We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore not an act but a habit.Aristotle
Did you lose some good habits and picked up less optimal ones during the pandemic?
Some of what I hear again and again …
✅Using Deliveroo … even for breakfast
✅Finding it hard to switch off from work
✅Loosing motivation to train without the social energy from a gym
🤷♀️🙈Habits are formed by repetition until it becomes an automated, unconscious pattern:
✨Trigger (internal or external environment) ➡️ Reaction (habit) ➡️ Consequence (outcome)✨
When we are aware about the unwanted habit and its pattern (trigger, re-action, consequences) we can break it.
And when our usual trigger is disrupted, our reaction and the consequence might be too.
This is one reason the pandemic has been so unsettling. Coming out of the pandemic and back into our former environments and triggers will be yet another adjustment between old and new behaviours.
📈 How can we use the power of compounding with tips from behavioural science and biohacking to reset our habits in line with we want to keep and away from those we don’t?
💪🏻Getting 1% better every single day for an entire year makes you 37 times better than when you began.✨
1% daily improvement over 1 year ⇒ 1.01^365 = 37.8 ⇒ 37x better
STEP 1: Make a list of your daily habits and assess.
- Once you have a full list, look at each behavior, and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit (“+”), a bad habit (“-”), or a neutral habit (“=”)?”. Identify unwanted habits and behaviors: What do you want to change and why? What have been the unwanted consequences of this habit so far? What will the consequences be in the future – if you allow it to continue? What triggers are leading to the re-action and consequence that you want to change?
STEP 2: Create new habits intentions.
- After / before / when I [current habit – “anchor”] I will [new habit – “stack”]. e.g. After brushing my teeth, I will floss and use mouthwash; after I get home from work, I will take my sneakers out of the closet and put them somewhere I can see / bundle my workout clothes together so all I have to do is grab a bundle before a morning workout; after I wake up, I will meditate; when I feel stressed or anxious, I will close my eyes and take five deep breaths; when I finish work, I will ask my kids how their day went, and I will be present and actively listen to their answers.
- I will always choose this, not that. e.g. always choose a salad [this] rather than fries [that].
- Do this now, then that. e.g. I will start cardio exercise once a week this week [this now]. Then, after two weeks, I will add strength training [then that].
- Make a specific plan for when, where, and how you are going to implement it. Set your habits intention: I WILL [Behavior] AT [Time] IN [Location].
STEP 3: Visualize how you will overcome obstacles.
- “If [… happens] then [I will…]”.
- Rehearse mentally / visualize yourself performing or behaving in a particular way in a particular situation and avoiding procrastination. The more you visualize yourself as if you already had the new habit, the more it will be accepted by your subconscious mind and become automatic. The same muscles are activated whether you are physically doing or mentally imagining a task (e.g. shopping for healthy food by writing a list beforehand, fitness by having a plan and visualizing the exercises before going to the gym).
We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.Carol Dweck
STEP 4: Hack your psychology and environment
- Focus on progress over perfection. Focus on actions and consistency, not outcomes and deadlines. You will slowly start developing better confidence, willpower & motivation.
💪🏻Getting 1% better every single day for an entire year makes you 37 times better than when you began.✨1% daily improvement over 1 year ⇒ 1.01^365 = 37.8 ⇒ 37x better✨
- Start with actions so small and easy you cannot fail or say no, with little mental or physical effort.
These compound into massive results over time. There is a “winning feeling” that comes with doing small actions. It reframes your mindset with a sense of self-efficacy – a belief that you can influence outcomes. Consider committing to “only  minutes” (choose whatever length of time best resonates with you). This tricks our brain into getting started because it thinks it won’t be doing it for long.
- Make the new habit satisfying by pairing it with something you enjoy. You will reinforce the habit and start to associate, unconsciously, the pleasure of the pair with the habit.
Give yourself an immediate reward after you complete your habit. e.g. can be as small as positive self-talk or savouring a delicious healthy treat after a work-out or watching an entertaining video after your daily priorities, or bigger such as a holiday once a big work project is over.
Pair an action you want to do with an action you don’t want to do. e.g. If going to the gym is a burden but you like catching-up with a friend, plan to work out with a friend.
Join a group where your desired habit is the normal behavior. e.g. If you want to have healthy habits, join a good gym.
Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit. e.g. If you like working out, work out and then work on your most important task.
- Make the rewards of taking action more immediate.
Only do [thing you love] while, or after, doing [thing you procrastinate on]. e.g. only get a massage, facial or pedicure after processing overdue work emails or finishing to write a long article; only eat at your favorite restaurant after delivering a challenging presentation or working out.
- Reduce friction. e.g. time and distance: choose a gym near to your house.
- Try to do the same activity at the same time and in the same place every day.
This makes it easier to build a ritual and dedicate the right energy and focus to the given activity. e.g. where you work-out, where you work, where you meditate, where you eat, where you sleep.
- Prime the environment.
Prepare your environment to make future actions easier. Add / remove exposure and cues of your bad habits from your environment
- Try to do the same activity at the same time and in the same place every day.
- Make unwanted habits unattractive and / or invisible.
Reframe your mindset to highlight the benefits of avoiding your unwanted habit.
e.g. eating mindlessly => remove tempting junk food from kitchen; watch TV mindlessly => hide the remote; scroll social media or emails mindlessly => turn off notifications; check phone before sleeping and during the night when waking up => don’t bring your phone in your bedroom.
- Make the consequences of procrastinating more immediate.
e.g. if you commit to working out with your best friend or your personal trainer at 7am next Monday, then the cost of skipping your workout (the sense of guilt and letting your friend down or the cost of losing your session with your trainer) becomes more immediate.
- Substitute unwanted habits with an alternative habit.
Write a list of these alternatives so you can get to it when you need to replace unwanted habits. e.g. mindless eating and TV watching ⇒ going for a walk, calling a friend, reading.
- Keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain.”
Never miss twice until it becomes automatic. Get back on track immediately. It is not about the individual impact of missing once but the cumulative impact (i.e. if you miss one workout, you won’t suddenly be out of shape, but missing 3 weeks will make a difference). Stick to your schedule, even in a very small way (e.g. Don’t have enough time to do a full workout? Just do 5 push-ups or planks; Don’t have enough time to write an article? Write a paragraph). This also proves to yourself that you can get it done even when the situation is not ideal.
- Beat procrastination.
Regardless of how many productivity and time management books, podcasts or videos we consume, we all struggle at some point with procrastination.In fact, procrastination is not new. Ancient Greek philosophers developed a word for it – akrasia – meaning “lack of self-control or the state of acting against one’s better judgment”.
To prevent procrastination, consider:
Reminding yourself of the hard things you did in the past.
Focusing on the bad consequences of not taking actions.Thinking and acting like the best version of yourself.
- Find motivation through discipline and start to take action.
Discipline leads to overcoming procrastination and starting to take action taking which leads to momentum and sustainable habit building which leads to motivation.
As Jeff Haden says in his book The Motivation Myth, “Motivation isn’t something you have, motivation is something you get, automatically, from feeling good about achieving small successes”. Motivation is not the cause of the new habit / behavior, but the result of that new habit / behavior.
⭐️What is 1 habit that you can improve by 1% every day this coming week?⭐️