by Kristina Rylova
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle.
- Extremely successful people of all times have one thing in common – they give great importance to their daily routines and habits (learn more 1, 2, 3).
- Empirical research estimates that up to 45% of our daily actions are based on habits. (learn more 1)It does not matter if we are talking about getting more things done at work, leading a healthier lifestyle or mastering a new skill, – those who manage to control and optimize their habits tend to achieve higher results with less effort.
This post will provide some insight into the concept of habits and highlight several useful tricks that will help you to form new good habits and make them stick.
– Analyze your potential
Before introducing any new habits into your daily routine, you need to do your homework – find out your current habits and understand how you can improve them.
It can be done simply by observing your own behavior for several days (learn more 1) and writing down your actions during each hour of the day. Consider using apps like Moment, Break Free or Rescue Time to track your phone/computer usage.
After several days, you will identify some patterns of your behavior that you might not necessarily like. Spending the first 20 minutes after waking up checking your phone; listening to the radio for 3 hours per day while commuting; or getting snacks from a vending machine downstairs when you feel tired? If it sounds familiar, you have just identified a high-potential improvement area to introduce new habits. This is a place to start
– Start slow
Do not try to change all your habits at once. Overnight success never happens when we speak about habit change. True results can be achieved only step by step.
One possible way is to focus first on habits that disturb you the most. You can also divide all your habits into smaller groups associated with different parts of the day and work only with one group at the same time.
Start with optimizing your morning routine: replacing the old habits you are not happy with the new ones (reading newspapers instead of watching tv-series during breakfast) or introducing completely new habits (waking up 20 minutes earlier to do morning exercises). When you feel confident about your new morning routine, you can start optimizing the next group of habits – your end-of-the-day routine.
– Keep it small
Undoubtedly it is very important to have big goals. However, to achieve them we need to work with small daily habits. An author of famous book “Mini habits” – Stephen Guise – introduces the concept of tiny objectives that require little effort to achieve but still make some progress towards your big goal. He calls them mini habits (learn more 1, 2).
The greatest hurdle we face is going from inertia to mobility. Mini habits make this important step much easier, which increases the overall likelihood of success. If you are studying a foreign language – commit to learning 3 new words a day and not 30; If you want to add morning exercises to your daily routine – start with a 15 min early work-out and not 45.
Moreover, when you are already in motion, you need less willpower to continue your actions. It means that you can always overwork your mini habit threshold: learn 30 new foreign words a day instead of 3 and do a 45 min morning workout instead of 15.
You can also increase your mini habit threshold step by step while making progress and feeling more comfortable about your willpower.
– Adjust your environment
One more way to make the first step easier is to adjust your external environment. Make sure that you can reach your goal with the least possible effort required and otherwise, introduce additional barriers to overcome to follow temptation.
Do you want to read daily news regularly? Set Bloomberg as your home page so you would see it every day when you open a browser. Are you trying to stop checking your Whatsapp notifications every 5 minutes while working? Put your phone away in your bag so you would not see it at all. Do you want to work out more often? Keep your sports clothes in your car so you would be always ready to hit the gym.
– Use if-then planning
Have you heard about “if-then planning”? This technique is uniquely useful when it comes to resisting temptation and building good habits because it can introduce two crucial concepts of any habit – reminder and routine – at the same time.
It was found that 91% of people who used if-then planning stuck to their exercise program opposed to 39% who didn’t (learn more 1). Moreover, this technique works great for all spheres of our life because it affects our subconscious mind. When we form if-then statements, our brain will unconsciously scan our environment for “if” cases. When “if” case actually happens, “then” case will be triggered automatically without requiring much willpower (learn more 1).
If X happens, then I will do Y. X can be a time (Monday at 9 a.m)/ a place (at work)/ an event (Friends’ birthday) / an emotional condition (feeling stressed) / a company (colleagues). Y is the specific action you will take whenever X occurs. If it’s Saturday morning, I go to the swimming pool; If I am on the train, I read a book; If I am in the supermarket doing groceries and I see chocolate, I won’t buy one; If I feel tired, I go to meditate for 1 minute; If I am with my colleagues, I speak English.
For more information on the concept of habits and other useful tricks about effective habit implementation, check out the original post.
Kristina Rylova is an ambitious international young professional currently working as a Junior Business Analyst in the Strategy, Business Development and Market Intelligence department of Agfa Healthcare. Agfa HealthCare, a member of the Agfa-Gevaert Group, is a leading global provider of diagnostic imaging and healthcare IT solutions with nearly a century of healthcare experience.
Kristina has a background in Economics and Strategy ( BSc degree from the leading university in Moscow, Russia – Higher School of Economics and MSc degree in Business Economics with a specialization in Strategy and International Business ) and She is truly passionate about business analysis, strategy and corporate finance.
Throughout her life, she has lived in 5 different countries (Russia, USA, UK, Netherlands and now Belgium), which gave her a perfect opportunity to experience different cultures. Kristina is very open-minded and always ready for a new international experience.
In early 2016, Kristina started a side project – RESULTize – her personal blog that serves as a knowledge sharing platform focused on young ambitious people who want to know more about career, productivity, and learning.