Are you ready to start building better habits? In the first part of this two-part post (link to previous post), we talked about the science behind habits and ways you can set yourself up for success.
Here, we’re going to talk about some practical ways you can establish a new habit or break a bad one. Let’s get started.
Create Strong Implementation Intentions
When building a new habit, the first thing you want to do is establish hard to miss cues and create a plan of action.
There are cues all around you prompting you to do things. Our phones, smart watches, or computers buzz or ding to notify us of a new email, Facebook message, or calendar item. When we hear or feel these cues, we take action.
You need to create these cues for yourself to build up a new habit.
Let’s say you want to complete the most important tasks first thing in the morning. Checking your email can derail you pretty quick, so establish distraction-free time. Don’t check your email or your phone. Hang a sign on your door to warn away coworkers.
This is how you establish a clear intention to take action. Create specific cues that trigger a response. Here, you’re setting aside time to complete specific tasks. Think of this as hacking your brain – you’re mapping out a routine and setting triggers for it.
Most habits we’re establishing aren’t fun or easy. They’re usually painful, like entering leads into a CRM. Even though we don’t like doing it, we want to do it every day and get faster at it.
But how do you get yourself excited about doing something you don’t like doing?
By bundling it with something you do like.
Is drinking a hot cup of coffee the best part of your morning? Hold off on the coffee until after you’re done prospecting or entering leads. Prospecting = Coffee!
Here are some more examples of temptation bundling. Don’t listen to your favorite podcast or album until you’re done with your morning tasks. Or don’t leave the office until you’ve spent a few minutes preparing for the next day.
It might sound crazy, but it works. You’ll get a dopamine hit by wrapping this reward around things that are harder to do. Keep doing this over time, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can build new habits.
Reduce the Friction to Make the Habit Easier
In our last post, we talked about why we gravitate toward Facebook and other social platforms. It’s a quick escape, super accessible, and triggers little bursts of dopamine.
Have you ever tried to take a break from it? You’ll start getting emails telling you everything you’re missing. It tries to suck you back in to re-build the habit. These platforms have managed to remove any friction from the process, making it almost impossible to avoid falling back into the routine.
Now let’s take that concept and apply it to our new habit.
Have you ever heard the phrase “if it’s hard, it’s worth doing”? Think about prospecting. Why do we do it? The more people we connect with, the better chance we have of getting an appointment. Making these calls is certainly worth doing, but we can make it a little easier on ourselves by reducing the friction.
Here are some ways you can make things easier and remove the friction:
- Create a list of leads to contact, so you have a plan in place
- Set a manageable daily call goal
- Set up a calendar reminder
- Split up the task throughout the day
- Remove or limit easy distractions
Better organization makes hard-to-do habits a whole lot easier.
Enforce Your New Habits
Sometimes you need external forces to keep the momentum going. Some people journal their habits, while others use a habit tracker.
Another gaming your brain trick? Checking off a habit on your tracker is an instant dopamine hit. That satisfaction alone may be enough to reward your good behavior. You can look back on each month to see your progress and even find ways to improve.
If you need some strong motivation (and we do mean STRONG), you can put some skin in the game. Enter a commitment contract to bet money, time, or something valuable on your resilience. (Check out accountability app: http://www.stickk.com/)
Once you train yourself to do something, you’ll realize you can do anything. It takes motivation and dedication, but there are ways to game the system and make it easier. Pick the thing you want to change or improve, then apply the habits here.
Eventually, you’ll develop the discipline to do things when you’re supposed to do them, whether you want to or not. Apply this to both your personal and professional life, and you’ll be amazed at how fast you improve.
Looking for more resources for building habits?
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. By James Clear
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy.