Habits are curious things, studying them has been insightful and enjoyable. We are all creatures of habit, apparently. There is a lot of focus on breaking habits, but not much on making habits. Habits can be a problem, but they can also be a positive tool. Good reviewing habits are a key part of Getting Things Done. Good communication habits are key to effective presentation and to communication. Generally, it is a good habit to review your habits. They are formed for a reason, but can persist long after that reason has become irrelevant.Habit change is about introducing or removing choice. Habits free up the thinking part of the brain. As an example, in the early days of driving, everything is a conscious effort, which can be very exhausting. For the experienced driver, most of the driving is done ‘out of habit’, there is little conscious thought required. So an experienced driver finds it easy to have a conversation while driving. I am gradually building more habits to ‘automate’ day to day work and free up my brain for more creative thinking.

Habits are behaviours that slip past our conscious decision making processes. This can make them dangerous, but it is also a key to breaking them. To break a habit, force a conscious choice and make it a manageable one. Identify situations that support the habit you are trying to break and avoid them where possible or create a new competing habit. A competing habit is one that makes the old habit impossible, or at least forces a conscious choice to do it. For example, to break a snoozing habit, hitting the snooze button on the alarm and falling back to sleep, move the alarm far enough away that you have to get out of bed to hit it. If you loose the evening to TV watching, but would rather spend it studying, take the TV power cord to work and leave it there. You get the idea. Make the habit difficult, if not impossible. I’ve been having hours of fun with this one.

Creating a habit involves repetition and positive feedback. Starting means removing or limiting choice, until the habit is formed. Tell a friend about the new habit you are planning and tell them them to ask you how it is going, surrender some choices. There don’t seem to be any real shortcuts to creating new habits, it is just hardwork and discipline. Don’t try to add too many habits at once. Better to develop one and succeed, than go for four and fail.

My main focus in recent times has been on creating good habits. A change of work routine has created an ideal opportunity to change my habits. Good habits can be more important than good goals. Goals are an end, good habits can be the means.

Related posts you may enjoy: A WINning strategy for productivity, Do something different, for a change! and Chasing Mice and Eating Elephants.