Negative
It’s not often that you’ll be encouraged to focus on the negative, but when it comes to forming a new habit, negative thinking can be inspirational in a sense.
If you’re struggling to develop a new habit, you might not understand the consequences of not adapting to your new ways. Consider what would happen if you were to have a setback. Would you lose money in your business? Would you lose clients? Would you lose team members?
By understanding the negative outcomes associated by not adopting a new habit, you can spur your motivation to force yourself into creating a new routine for yourself. Keep those negative outcomes in focus as you surge ahead.
This is Your Year
New habits can feel daunting. If you were one of the many who gave up on forming a new habit in mid-January, try again. With a little bit of discipline you can find new motivation to make yourself have a productive year where you make a change for the better.
Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine's Top 500 Software Companies 2004-2007 and again in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.Read Full Bio