Ahh, February - a month that can be depressing for many reasons; one being that all our January goals are in the crapper. Snacking less, spending less, saving more, toning up, cutting back, trimming down - all slacking by now, despite our best habit tracking efforts.
I'm with you. Or at least I was before I was recently introduced to the brain science behind habits and routines through the work of Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Multiple whitepapers, TED, and TEDx Talks later, I started thinking about how to bring Duhigg's Habit Loop to my journal as a way of stopping or forming those habits I'd been so optimistic about in January.
Here's how I changed my habits (and you can too)
I started by making a three-part loop on my page. That's because, according to the brain science Duhigg references in his book, habits consist of three major components: CUES, ROUTINES, and REWARDS. I can't help but to create tools with a functional purpose, so I designed our new Healthy Habit Bullet Journal Stencil to help me quickly create the graphic element for my page. It looks a little like a funky spider, but it makes swift and tidy 3, 4, 5, or 6 part cycles that fit perfectly on my journal page.
Step 1 - Identify the ROUTINE
Step 2 - Identify the CUE
Step 3 - Identify the REWARD
So, for example, I tried sitting in the living room instead of the dining room, or another day I said, "hi" to the kids and headed directly upstairs back to work, I checked to see if I snacked at 3:30pm on a Saturday, etc. What I figured out was my reward, the part that felt good, was specifically taking a break from work and chatting with our kids about their day at school.
To break the habit of snacking during this part of my day during the week, just avoiding the CUE or the ROUTINE did not work. I would still crave the reward. Instead, I needed to alter the routine that leads to the reward.
Step 4 - PLAN a new routine: When ________, I will ________ because I get to __________.
I put this plan somewhere I can see it every day and follow the routine for a least a week to help it become habit. Coming up with a specific plan that includes a cue, routine, and reward(s) is vastly different than just setting a goal of "I'm going to exercise every day" or making an exercise tracker in my journal (and then tracking my failure at regularly exercising.) For me, understanding the Habit Loop and planning a new, healthier cue, routine, and reward actually worked.
For more information about Charles Duhigg's approach, check out How Habits Work on his website.
(No we're not getting any affiliate perks - I've just found his synopsis tremendously helpful.)
And here's where to get your hands on our Healthy Habit Bullet Journal Stencil that I used for my layouts.
Hopefully this is helpful - give it a go and see if you can successfully master those habits too!