Kick-start a New Habit

I love me how-to’s and tricks to quickly and effectively build a new habit! I love being productive… mostly because being productive with day to day life tasks actually frees up more of my time for me to engage in leisure activities and hobbies. In July and August, we had a couple of Meetups that focused on applying the suggestions in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is packed with great suggestions.

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to read that or other habit books but you really want some fast ways to kick a new habit into gear (or drop a cruddy one), here are my two favorite approaches.

  1. To drop an unwanted habit, I find that establishing a positive replacement habit is most effective.

    The replacement habit has to be fairly easy and fun to do and be something you can do at the same time/place when you typically do the unwanted habit. It almost has to feel like a reward for not doing the other habit. For example, I wanted to stop picking on my cuticles. So I bought a package of 5 little wrist/hand/finger exercise devices and I put one device in each place where I spend the most time (and one in my purse). Every time I started to pick my cuticles, I’d use the nearby gizmo until the impulse passed. After about a month I realized I was rarely using the workout devices any longer… and I was also rarely picking on my cuticles.

  2. To build a new habit, try Habit Stacking. That is, tack on a new habit to the beginning or ending of another existing habit (that you plan to keep).

    This tip came from Clear’s book and it is incredibly powerful. Want to start preparing your coffee before bed? Stack it on as the thing you always do after you put the dog out to go do her biz before bedtime. Want to keep the sink clear of dirty dishes? Right after you prep your coffee, take care of the dishes. See that? You just stacked two new habits onto your existing habit of letting the mutt out - and you’ll finish by the time she’s ready to come back in!

    Want to drink more water? Always keep several water bottles filled and have them in the places you sped a lot of time then associate taking a few swigs of water with other things you already do. Reading email… drink water. Eating food… drink water. Drinking alcohol… drink water. Working out (or just hot flashing)… drink water. Notice that with a habit like this, you’ll also need the habit of keeping the water bottles full, so you might need to stack on that minor chore to other habits that are part of your morning or evening routines.

If these quick tips work for you the way they did for me, you’ll be a happy camper for sure! I’ll undoubtedly have many more in depth articles on habit formation in the future. It is definitely a topic worth quite a bit of consideration, given the overall impact your habits - individually and cumulatively - have on your life. Let me know how it goes. The resource page also has some good recommendations if you need more guidance in this department.