Today I am giving you the four step guide to building better habits. Now, I must preface this by saying that these four steps to building better habits are outlined brilliantly by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. If you haven’t got this already, I would massively recommend that you do so. If you have bought this book and you’ve read it, or are in the middle of reading it, hopefully this will serve as a bit of a reminder, as to what he details out so well.
Rule One – Make Them Obvious
We need to be aware of not only our current habits and how they serve us, but also the habits that we need to be building. If we’re not aware of our current habits and if they serve us well with our goals or not, then it’s going to be very difficult in order to change our behaviour.
We need to be aware of what we do first, before we can start to initiate change.
This allows us then to become aware of the things that we need to put in place, we can then detail out an action plan of how we replace certain habits with new ones that serve our new identity and our new goals better. So make those obvious.
Using implementation intention strategies can be another way to make them obvious. The way that this works is to say, ‘I will perform this action, at this time, for this length of time’. So for example, if you are wanting to get into running, it could be, ‘I will run for 30 minutes a day at lunchtime on the weekdays’, and then that is your implementation intention strategy. If you use these, you are far more likely to follow through with the habits that you set yourself, rather than just saying, ‘I’m going to try and run more’, you can see how the former one makes such a massive difference in comparison.
The third step of making these obvious – so we’re still just in the first rule of building habits here – is ‘habit stacking’. If you can build new habits and stack them on top of existing habits, you are going to be in a fantastic routine. For example, my morning routine, I get up, I have a shower, I brush my teeth,I gel my hair and get dressed. I make a coffee. Then from there, I do a bit of meditation and a bit of French and I also read the Daily Stoic.
All of those new things that I added, I added on top of the previous actions in order to habit stack and build a fantastic routine. If you can habit stack nutrition or fitness habits onto existing ones, you’re going to find it far easier to complete them, because you’ll know as soon as you do one action, you’re supposed to be doing the next.
The last step in making these habits obvious is to design your environment for success. That may be having great nutritional foods in in the house or not having certain junk foods in the house that cause you to overeat. or Perhaps designing your environment by writing your habits all over the kitchen or over the bedroom or mirror, wherever you’re going to see more frequently in order to be a constant reminder for the habits that you’re trying to build. Make sure that your environment is set up for success as much as you possibly can do.
Rule Two – Make Them Attractive
Rule two in building new habits is to make them attractive, if you can make your new habits as attractive as possible, then you’re going to be more likely to follow through with them.
Something that you can do is ‘temptation bundling’. So let’s say that you want to watch a new Netflix episode, but you know that you need to be doing some exercise, especially in this isolation period! Maybe you should get an exercise bike or a treadmill for your home, and then you can exercise on the bike exercise on the treadmill, while watching your favourite Netflix TV series.
If you can find other ways to bundle things that you want to do with things that you need to, you’re going to find nutrition and fitness an absolute doddle.
Step number two in making them attractive, so we’re still on rule two of building habits, is to join a culture where your desired behaviour is the norm. This is where CrossFit gyms can be massively powerful in building up communities, everyone that goes to the CrossFit gym does CrossFit, they wear the Nanos or met cons or nobles or whatever the popular shoe is at the moment.
They all do the WOD together and they drink the Kool Aid and everyone does the same thing. This makes it very easy for you to get into an exercise habit, because you are held accountable by the people that you are with. Likewise, if you want to join a running club or a book club or any type of club where you are, the habit that you’re trying to build is the norm for these people, you will find it extremely easy to keep that up.
This is where slimming clubs can be a positive. But unfortunately, a lot of their methods have an error in their ways. Keep up to date with me on my site and podcast because hopefully I’ll be bringing a weight loss club to the local city of Leeds and hopefully we’ll expand from there, but that’s definitely a far off vision in my head for the moment.
The third step in making habits attractive, is to create a motivation ritual. If you can do something you enjoy immediately before doing a habit that you’re struggling with, you’re going to find that much easier to do. This is quite similar to temptation bundling, but it’s more a case of doing something that you enjoy right before you do a difficult habit, as a kind of way to kickstart yourself into that habit.
Rule Three – Make Them Easy
Rule three in building new habits, is to make them easy. If your habits are too difficult for you to do, either through you not having the knowledge in order to do them, or for them to literally be out of your ability, then you are not going to follow through with them. So you need to reduce the friction between you and the habit that you’re trying to build, make it as simple as possible. Make sure the steps are laid out as simple and easy as possible that you know exactly what you need to do.
Once again design your environment for the best access, make sure that you have certain foods in, make sure that you’ve got your gym gear packed, make sure you’ve got your trainers cleaned, whatever you need to use make sure it’s in the car. Make sure you are designing your environment to be successful.
Using the two minute rule, can be really really helpful. This is where you only do your new habit for two minutes at a time. I’m pretty sure that you can all find two minutes in a day to do something new. This is personally for me, how I do my French lessons because I give myself just one lesson to do each day. I’m more than likely to do more than just one lesson a day because I’m on the app, but if I give myself that benchmark of just two minutes. I know that I’m definitely going to get that in. So if you set yourself a target of just doing two minutes of walking, just doing two minutes of exercise, just doing two minutes of meal prep, you know that you’re probably going to do more, but at least you’ve got a very low barrier of entry that you’re definitely likely to follow through with.
The last step in making habits easy is to automate them, using your phone is the best way for you to do this as you can set yourself reminders, you can put these things in your calendar. You can even use apps like habit coach and others that will remind you of the things that you’re trying to do at certain periods and make them much easier for you to follow through with.
Rule Four – Make Them Satisfying
Rule four in building new habits is to make them satisfying. We need to close the habit loop and get a reward, in order for us to repeat the behaviour. You can be reinforcing good behaviour, reinforcing the habit, by giving yourself a certain reward.
This could be something monetary like putting money in a savings account every time you do a certain action or keeping some money on the side to buy yourself some new workout clothes or some new cooking equipment or something else that goes well with your nutrition and fitness habits that you’re trying to build.
Make doing nothing, enjoyable. So, when you are avoiding a bad habit, design a way for you to see the benefits, if you’re giving up smoking, think of the health benefits and/or maybe put the money saved to one side. Keep the benefits in your mind if you’re giving up snacking in the evening or snacking while cooking because it was just mindless. Give yourself a way to see the benefit of those behaviours.
Another option is to use a habit tracker. So you keep track of your habits either on an app, or on a calendar in front of you, where you tick a box. It’s going to be very very satisfying for you to build a successful streak of habits and your goal then is to never break the chain. I think I’m on a 180 day streak on Duolingo or something similar. There’s absolutely no way that I’m going to miss a day of learning French, because I don’t want to break such a long habit chain.You need to make your nutrition and fitness habits, match this thing as well.
The last step guys in making things satisfying, is to never miss twice. So if you do forget a habit. Make sure you get back on track immediately and don’t go into sabotage mode.
The Four Laws of building new habits once again, is to make them obvious, make them attractive, make them easy, and to make them satisfying.
Go and find out more by buying James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.