BY DANIEL DA SILVA LAY

Forming habitual routines boosts productivity.

By creating positive habits, you spend less time making decisions about doing stuff.

One of the benefits of this is that something can become so ingrained that it makes you highly proficient and doesn’t use up a lot of mental energy.

Take for example when you first learned to drive a car.

If you have a driver’s licence, you’ll have memories of learning how to drive a car. It wasn’t always easy to reverse parallel park or to do a hill start but some of these things are a lot easier now.

There are probably even times when you’re driving home and it feels like you’re on autopilot. You’re driving safely, aware of all your surroundings however you’re not making pre-emptive decisions to turn here, turn there, put the brake on here, indicate there, give way here… it just happens.

We even do things like walking and eating without thinking about the motions.

So you can see that putting habits on autopilot can conserve your mental energy because they become second nature.

Something to be aware of is that having bad habits will have the same effect but are counterproductive. These are things like procrastinating, spending too much time on social media and TV.

In the book, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg the author talks about something called the habit loop which is described as:

  1. Cue
    The trigger that tells the brain to go into autopilot.
     
  2. Routine
    The habitual action.
     
  3. Reward
    The thing that makes habits stick.

Understanding how habits work is great, because now we can reverse engineer the creation process and use it to our advantage.

So here are 4 steps to creating habits that stick:

  1. Determine a habit you want to change or create
    We need to start with the intention of changing or creating a new habit.
     
  2. Set a cue
    Associate a trigger to your new habit. This will help to remind and train your brain when to go into autopilot.
     
  3. Determine a reward
    This has to be realistic and something that is associated with the habit. Something easy might be: If I don’t eat a biscuit every time I have a coffee, the reward is that I will lose weight and look better. An unrealistic reward would be: If I don’t eat a biscuit every time I have a coffee I will treat myself to XYZ. (If you’re like me and you have at least 3-4 coffees a day, that’s a lot of XYZ!)
     
  4. Set a goal
    Goals are great for setting specific and measurable objectives that are time-based as well. Check out my video on Goals that are smart. Having a goal will increase the chances that you will successfully change or create a new habit.

And a pro tip is to focus on one habit at a time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Because let’s face it, changing a routine or habit isn’t always easy.