Habits – make mine a small one.

Published: September 14, 2021

There are aspects of every business that could be gently enhanced to improve efficiency and productivity, and there are characteristics that we can adopt as business professionals that can help to improve our health, wellbeing, happiness and skills (among other things).  However, I can say from experience that making any positive change ‘stick’ can be a challenging process.

When was the last time you read an article or book, listened to a podcast or watched a video that provided practical advice for changing an aspect of your life (in a positive way!), decided that it sounded like a great idea but then found that after a few days, weeks – or, if you are lucky, months – that the changes fell by the wayside? You aren’t alone: Take New Year’s Resolutions as an example.  According to an article by Forbes, over 50% of people make New Year’s Resolutions, but over 8 in 10 of those people has failed to stick with their resolution by the start of March.

From my experience, one of the reasons that these changes aren’t sustainable is that they require a single (or series of) dramatic change to the individual’s lifestyle – for example, cutting out an entire food group, drinking only water, walking 10,000 steps per day, etc.  If you are already close to achieving these goals, this isn’t necessarily an issue, but if you’re currently only drink espressos or have a very sedentary lifestyle around long working hours, then a dramatic change can be challenging to sustain.

James Clear addressed his 3 rules for sticking to good habits on his website. For him, it’s all about taking manageable and realistic steps that are more likely to result in long term change:

  1. You have to start with a version of the habit that is incredibly easy for you. It must be so easy that you can’t say no to doing it and so easy that it is not difficult at all in the beginning.
  2. You have to increase your habit each day, but in an incredibly small way.
  3. Even after increasing your habit, all repetitions must remain easy. The total habit should be broken down into easier pieces if needed.

As described clearly above, tiny, bite-size changes that are manageable for us, and our lifestyle, are often the easiest to implement. If you want to drink more water, why not try to add just a little more to your intake every day? Perhaps set an alarm in the morning that encourages you to go and have a single glass of water? Perhaps you could opt to take the stairs rather than an escalator if you commute every day and are able to do so? These are simple steps that aren’t too demanding, and could help you towards your ultimate goal of walking or drinking more, for example.

Just because a habit is tiny doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be celebrated if it contributes to long-term, sustainable change.  Think about the principle of marginal gains – an idea developed by Sir Dave Brailsford (former performance director of British Cycling) that involves an individual making numerous tiny, incremental improvements to a process that cumulatively make a significant overall improvement.  Marginal gains made British Cycling world leading on both the track and road, so think of the impact that it could have on your life as you work towards improved health, wellbeing, productivity or efficiency. a

So go on, set yourself a tiny challenge today and celebrate every little win – we all need something to celebrate on a daily, or weekly basis! Good luck!

to celebrate on a daily, or weekly basis! Good luck!

This Is The Month When New Year’s Resolutions Fail—Here’s How To Save Them (forbes.com)

I’m Using These 3 Simple Steps to Actually Stick with Good Habits (jamesclear.com)

How to be mentally tough: Use the 1% marginal gains rule, says performance expert (cnbc.com)