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Just one thing at a time - changing habits for good

· 3 min read

If you could change just one thing in your life by forming a new habit, what would it be?

In July 2018 I left my full-time job after working at that company for nearly seven years.  The company had gone through an acquisition and the culture and focus of the business had taken a turn away from my passion.  Over the preceding months I had become pretty unmotivated and wasn't being very physically active.

Life events like changing jobs give us pause to reflect on things and realized that I hadn't been doing things that were important to me, like regular exercise, catching up with friends, and eating healthily.  Given that I was about to start a new routine, I decided that would try to exercise every day.

Getting Hooked

I knew that to form a habit you need to do it for 21-66 days, and I'd recently read a book (Habit by Nir Eyal) on creating habit-forming products.

simple whiteboard

One of the themes in the book was that you need to give users of your product small incremental wins, to make their chores into a game, so I set up a grid on the whiteboard in my living room and started tracking the days I was exercising.

Just like with angry-birds, duolingo and candy crush, once you're on a roll you will try really hard to not break the streak.

Levelling Up

Although conventional wisdom suggests not trying to form too many habits at once, I had a few interconnected health-related goals.  After about one week of daily walks and indoor rock climbing, I was feeling much more balanced and looking forward to my walks so I could listen to podcasts.

So the following week I decided to add another two items to my calendar:

  • breakfast at home every day
  • cooking dinner at home least three nights a week

Before I knew it I was consistently doing all the things on my checklist on a daily basis without any problems, it helped me to schedule my days better.

Now, your turn!

Regardless of the habit you're hoping to change, measuring the challenge can make it easier to stick to and aiming for consistency over perfection means you can miss a day or two without feeling terrible.

What do you think?  Is there a personal or work habit you'd like to change?

I'd love to hear how you keep yourself on track embedding new habits and routines.