Do you and your team need a habits reboot?

By Jane Sparrow

As if by magic, it’s the end of February! A challenging couple of months for most and probably not the start of the year many of us had hoped for. However, like the many months that went before it, we have knuckled down, carried on and done our best to thrive, in a very different normal. 

Talking of thriving, we wished many of our clients and contacts a Happy Lunar New Year last week as we said goodbye to the year of the Rat and hello to the year of the Ox – a sign of new beginnings and boy do we all need some of those! With a new lunar year comes opportunity – for a new start for all of us, a clean slate, some fresh good intentions. 

If you’re one of the many people who’s New Year’s resolution has fallen by the wayside (nine out of ten will have, and the end of February is the classic time for this!), grab this opportunity to refocus. Ask yourself, what needs a course correction, what needs a new plan of attack, how can you get back on top of those new behaviours you set your heart on achieving? Perhaps there are great behaviours you and the team agreed to start too that maybe are losing intention?

Embedding positive new behaviours, i.e. creating habits, doesn’t just happen – there’s a real science behind them. In actual fact most of our daily lives are driven by a thousand different habits, we just aren’t aware of them. If we think about it, each of us will have created a myriad of new habits because of the challenges the pandemic has thrown at us. With a light at the end of the tunnel on that front, now is a great time to reflect on this and consider which of these new behaviours do you want to keep as we move beyond the current reality. If you do want to keep something for the long term, you’ll need to be intentional about it. 

We’ve been talking to a lot of groups about habits recently, as leaders and teams grapple with both the personal and organisational ones they want to create or keep as we slowly move beyond the current phase of the pandemic. So much so, we thought it was the perfect time to launch our latest module on Sourcecode, our virtual on-demand development platform. 

Packed full of thinking, inspiration, multimedia content and of course, practical ideas for you, your team and organisation, the module includes everything you need to know about making, changing and sustaining great positive habits. To give you a flavour (and to whet your appetite for more!), here’s a few tips on smashing habits.

What’s the why?

We talk about ‘why’ a lot and habits are no different. If the motivation isn’t strong enough, the action simply will not follow. Ask yourself, what will this new habit give me, why does it matter and what’s the long term impact? Write it down, know it inside out, have it ready to smother the unhelpful voices that might try to talk you out of it. 

Be specific 

A vague intention is about as likely to succeed as a chocolate teapot. For any behaviour to become consistent and eventually, become a habit, it has to be specific. What are you actually going to do? When? How? Who with? You get the picture. 

Get accountability

Some people are self motivators and able to hold themselves accountable, others are not (I’m saying nothing!). If you need that extra layer of accountability, get a habit buddy – this means telling someone (and asking them to check in about it), involving someone (anyone you can rope in) or simply letting your friends know you’re trying something new and asking if they can become your official cheerleaders. 

Nudge, nudge

Nudges are brilliant. My colleague puts his running shoes at the end of his bed every night so they’re the first thing he sees every morning, prompting his morning run. Our lives are full of visual nudges, get in control of yours to support the behaviours you want to create. You can find a brilliant podcast on Nudge theory in our Habits module on Sourcecode – check it out here.

Habit plus one 

My vitamin D spray is next to my tea bags so that I remember to take it everyday when I make my cup of tea in the morning. What embedded habits do you already have that can help you to embed new ones. A friend of mine used putting the bin out each week as a ‘habit plus one’ strategy to remember calling her mum every Sunday (don’t ask about the bin link!)

A positive change   

When we attempt to cut something out (a negative removal), we’re destined to fail. Whereas when we work to bring something new in (a positive addition), our brains respond so much better and our motivation levels are higher. If you want to cut out unhealthy snacking at 3pm, try replacing it with a new positive habit like a 3pm walk or chatting to a friend. 

Small wins the day 

When it comes to habits, too big will also mean failure. It’s tough to change too many things at once! Start small and add rather than start massive and fail. Every small win builds motivation and leads to big wins in time. Conquer one habit and then move onto the next. 

Expect a level of failure 

Everyone lapses when trying to build a new healthy habit – it’s part of the process and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. On average we will fail 16-24 times before we succeed so be ready for the occasional slip-up and know it’s OK! What’s important is that you use it as a way to understand your triggers and learn. 

Celebrate success at every step 

Embedding habits is hard work! Ensure you give yourself and/or the team plenty of rewards along the way – no matter how small the win! This will always motivate you and others to keep going, they remind you or your progress and they bring in some fun! Chunking it down with little rewards along the way will win!

Great habits are essential to so much of what is mission critical right now including resilience, productivity, overall performance and wellbeing. The biggest piece of advice I can give you when it comes to habits is to start with one – you can add more in once one new pattern is created. Never forget that as human beings, we are a system, so one new habit has more far reaching impact than you might think.  

In the words of the Lao Tzu, “Any journey in life towards GREATNESS begins with one step and a leap of faith. Nothing is guaranteed, but take every step at a time and you will get where you want to be.”

Check out the new habits module now live on Sourcecode.