“I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”
Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary
It is January 2, and it’s time to start doing something different. As far as good learning habits are concerned, what is one thing that you are going to do differently this year? My focus area is organization – from home to head. Since we are what we do consistently, it is important to make this new thing a habit. Often times, I initiate some good change, do it for a couple of days, or even a week, and then life interferes and I stop. Does this scenario happen to you? Research shows that it takes around 21 days to form a new habit. Can the “Better You” last that long? Here are a few ways to improve your chances:
- Clearly identify the benefit of the new habit. Come up with a word that expresses this benefit for you. Repeat that word when you need some extra motivation. A word works better than a sentence. For example, I can say to myself: “I will be organized, and I will have more time for important projects. I will be more focused. I will have a clear mind.” It all sounds good, but my subconscious says: “No, you won’t, so why bother?” On the other hand, if I just use brief “punch” words “focus and clarity,” I have a better chance of avoiding the subconscious sabotage.
- Strengthen your commitment by writing it down and putting it up somewhere in a high-traffic area of your home or office. You can also exhibit it on your calendar or learning board.
- Tell your family and friends about your plan. We have a higher sense of obligation, when we publicly acknowledge our commitments.
- Schedule the time to do your new routine every day of the 21-day period. When you have a specific time allocated to it, it’s more likely that you are going to do it.
- Find a buddy who is also developing a new habit to keep each other accountable and celebrate the progress.
- Once you complete the desired task, reward yourself. Couple your new behavior with something pleasant that you do every day. Make sure you perform your new routine first.
- If you feel too much pressure, pretend that you are just temporarily (for 21 days) playing a role of that “new and improved” individual to see how it fits you. Generally, people don’t like change. They may try to persuade themselves that they do, but their subconscious blocks the efforts. The role-play may be a way around it. Find an actor inside you. It can be fun to walk in somebody else’s shoes for a bit.
- If you have a person in mind whose good habits you want to emulate, enlist him or her in your support group. Ask how they do it. One way to learn to do something is through modeling the behavior of those who do it really well. You watch them in action, break down their performance into a set of learnable steps and imitate them. It’s not easy to identify all the pieces that form a successful habit because people can’t always explain how they do things. Nevertheless, it may be worth exploring.
What are you doing differently this year? Do you have any tips on how to stick with a new routine? Please write a comment.