Long term habits may not seem as flashy and exciting as life hacks, but they work — that’s just a fact. Habits are the reason we do what we do. So if you want to be more productive or better at your job, the answer is building habits that support that goal.
Creating and maintaining a habit that sticks isn’t easy. But these 10 steps will help you get there.
Change is scary and hard, even when it’s positive. That’s why, when forming new habits, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Start with small, achievable changes that will help you build up the forward momentum to tackle larger changes and bigger habits later.
Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business that habits are triggered by situational cues that tell your brain to go to auto-pilot and complete the habit. Because of that, he suggests attaching new habits to old ones, because the cues are already established.
For example, maybe you have a habit of grabbing a cup of coffee as soon as you arrive at work. So when building a new habit, teach yourself to perform it right after grabbing your coffee every day.
Building a habit is hard work. You will trip up. You might fail. And that’s OK.
What’s more important is having a plan for when you meet a roadblock. Try to anticipate what obstacles you’ll encounter, and make a plan for overcoming them. You can’t anticipate every roadblock, but if you have plans in place for some, it’ll be easier to stay on track.
As humans, we’re very driven by extrinsic rewards. If you plan to reward yourself for sticking to a new habit, you’ll be much more likely to keep at it, even when it’s difficult.
One of the best ways you can help yourself stick to a new habit is by making sure your environment supports it. If you’re trying to eat healthier, you remove junk food from your kitchen. If you’re trying to be more productive at work, you create a setup with encourages productivity, like a tidy desk area or a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Another good tip for sticking to a regular habit is to keep track of your progress. Make a note of every time you succeed in sticking with a new habit, so you’ll be able to physically see that you’re getting better.
Don’t keep your habits to yourself. Tell a friend or coworker what you’re working on, so they can check in and hold you accountable for sticking to it.
If you’re completely failing at sticking to a new habit, you might need to adjust your plan or your goals. That’s OK! It’s not a failure if you realize you started too big and need to implement a simpler habit first. Habits aren’t “all or nothing.”
Finally, keep in mind that no one is perfect. Tripping up along the way doesn’t negate any progress you make. The goal is to get better over time, not be better immediately.
Trading “life hacks” for habits gives you the tools and skills to consistently improve your work, and work toward an ultimate goal. Life hacks may be the easier road toward optimization, but building and maintaining long term habits will pay off much more over time.
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