We are close to one more January End. By this time many of us have already failed at our new year resolutions. If you’re at that point, do not worry! You are not alone. Studies suggest that 92% of people fail at their New Year Resolutions. The Optimistic of you says: “Oh! 8% of people succeed at their new year resolutions.” How do they succeed in creating new habits quickly?
You might be thinking “They must be the strong-hearted ones with high willpower!” Need not be! They are just like you and me! The only difference between the great habit creators and us are that they know which system works for them.
We are all unique individuals. Same is the case when it comes to behavior building. The one strategy best suited for me, may not be useful for you.
One behavior change is different from other. One approach may not fit for all the habits. Exercising is different from Giving up Smoking.
The key factor is to find out which system works for you. For that, you need to experiment with different strategies and finalize the system that works best for you.
Once you know the proper procedure, use that strategy to create all your desired habits. How good is that?
Here we are going to explore the nine tricks you can follow while creating new habits through habit stacking.
How do habits work?
In the book “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg explains about Habit Loops.
Each habit forms a neurological loop consisting of three elements: A Cue, A Routine, and A Reward.
A Cue is a trigger that starts your habit.
A Routine is your habit.
A Reward is a benefit you get out of the habit.
Suppose, whenever you get bored at work, you log into Facebook and spend a lot of time.
Getting bored is the trigger for you to login to Facebook, Spending time on Facebook during work is your habit. The reward might be the feeling of connection to your friends.
To break a bad habit, first find out the cue causing it and reward you getting out of it. Then replace the bad habit with a more positive habit.
Having this understanding of behavior pattern is essential in creating new habits through habit stacking.
1. Pick One at a Time
Probably you have already chosen the change you want to have.
You have got multiple changes to make to your daily routine. But pick only one at a time. Do not be over enthusiastic and try to build many habits together. You might become overwhelmed.
I mentioned about choosing the most efficient change by applying the 80/20 principle when you improve yourself the kaizen way. You can implement the same policy here also.
Charles Duhigg mentions this habit as “keystone habit” in his book “The Power of Habit.”
Check out The Power of Habit in Amazon
A keystone habit is a habit which will make you happier and more productive even in other areas of your life.
It could be going for a morning walk with your spouse or exercising or sleeping early or cleaning your desk.
Identify that one habit which has brought positive ripple effects to your entire life in the past.
Now you have decided on the new habit, possibly a keystone habit.
2. Make the habit as tiny as possible
Start small. I know some of you might be able to shift to the new routine from tomorrow.
But chances of you staying with the new behavior is high if you start small. Implementing a personal improvement through minor changes is the basis of the Kaizen approach too. In Kaizen, we improve ourselves 1% daily.
If you want to have a 15 minutes’ walk, start with a 1-minute walk in the hall. Sounds ridiculous?
By starting small, we are reprogramming our brain and establishing the new behavior. Once the new routine gets established, it will naturally expand to your desired habit.
3. Choose one positive habit to stack the new behavior
Next, we need to create a new habit loop. There are multiple strategies for building new practices. The strategy, we are covering here is habit stacking.
Behavioral scientists say one way of creating new habits is to stack the new behavior with an established positive one.
Now to create a habit loop, we need a Cue. Cue is the established action.
Suppose, you want to start to drink a glass of water in the morning. You can stack it with brushing your teeth in the morning as below:
After I brush my teeth, I will drink a glass of water.
Before I make Coffee, I will drink a glass of water.
Pick the suitable habit to stack your new habit.
How are you going to incorporate this new habit into your routine? Okay, you decided to stick new habit to an existing positive one.
You might need to adjust other habits accordingly so that you can have this new habit as part of the routine.
It is essential to allocate time for this new habit, even though the new habit might be a tiny one. Plan time for it in your routine, for better success.
4. Mark your progress in a calendar
How are you planning to track your progress? You can use a physical calendar or a habit tracker app.
Each time you complete your habit, add a big red X to the day on your calendar. Soon, you will see this building as a chain.
All red X’s indicate the days you invested in creating new habits. This chain of your investment makes harder for you to skip a day as you do not want to lose your investment.
5. Create Your Reward
Are you wondering a reward for a minor change such as walking a minute or flossing a tooth? It might sound silly.
Till we establish a routine, we may not find any intrinsic rewards. In fact, creating new habits is a great deal.
You deserve to be appreciated, however little the new habit is.
The reward has to be something that makes you feel good. It could be as simple as a smile or laugh or a thumbs up for yourself.
Fix anything that is significant to you as a reward. If a thumbs up sound pointless to you then create a more meaningful reward.
Celebrate each of your successful attempts with your reward.
Remember, the habit loop? We identified a clue, the small change and created a reward to complete the Habit Loop.
6. Have a weekly review
How long does creating new habits take? There are different timelines suggested by various studies.
Creating new habits takes 21 days is a popular estimate. Some people say it takes 66 days.
But most of the behavioral scientists now say that it can vary depending on the person, environment and the habits.
It might take a much longer time for you to establish the new behavior as a routine.
Every week, have a review of your progress. It can be preferably at the same time every week.
Celebrate your wins. You can even have a bigger reward for your weekly accomplishment. If you have missed any day, adjust your plan accordingly.
7. Create a Commitment Contract
In the book, The Habit Blueprint, “Patrik Edblad” suggests crafting a Commitment Contract.
Check out The Habit Blueprint in Amazon.
A Commitment Contract is a compulsory agreement you sign with yourself to ensure that you follow through with your habit building process.
Commitment Contract works by utilizing our hatred attitude towards loss and mental power of accountability to drive behavior change.
Write down your commitment to creating a new habit.
Mention the punishment you will undergo if you do not do it.
Name the Referee who will hold you accountable to your commitment.
Sign it. Print it out!
Mostly, Commitment Contract has three parts:
I commit to —————-.
If I do not do it, I will ————–
My Referee will be ————-
I commit to drinking a glass of water in the morning. If I do not drink, I will not get my morning coffee.
My Referee will be my husband.
Some of them require you to pledge money. If you did not meet the commitment, you would lose some money! Is not that make you stick to your commitment?
8. Have an Accountability Partner
Accountability is a powerful force when it comes to creating habits. When someone else is tracking your progress and making sure you stick to what you commit to doing, you’ll be much more likely to follow through.
You have already created the commitment contract. You can hand over the commitment contract to the chosen accountability partner.
9. Be prepared for failures
You can make some adjustments to your environment to keep you on track.
Example, if you are working on to reduce watching T.V., You can keep the remote in another room.
If you are working on to improve your water intake, then keep a bottle of water next to your work desk.
Is your new habit getting up early? Set the alarm and keep it far away from your bed. You can’t snooze it without getting up.
These positive tweaks to your environment will increase your chances of success.
You have made the habit as tiny as possible, stacked it with a fixed behavior, and enforced the pattern through rewards, found an accountability partner who monitors you, maintained a long chain of habit investment.
But still, you may find yourself in a situation where you have broken the chain of your investment.
Emotions drive we human beings. Unexpected Events can happen in our lives. You may fell off the wagon.
Instead of feeling guilty or shame, forgive yourself. Switch your focus on to the total number of days you have completed the task and the progress you made in establishing the habit.
Creating new habits through habit stacking is an effective, science-backed strategy. Have you tried Habit stacking before? What other approaches have you followed in creating new habits? Let me know through comments.