Building habits

Build habits header

Here are some keys to building effective habits from my ‘Habit Guru’ James Clear. I highly recommend his book, Atomic Habits.

The first key to developing supportive habits is to define the type of person you want to be. As Clear says:

“The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.”

So, decide that you want to be a tidy and organised person who does not accumulate clutter.  Prove it to yourself with small wins. Every positive action you take in support of that identity is a vote for the type of person you want to be.

Habits take repetition to become automatic, up to so use these tips to make establishing them less reliant on willpower. 

When is comes to building habits, James Clear talks about 4 laws of habit building:

Make it obvious

‘Stack’ a new habit onto an existing one. For example, if you always hang up your coat when you come one for work, set an intention: “After I hang up my coat, I will pick up and open the mail and put it in my in-tray.”

Design your environment. For example, if you want to clear your in-tray every Friday morning, put in a prominent place on your desk on Thursday night before you go to bed.

Make it attractive

Pair a new habit you want to build with something you want to do. For example, “I’ll clear my in-tray while I drink my morning coffee.”

Join a culture where your desired behaviour is the norm. For example, if you want to learn more about interior design, join a evening class or study group.

Make it easy

Downscale your habits so they are easier to build. For example, make the habit “I will always clear one item from my in-tray at the end of each day.” You will probably find you do more than one item, but even if you only do one, you will build the habit.

Prime your environment. For example, set up clearly-labelled sections in your filing cabinet, so filing is easier.

Automate your habits with technology or purchases that lock-in future behaviour. For example, but a paper shredder to make it easier to declutter confidential paperwork. 

Make it satisfying

Use positive reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate, healthy, reward as soon as you complete your new habit.

Use a habit tracker, such as an app or star chart to keep track of your habit streak, and try not to “break the chain.” If you miss one day, the most important thing is to do the next day.