We all want to be more productive, but what do we do when we can’t even get started? We have a great plan, we’re ready to go, but each day our start date seems to get put off another day. Is this procrastination? Resistance? Whatever it is, despite all of our productivity techniques, we’re getting no where.
The Power of Habit
According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit-Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, it could be habit. Our patterns of doing things become habituated. Once a certain trigger (cue) occurs, without thinking it sets off a certain response in us. We then respond with our habituated routine, which provides us with a reward. So maybe we are about to start that all important task and we get on the computer. As soon as we login to our computer (the cue) we feel the need to check Facebook (the routine). We see postings from our friends, check out new and interesting links. We feel like we’ve started our day (the reward). But as we look at the clock, we realize an hour has gone by and we have produced nothing. Dang!
When things become habituated, we don’t even think about what we’re doing. Our response is so ingrained we never enter decision making mode. The response is initiated without the thought ever reaching our frontal lobe where decision making occurs. It is handled in the reptilian part of the brain that responds to certain stimuli without taking the time to pass it on for further thought and decision making. This is excellent in certain situations such as an on coming attack from a predator, where we don’t have time to think. Our survival depends on instantaneous response. This doesn’t help us when we are trying to change behavioral patterns.
Don’t Try to Eliminate Old Habits, Replace Them
Duhigg points out that old habits can’t be eliminated; they need to be replaced. He recommends replacing the habituated response with a different routine. So when the cue occurs, replace it with a different routine. In our example, when we login to our computer (the cue) instead of going to Facebook (the routine) we replace the routine with the process of creating our list of the top 3 things we can do today to get us closest to our goals. We still feel the same reward of feeling like we’ve started our daily routine (the reward). But for this to work, the cue and reward (or reward equivalent) must remain the same. Only the routine is changing. After a certain period of time, according to most studies-21 days, this will become habit. You will do the new routine without thinking and have replaced your old habit with a new habit.
Look for Keystone Habits for Major Results
Now if you really want to make major changes, the key is to look for your keystone habits and focus on replacing them first. These are the habits that affect other habits and cause them to change all on their own. For me, when I have gained weight and gotten out of shape, my keystone habit is exercise. If I get into a routine exercise program, my eating habits change all on their own, which changes my sleep habits. It’s like a dominoe affect. If I try just changing my eating habits, I’ve noticed nothing else is affected and in this case, I’ve done nothing to really improve my vitality or physical condition, other than weight.
So as spring rolls in (finally!) start the new season by identifying your keystone habits, identify your cues, routines, and the reward you are seeking. Replace your routine with one that will get you closer to being in touch with your Core, and stick to your new routine for a few weeks. If you pick the right ones, you’ll be surprised how quickly everything else changes for the positive!
Let us know your keystone habits and how you replaced your routine in the comments below!