You have aspirations, right? You have goals you want to achieve. Like so many of us, you most likely have a few daily habits that are getting in your way. Hitting that snooze button too many times? Afternoon trips to the vending machine? Hours wasted away browsing social media?
These relatively small habits can actually have a big impact. They can leave us feeling defeated and drain our confidence. They eat up time in our day keeping us from meeting a deadline. They lower the quality of the work that we do complete. A change in even one bad habit can be the difference between failure and achievement.
So how do we make a change? It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take effort, but here are four steps that can help you change your bad habits.
Step 1 – Write Them Down
GI Joe said “Knowing is half the battle”, and he was right. Sit down and make a list of common actions you know you do and wish you did less. Be as detailed as you can. Taking the time to simply write these down will greatly increase your ability to change.
Be specific. Don’t write down “procrastinate too much”. Write down the specific actions you do when you are procrastinating. For many of us this is surfing the web, but don’t stop there. Which websites? Which mobile apps? Be as specific as you can.
Step 2 – Identify the Trigger
Every habit has a trigger. It’s the cue that tells your brain to run your habit routine. For example, you may have a diet coke each day after lunch. In this case, your trigger is eating lunch and the habit is drinking a diet coke.
Take each of the habits you wrote down in step one. Now write down the triggers for each of those actions. Again, be as specific as possible. Do you grab your phone and open Facebook when you wake up in the morning? In this case, waking up is your trigger. Your habit of browsing Facebook in the morning is triggered by waking up. Connect each action to its trigger.
Determining the trigger is as important as identifying the specific behaviors. You may write down that you spend too much time watching mindless TV. Don’t stop there. Now write down the specific time of day or situations where you typically watch TV. Identify those triggers. This will be critical for the next step.
Step 3 – Swap in a New Routine
One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a new habit. For example, if you wrote down that you make a trip to the vending machine at the office to buy a cookie each afternoon, trying to change your habit of an afternoon break and your habit of buying a cookie would take double the effort. Plus, in this case, there may be nothing wrong with taking a well-earned afternoon break.
Therefore, focus on changing only the habit of buying a vending machine cookie. Bring some healthy snacks from home and swap out what you eat. Or, change up your afternoon break location and go for a walk.
Wasting too much time in the morning on Facebook while still in bed? Swap out your Facebook habit with some other action that still lets you ease into your day. For example, you could determine that each morning when you wake up, the first thing you are going to do is stretch for 5mins. Then you’ll get in the shower and start your day.
Step 4 – Shift the Effort
Breaking your old habit with your new routine will take time. So do what you can to shift the effort. Shifting the effort is the act of pushing the scales in favor of your new habit you’re working to swap into the place of your old bad habit. There are two ways you can shift the balance.
- Increase the effort required for the habit you want to break. For example, if your habit is social media in the morning, move your phone out of your bedroom. Use it as your alarm? Buy an alarm clock or keep the phone in your bedroom but out of reach of your bed. Make it harder to follow this old routine.
- Make your new routine as easy as possible. If you are working to break an afternoon snacking habit, bring new healthy snacks from home and keep them at your desk. Any action you can take beforehand that removes a step or decision from your new habit will have a big impact on your chances of being successful.