The Art of Habit Change

by Mark on March 31, 2010

I was going to write a detailed post about habit change, but then I changed my mind. There has been so much written about habit change that I don’t think that I can really add much value at this point. I may revisit this topic after I have experimented a bit more, but for now I am just going to direct you to some excellent blog posts on habit change.

Turning Goals into Habits

Conditioning New Habits

These posts should give you great ideas about how to go about changing habits effectively. Many of us have tried to change habits unsuccessfully. Usually it is because we didn’t consciously design strategies that maximize our probability of success. Instead we try to use brute-force will power.

For the 90-Day Challenge, I’m going to try to install a new habit in each of the next three months so that I will have 3 new habits when all is said and done.

The main strategies that I’m going to focus on are:

  • Focus on only one habit at a time. The probability of success dramatically decreases with each new habit that you try to install at the same time because your focus is diluted and your will power is used up much more quickly. One habit change is challenging enough.
  • Focus on only the next 30 days. Focusing on changing a habit permanently is often too overwhelming, but 30 days is much less intimidating. It is much easier to continue with a habit if we know that it will be over in 30 days. The ingenious part of this strategy is that you will be much better conditioned to maintain the habit after 30 days, so it will take much less will power. You might decide to do it for another 30 days, or you might just decide to make it permanent. Or you might decide that the positive effects of the habit are not worthwhile and decide not to pursue the habit after all.
  • Insert the habit into part of a conditioned routine. For example, most of us have habitual patterns for getting ready in the morning or for what we do as soon as we get home from work. One action leads to another without much thought on our part. It is pretty much on autopilot. Could you insert a new habit somewhere in the routine and condition the new pattern?
  • Be accountable. I talk about this a lot. Habit change is not easy. Communicate what you intend to do and put yourself on the line. Public pressure will help hold you to a higher standard.

My New Habit

For the month of April, I am going to work on my first e-book every day from 6:15 AM to 6:45 AM. I already wake up at 6 AM on weekdays, but I usually just putz around on the Internet waiting for the caffeine from my coffee to kick in before getting ready for work. I want to replace this pattern by developing the habit of making progress towards my BHAG every single day before I do anything else. Thirty minutes a day might not sound like a lot, but the real purpose is just to keep me moving forward and to prevent procrastination.

The second aspect to this habit is that I will be conditioning myself to wake up at 6 AM every day, even on weekends. This will help make my sleep cycle more stable, something that I have been struggling with. Every weekend I screw up my biological clock and then pay the price on Monday. I also have a bad habit of staying up too late every night, so I will need to focus on this as well in order to wake up at 6 AM with energy. I’m hoping that waking up at a consistent time will make this easier.

So that’s it. Tomorrow the 90-Challenge begins. This is going to be epic. I hope. :-)

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