Habits are fundamental to performance, not only in the workplace but in life in general. Anytime you create a habit, you free up valuable brain space for more important tasks. You also free up vital energy that you can use better elsewhere.
But creating new habits, or getting rid of old habits, is easier said than done. Some say it takes 30 days while other say it takes longer. We don't know for sure what that magic number is but here are 5 simple steps that we know make it a whole lot easier. We discussed them on this week's podcast but you can also read about them below.
Listen to the podcast here or continue reading below.
1 - Be Realistic
Sometimes we try to jump in the deep end and take on too much too soon.
For example, if you want to do more exercise, a commitment to go 3 times a week for 45 minutes might be a bit too adventurous. Shooting for too much too soon could set you up for failure. So you could start out with once or twice a week instead.
You might want to create a habit of having a 5 minute casual conversation with at least 3 staff members each day. For some that may be easy and for others not so easy. Either way, have a realistic target in mind then work your way up to it. This is easier than trying for the end goal straight away.
2 - Remove Obstacles
You want to make it easy for you to engage in your aspirational habit.
If you have a current habit of working late, that could be an excuse to not go to the gym. This can be because the classes at the gym have finished before you get there. Or it could be because you are too tired to work out in the morning.
Either way, working late is an obstacle that needs to end. That may seem like a challenge but, as your health improves, so will your decision making and your efficiency. Thus the need to work late should become less important.
(NB - even if exercise isn't on your list of desired habits, working late should be one habit that you get rid of anyway. As a rule it isn't that productive.)
3 - Set a Schedule (aka Be Regular)
Have you ever noticed you brush your teeth or make your coffee in the morning almost without thinking about it? That's the power of regularity. It frees up valuable brain space and decision making energy for other things.
Block out time in your calendar or set reminders for forming your new habits. It could be a habit of planning or reading reports. It could be the habit of having casual conversations with staff mentioned earlier. It could be the habit of only checking email at certain times per day.
You get the gist of it. The more regular it is, the less you have to think about it.
4 - Acknowledge Your First Landmark
Actually, acknowledging every landmark would be even better.
Your new habit won't lock into place overnight but you will hit milestones along the way for sure. Think back to the step goals mentioned in step one above. Those are ideal places to stage your landmarks.
How you celebrate it is up to you but celebrate it you must.
Choose a reward or acknowledgement that lifts your spirits. It may be champagne (if appropriate). Or it may be that you share the news with someone important to you and bask in that limelight for a few moments.
It's important that the celebration be timely. As soon as possible after hitting the landmark as you can. The celebration needs to connect with the actual behaviour behind it to have an impact. If you leave it too long that impact will diminish somewhat.
5 - Engage A Supporter
Cheerleaders are called leaders for a reason. But you don't need to be a professional athlete to have one on your team.
It can be your spouse, a family member, your manager, a colleague, a member of your team or any combination of the above. Make sure it's someone supportive though. You don't want to enlist the head of the local chapter of Cynics Anonymous.
Share your habit goal with them and ask them to support you by checking in, or letting you know when they see you're off track.
And if it's a habit they can take part in with you then even better. You could walk together at lunchtime. You could make a pact to leave the office at the same time each day to break the working late habit. Or you could check in with each other to see if you've kept up with the team interaction goals.
Become a supporter for each other and you'll at least double the impact of the new habits.
Here are those simple habit forming tips once again
- Be Realistic
- Remove Obstacles
- Set a Schedule (aka Be Regular)
- Acknowledge Your First Landmark
- Engage A Supporter
Please give them a try and let us know in the comments below how they work for you.
If you really want to dig into the subject of habits, we highly recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.
Anytime you create a habit, you free up valuable brain space for more important tasks. #habits #leadership #productivity