Keystone Habits: The Secret Sauce to life change

Keystone habits are what I call the secret sauce. They’re the habits which pull the rest of your life in order and bring other habits, processes, and systems together. 

Keystone habits are those which set off what’s known as “the science of small wins”. These habits are extremely powerful as they provide us with a positive sense of identity and encourage other great habits.

There’s a correlation between

Making your bed each morning and being successful

Children eating at the dinner table and the completion of homework assignments

Exercise and healthy eating

Like a lot of people, exercise is a keystone habit for me. 

Every morning, I hear my husband wake up and start his shower. This is my trigger to wake up and meditate for around 20 minutes before getting up myself, showering and heading to the gym. After I exercise, I eat a healthy breakfast with my husband, then head into work nice and early. 

Once at work, I’m alert and in a good mood after ‘frontloading’ my day with activities that make me happy. Because I’m in a good mood, I kick off the day with high-value and often difficult work.  

Of course, every now and then I don’t get out of bed on time. And this can lead to a less than healthy breakfast as I eat on the run. I feel rushed, by the time I get to work I lack focus and may even be in a bad mood.  

What’s your keystone habit? For some, it’s writing a ‘to do’ list at the end of the day before going home. For a few it’s as simple as making their bed in the morning. For one of my clients it’s getting her kids lunches ready at the end of the night before bed.

You may already consistently act out your keystone habit. Alternatively, you may have given up due to work and/or personal obligations. For instance, many parents stop exercising when their children are born. They feel guilty taking time for themselves, or are simply too tired to make the time. 

When you understand which of your keystone habits leads to productivity and happiness, you can do them without guilt.

Along with individual keystone habits, we have team and company keystone habits. The key to identifying keystone habits is to keep asking yourself questions to understand the impact small wins have on other areas of your life. 

Again, it’s about experimenting and looking for small wins which lead to other wins.   

Case Study: Peter focuses on his keystone habit to get his professional life back on track

Peter was unhappy in his role. When we first met, he spoke slowly and seemed quite depressed. He worked long hours, late into the night and went into the office most weekends.

He was single, didn’t have much of a social life, had gained weight and wasn’t performing in his role. Even though he worked long hours he received a poor performance review from his manager.

Peter said he failed to meet his deadlines 30 per cent of the time. He didn’t communicate with his stakeholders enough and they were constantly following him up. He also felt his relationship with his manager could improve. On top of this, he procrastinated on important conversations and personal tasks, like keeping his finances in order.  

One of the first questions I asked was what he would do with his spare time when he stopped working so often. He already had a long list of things he wanted to achieve in his personal life. 

I told him to focus on one item on his. He started exercising again on a regular basis. Regular exercise had a huge impact on his personal performance and gave him greater confidence. He felt better about himself, and started leaving work on time every day.

We worked together on setting more realistic time frames with his stakeholders and being more proactive in his communication with his manager. He created a 90-day plan in collaboration with his manager and started a weekly planning habit to be more realistic with his time.

By communicating more regularly, Peter found he was able to cut down on the number of interruptions he had from stakeholders each day. He developed an email batching habit, and printed out the communication framework to ensure he was providing the right details in his email.

Peter’s keystone habit was exercise. By maintaining a consistent exercise habit, Peter was able to maintain his work-life balance, which helped him be more efficient and effective at work.  

•           What are your keystone habits?  

•           What great habits do you have that create success and more great habits?

•           What are the habits you believe will lead to wins in other parts of your life?

If you don’t already have an exercise habit, I recommend this as one of the first you develop.  It’s one of the best ways to achieve better focus and confidence at work and in your personal life.   

Let us know how you go.

Keep moving forward,

Cholena xoxo

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