Sustainable Habit Change

This blog is based on a productivity program we developed to help people be mindful, productive and happy at home and work.  

The program is comprised of six modules.  We kick off with goal setting and work through the development of efficient and effective habits.  The last module we work on together is sustainability.

Usually by this module my clients have seen radical changes in their life.  Many have come from a place of extreme anxiety and depression and now feel in control and have big smiles on their faces when I see them.  They have one concern though.  What happens when the program is over?  What happens when we stop talking?  “I’ve made changes before, what if these don’t stick?”

That’s when we talk about sustainability.  

There are 5 Steps to Creating Sustainable Habit Change

1.         Have a vision that is clear and specific

We kick by focusing on what you want and why you want it.  That’s when we ask you to consider why you do what you do, and why you want to improve your productivity and happiness at home and work.

We get really clear, and set measurable goals.  Don’t be surprised when your goals change.  That’s natural.  Without realising it we can find ourselves on a path that has been paved by our environment and the expectations of others.  When you become more efficient, keep prioritising and get focused, you will become clearer about what you want and why you want it.

Quarterly and weekly planning habits are important to keep you on track and focussed on the right activities at the right time.

2.         Identify your Keystone Habits, and Trigger Habits 

The second thing we talk about is the habit loop and the concept of keystone habits.  Identify what your keystone habits are, that is the habits that create small wins for you each day and help you to achieve other wins.

You can create keystone habits within your team environment.  Keep asking questions and making small incremental improvements at both an individual and team level to help you achieve small wins each day, week, quarter and year.

Habits you currently have can act as triggers for other good habits.   Things that happen to you on a regular basis can be used as triggers for productive habits you wish to develop.  

For instance, every time I throw something away, I use it as an opportunity to think about a goal I’m working on. It helps me to keep my goals in mind during the day. I’ll think “I’m so glad that event went well…” as if the event has already happened. This habit helps me to think of things we can do to help run a smooth event that creates great experiences for other people.

Another example of this might be something you do each day that can trigger a good habit. When I walk up the stairs in my house, I always think about how grateful I am. Mostly, it will be that I’m grateful to be in a safe, warm, loving home. Other times, I might think about how grateful I am to someone who has just done something helpful.

3.         Set small goals for yourself and measure success each week

If you don’t do it already, create habits relating to quarterly and weekly planning.  This is an opportunity for you to set your priorities and to block out time for high-value activities each week.

Then, use reflective practice to keep yourself (and your team if you have one) on track. Ask yourself:

  • What went well this week?
  • What didn’t go well this week?
  • What will I do differently next week?

4.         Gather a support system around yourself

It’s important to have a support system of people who encourage, inspire and support you. You also need people who will hold you accountable.

It’s important to spend downtime with people that restore your energy rather than deplete it.

Share your knowledge with others and be a cheerleader to others. The more you share, the more you build your support system around yourself and have others hold you accountable.  Every time you talk about new ways of thinking and living, you personalise them to your own experience.  You help others and you help yourself.  

5.         Script your setbacks

 There’s no need to worry about if you’ll be tested, or whether you’ll fall off the proverbial wagon.  

You will fall off it.  

That’s part of life.  It’s the lizard brain in action.  And it is human.  Forgive yourself in advance. 

The secret of course is to bounce back quickly and the best strategy to make sure you do is to script your setbacks before they happen. Ask yourself how you have had setbacks when you’ve tried new things in the past?

Here are some suggestions:

Travel often throws people out of routines

Relationship issues can impact your productivity and happiness at home and work

Restructures within your company can impact your emotions and sense of control

Promotions completely change your role and your focus

Changes in management can be daunting

Health issues can be detrimental to productivity

Turnover within your team can throw off your culture

When you see a set back coming, think about what your next best choice might be to get yourself back on track. Here are some things that I do:

  1. Own it. It’s always best to call things out then to try and hide them or pretend they didn’t happen. Even if it’s just to ourselves, “I fell off my healthy exercise plan today…”
  2. Embrace it. If you’re having a “doona day” you might as well enjoy it rather than get yourself down. If you have a piece of chocolate cake when you’ve been on a diet, you might as well savour it. That way, you’ll feel good and can bounce back the next day or meal, rather than spiral…
  3. Make the next best decision. Bounce back by doing the exercise, apologising if you’ve made a mistake, eating a healthy meal… whatever moves you back in the right direction of your goals.

Forgive yourself and others.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Keep moving forward

Cholena xoxo

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