New Year’s can serve as the “reboot button” for many of us who are looking to make changes whether personally or professionally. We all know we have the power to break bad habits, change our lifestyles, and create new habits but getting it done is another matter.
Although we are creatures of habit, changing habits is no small undertaking. Studies show that if you can repeat an action every day for 21-28 days, it will become habit. If you continue the habit for 66 days it will become a well-ingrained habit.
When you create a new habit, whether good or bad, your brain changes. These changes can be undone to stop a bad habit. They are also easily resumed because the foundation for the pattern is still there. This is very good news if you want to resurrect a good habit from your past. If you want to eliminate a bad habit, it can be more difficult.
After you pass the 21-day mark, you are over the most difficult part. Your new habit will be so easy to continue that you may reach the 66-day mark without even realizing it.
Knowing how difficult changing or initiating a new habit is, I have outlined 8 tips to keep you on track, but remember consistency is the key to your success.
- Make it easy and specific. It is much easier to form new habits than eliminate bad ones, so focus on starting a new habit. Choose something simple to begin with. For example, if you are looking to enhance the collaborative environment at work, establish daily team meetings at 9am or if you already have team meetings, change the format up by having different staff members facilitate each meeting. On the personal side, instead of planning to lose 40 pounds, set a measurable goal of losing 1 pound a month.
- Choose one habit at a time. No matter how simple the habit is, don’t complicate your efforts. Stay focused on creating one habit.
- Take it seriously. You must be fully invested to make a change. The change must be important to you. For example, if staff members are looking for a more collaborative culture in the office, creating a regular morning team meeting to foster collaboration is a great idea. Don’t decide to create a habit on a whim. If you are not committed to making a change, you won’t. Get excited about your new habit by listing the benefits you will experience.
- Be committed. Quitting is not an option. Put a calendar on your wall and mark the start date that you will begin to make a change and the 28-day mark when you will be “over the hump.” Mark off each day that you are successful and watch your calendar become a page of “X”s.
- Keep the time consistent. Make sure that your new habit takes place at the same time EVERY day. Don’t put it off. If your new habit is part of a routine, don’t change the order. It must be the same every time.
- Create visual reminders. Visual cues are reminders that you can see. Put notes in places where you will be when it’s time for your new habit. Use Outlook reminders, or put a reminder on your mobile device.
- Stay positive. You’ve made a long-term commitment to making a change, and there are bound to be setbacks, but try to stay positive so that “I can’t do this,” becomes “I can’t do this yet, but I will soon.”
- Ask for support. Outside support helps you be accountable. Explain to your colleagues or other managers why you are implementing your new habit and get their buy-in to help support this change. For personal habits, get your friends and family involved and let them know what they can do to help.
By following these steps you can look forward to having your new habit run on autopilot. Imagine how much more smoothly your life will run. Once you have one new habit in place, you can move on to others. As time passes, your new habits will take very little effort to maintain.