How to build good habits 

by Liz Benson

Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking, give up sugar, start a gym routine, or hit 10,000 steps a day knows that habits can be hard to change. With the right tools, you can choose your habits and avoid a situation in which your habits control you in a negative way. 

Our team recently set to unlock our professional and personal potential by reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. The book offers a practical guide on how to create good habits and break bad ones by making incremental changes that become exponential  

James says real change comes from the compound effect of many small decisions. This can include doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single phone call. These are described as ‘atomic habits’, revealing how miniscule changes can deliver life-altering outcomes. 

The author uncovers three simple life hacks which resonated with the team:

1. The forgotten art of habit stacking 

This concept involves using the connectedness of behaviour to build new habits. It works by identifying a current habit and then adding a new behaviour on top. For example, it could be heading to the bathroom before leaving work to change into your athletic gear to motivate you to the gym. Tying your desired behaviour into something you do every day will help create a new ‘atomic habit.’ The team observed it is critical to have as many things working in your favour as possible so you can overcome the natural challenges. We don’t get instant rewards for the harder things, so we need to create our own rewards. This could be something like creating streaks on calendars, step goals for client campaigns or personal goals, etc. 

2. The unexpected power of the two-minute rule 

The idea of creating new habits can sometimes be overwhelming. For example, if someone wants to run a marathon or read 60 books in one year, that large target can seem unattainable. So, it can help to chunk your efforts down into habits that take less than two minutes. For example, running for two minutes or reading just three pages of a book. By making habits that seem hard feel easier, you can integrate them into your life more successfullySoon, two minutes of running can turn into 20 minutes and then two hours; reading three pages before bed will become three chapters a day and then three books a fortnight.  

In the marketing and PR world, this rule could help newer professionals build their careers by forming good habits to become a nimbler operator in the sector. If a person’s goal is to call clients or journalists more often, the two-minute rule could see them start with making just one phone call per day. 

3. Trick to entering the Goldilockszone 

The Goldilocks rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of the current abilities. As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying, meaning we get bored. People experience burnout if they don’t proactively change work habits by reviewing practices or setting goals.  

Overall, building good habits starts with creating small habits that have an outsized impact over months and years. Whether it’s starting a new habit or changing an old one, success comes from breaking big goals down into small, achievable actions.  

There are many ways to set atomic habits such as 

  • listing tomorrow’s priorities the day before to set up success in the morning
  • reset the room
  • have an accountability partner for your habits
  • create a habit scorecard to track your habits
  • track your streaks

In fact our team is now kicking off a 30 day habit challenge, using the streak technique identified in the book.