Based on concepts from the book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, a must read for anyone looking to build habits effectively.
The 1st Law - Make it Obvious
Clarify what your intended habits actually are - write them down.
Be specific about what your goal entails.
“I will read more” vs
“I will read for 20 minutes every day at 9pm before I get ready for bed”
- What will you do
- How many/How long for?
- Where will you do it?
- What time will you do it?
Use a current habit as a trigger to remind you to start the new habit
“Every time I brush my teeth I will do 30 squats as I brush”
Design your Environment
Make the cues that lead to that habit visible and easily accessible. Likewise, hide the cues for bad habits or make them less accessible. Create as few barriers between you and the good habits as possible.
Remind yourself of why you want to make this change. Some people find it helpful to decorate their space with reminders like vision boards or quotes that inspire them.
The 2nd Law - Make it Attractive
Temptation bundling is when you pair a habit you don’t enjoy doing with something that you do want. For example:
Every time I do a workout, I can watch one episode of Friends.
Motivate yourself by making the habit as appealing as you can. You could make a difficult habit more pleasurable by changing the location or adding something you enjoy to the mix.
Make studying for your exam more attractive by studying outside in a sunny spot, drinking a nice cup of tea while you read or using a foot massager as you work.
The 3rd Law - Make it Easy
Make the tools you need easy to reach
Prepare your environment before so that everything is ready when you’ll need it. Make as many decisions as you can beforehand to reduce decision fatigue and friction when it comes to the habit itself. Decide what you will do, for how long, at what time and where and prepare what you need. It will be harder to make excuses!
Your running shoes are...somewhere.
Maybe in the back of your closet. Maybe in the pile of boxes you never unpacked.
Never mind. You'll run another day.
Your workout clothes, running shoes and headphones are laid out ready for you.
If you’re struggling to get started, try the James Clear’s Two Minute Rule. Take your habit and reduce it down into smaller steps until you get to something that will take under two minutes to complete. Start with this task and do it everyday. You will find that getting started is often the hardest part and once you put your running shoes on or open your book, you’re a lot more likely to continue the task. Start with the two minute task and slowly build up to the bigger tasks over the following days.
If your habit was to start going for runs more often, your two minute breakdown might look like this.
The 4th Law - Make it Satisfying
Give yourself a reward for completing a habit. This helps to wire the brain to associate the habit with the pleasure of the reward and will make you more enticed to do it.
Tracking your results is often the difference between people who are successful and those who aren’t. It allows you to visualise the progress you’ve already made, even when you might feel you haven’t been doing as well as you’d like. It also helps you to see patterns that can help you work out what is getting in your way and make the needed changes. For example, you might notice that every time you drink a glass of wine, you miss your workout the next morning. Moving the workout to the morning after a day when you won’t have a glass of wine will help to increase the chances of you working out.
You can download our free 8 Week Habit Builder worksheet here to track your progress.