It’s coming up to a year since I started this blog. I took it on as a personal challenge to start curating ideas, sharing my thoughts on the latest research, and offering what I hope has been a window into my own personal journey.
You may notice, however, that it’s been quite a while since my last post.
When I thought about why this has happened, there are no excuses really. Just a case of ditching a set of habits that had led me to successfully capture ideas for blog posts, and then make the time to write them. Which got me thinking…. maybe a blog based around building better habits is ripe for the posting. We are, after all, creatures of habit, and the habits we set will create the habitats for those around us.
Setting habits takes longer than you think
Recent research shows that setting habits takes a lot longer than most think (66 days at a minimum). Longer then, than the common myth of two weeks! Naturally, the length of time that it takes to form a new habit can vary widely, depending on behaviour, the person, and their circumstances…but it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves when new habits don’t stick straight away. Success doesn’t come overnight - on the contrary, it’s discipline that gets you from Point A to Point B.
Temptation Bundling - a simple way to boost your willpower
A professor at Wharton School of Business found that she was having trouble making a habit of going to the gym regularly. At the same time, she noticed that one of her favourite things was to curl up on the couch and listen to an audiobook or watch TV. Two very opposite behaviours.
What if she created a rule for herself- what if she was only allowed to listen to her favourite book whilst at the gym? Her strategy worked: by bundling behaviours that she should do do with behaviours that she was tempted to do, they became fused together as a positive and necessary experience.
She was so impressed with her progress that she ran a research project to see if her concept could extend beyond her own behaviours. Milkman found that people who used temptation bundling were 29-51% more likely to exercise when compared to the control group (the findings were published in Management Science).
Want to try it for yourself?
- Create a list with two columns - things you enjoy and temptations you want to do in one column, and tasks/behaviours that you often procrastinate on in the others.
- Browse the list to see if you can link one of your ‘want’ behaviours with something you ‘should’ be doing.
4 Apps to help get started
Yes, it’s nearly £30. But what an app this is. I use this (combined with David Allen's Getting Things Done/GTD methodology) to organise my entire life, by chunking everything down into goals/projects/systems, and then building tasks/actions around each one.
Say for example I would like to set a new habit that involves me not forgetting to touch base with friends who I haven’t seen for a while. That would go into my ‘keeping in touch with friends/family’ system, and I add a task for every important birthday/anniversary/occasion I want to remember.
I couldn’t recommend this enough.
Productive allows you to schedule habits to build-up routines for different times of the day. Habits can be scheduled as daily activities, or only for weekdays, just at the start of the month, and so on. Rather than show everything - Productive only shows you what’s due for the current time of day, preventing stress about what is still left to do.
If the habit you want to build is spending less time in front of your phone screen and more time focussing on what’s important, Moment is the app for you. How much do you use your phone/tablet each day? Moment will tell you, and send summaries throughout the day. There’s nothing quite like a notification that tells you that you’ve spent four hours on your phone by lunchtime to kick start a more focussed habit. Using the app you can set daily limits and find a balance for the screens in your life.
Intentionally, similar to Productive, but the execution is quite different (this App won a design award earlier this year). If Productive is about complexity, Streaks is about simplicity; the number of tasks/habits you can add is limited to 6, forcing you to be very conscious about which habits you want to set. It also offers an intuitive Apple Watch app, and syncs flawlessly with Health (e.g. if your habit is to walk 5km a day, it already knows when you’ve done it).
What are your favourite habit-builders? Please share in the comments below.