It seems like a steep climb when it comes to changing habits. So, how long does it take to form a new habit?
Three minutes or less. Surprised? Don’t be.
Over the past year, the boundaries of work and home have blurred. Working from home meant kitchen tables, bedrooms, and even the shoe cabinet have doubled as offices. Urbanites in studios or one-bedroom apartments know that every inch of space has to be multifunctional. Kitchen counters are also working areas. The bedroom is also a reading nook. The hallway should also double as a home gym.
Author and blogger, Dianne Crampton, defines habits as those automatic behaviors that are prompted by emotional hooks to the past that become unconscious motivations and reactions.
Researchers have observed that our habits make up 40% to 50% of our daily actions. Automatic choices impact the “conscious” choices in the minutes that follow.
How long does it take to form a new habit — strategies for change.
What this means is that simply looking at the dining table can trigger hunger. Or, hearing suggestions from others triggers past ridicule resulting in defensiveness. Or seeing that fluffy blanket can get you drowsy enough to sleep. It also applies to say, slipping into your trainers – a signal that it’s time for you to run.
Ideally, you’d like a space for each use. Our brains are wired to associate behaviors with specific emotions. But because our emotions serve more than one purpose, these triggers are difficult to come by.
Thus, we make do with our limited understanding of what triggers what we do. For example, a yellow wrist bracelet can trigger us to ask questions when we feel ourselves getting defensive when we hear suggestions from others. Or we can contract space to trigger other desirable reactions. A side desk can be assigned exclusively for working, or a Pilates mat only for Pilates. Designing your environment around good habits you wish to form is setting yourself up for success.
Many gurus and authors suggest that the secret lies in willpower and motivation. The reality, however, is that the habits that we tend to stick with are the easiest and most convenient ones that help us to replace bad habits. For example, if eating between meals is a problem, then choosing a new habit like drinking tea might be an alternative or perhaps chewing gum. Wearing the yellow wrist band as a reminder to ask questions when we feel defensive.
This brings me to the point I am driving to. If you want to develop a habit, make it fun and make it insanely easy.
The line between a bad day and a good day almost always boils down to small, vital choices. For instance, these little bits can make or break your day – cooking dinner or ordering take out, changing into your workout clothes or sinking onto a couch for a “quick” nap, checking your social media versus getting back to work.
Small choices, indeed. But those few seconds can influence your day.
Dianne Crampton, author of Becoming TIGERS – Leading Your Team To Success proposes that the best way to improve leadership habits is to ensure that it takes less than two minutes to do. It’s scaling down your desired behavior into bite-sized chunks with visual space and personal cues that remind you what you are striving for in the heat of the moment.
- “I’d like to do 90 minutes of yoga.” BECOMES “I will roll out my yoga mat”“I’m
- going to read a book each month.” BECOMES “I will read a page every day.”
- “I’ll stop being defensive.” CAN BEGIN WITH “Ask a question.”
It gets easier once you start because that’s the idea – make it as easy as possible to start. Anyone can do anything for a minute (or two) – read a page, take out a piece of clothing from the closet you haven’t worn in years, look at a wrist band. This is a gateway habit that seamlessly leads you down a more productive road.
Making it easy to start is the key to forming and sustaining habits. These habits then lead to new behavior – EVEN IF THE SUCCEEDING ACTIONS BECOME DIFFICULT.
Do keep in mind that you are only as good as your actions. Every time you build up from these two-minute habits is a step closer to your desired identity. Who do you want to be? What kind of leader do you want to become?
Why does this method work in changing how long it fakes to form a new habit?
It works because the goal is to conquer the habit of showing up. To get to an advanced level (or achieve a goal), you must establish a habit and progress from there.
It’s a formula – master the basic skill of showing up, and only then can you master the intricacies of the skill.
Or better yet, think of it this way. Instead of beginning with the grand picture, take the “easy route” and walk on it CONSISTENTLY. Standardize to optimize.
True, this three-minute or less habit seems fake to some. And it may even feel like you’re trying to dupe yourself into doing something unpleasant. But think about it… we’ve never heard anyone seriously aspire to do just one leg lift.
So commit to those three or less minutes and do the task consistently. Your life won’t change in a day but the slow and sure buildup will help set the new behavior in stone.
Care to dig deeper into this conversation on how long does it take to form a new habit?
Here are some additional resources that take this conversation deeper:
- Here are some additional resources that take this conversation deeper:
- Develop Strong Leaders by Ditching Your Manager Habit
- Promote Healthier Sleeping Habits with Leadership Team Building
- Struggling as a Leader? Change Your Leadership Habits
Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton
About TIGERS Success Series
TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your workforce behavior, work culture, profitability and project management and team leadership success.
We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable, agile, and high performance team outcomes. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success. We also license and certify elite internal and external consultants and project managers to use our resources for similar outcomes.
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