“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).”-Stephen R. Covey
There is probably something you do everyday without thinking about it, maybe it’s a good thing and maybe it’s a not so good of thing, but it has become a habit over time and it has stuck. Some of things like this are so habitual that you don’t even realize your doing them because you have become unconscious to the act itself. Let’s look at an example; how many people get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee? We don’t need coffee to get through the day, although my wife would probably argue that point, but it is a habit that we have. I come in to work on the week days and make a pot of coffee to drink, but on the weekends I don’t drink usually drink any coffee. It is a habit that I have created for myself at the office.
Charles Duhigg wrote the book The Power of Habit, in which he describes the habit loop which is the psychological pattern that occurs when a habit is formed. There are three steps in the habit loop; first is the cue or trigger, in our coffee example that might be walking into the kitchen after you wake up. Second is the routine which would be the actual making of the coffee and third is reward, that first sip of coffee that tells your brain something good has happened. That is the habit loop that has led to the creation of your coffee habit. Now how long did it take to form this habit?
There is a well accepted idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but according to an article in Forbes by Jason Selk this is merely a myth. Selk writes, “Most people believe that habits are formed by completing a task for 21 days in a row. Twenty-one days of task completion, then voila, a habit is formed. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The 21-day myth began as a misinterpretation of Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s work on self image. Maltz did not find that 21 days of task completion forms a habit.” (Selk, 2013). So how long does it actually take? Well, that depends on the person, the task, the environment, the consistency and so on. There is a not a magical amount of times you can complete a task or days in a row completed to form a habit and make it stick.
That being said, we all have tasks that we strive to complete on a daily basis, one’s that we wish would become habits. For me; I would like to workout every day, to drink more water, take more steps, and blog more frequently and many, many more. The fact that I want to do these things though does not make them actually happen; I need to remind myself to do them daily (cue), actually do them, and then reward myself for completing them. Then over time these things will become second nature, they will become habits.
To remind myself to complete these tasks I will be placing them both on my to do list and in a habit tracking application. That is going to be my cue and my reward is going to be checking the box once it is completed. I have already talked about my to do list app, OmniFocus, so let’s talk about the habit tracking application I will using; Timecap. I have played around with a few habit tracking applications over the years and actually stumbled across this one on Reddit. I like how easy it is to create a habit, how it displays a dashboards of my habits and that it allows me to notate further information once I have completed a habit. Timecap also shows me how consistently I am completing the habits and even congratulates me when I mark the habit as completed providing a little additional reward and motivation.
We all have habits we want to create in our lives, or even break (Timecap allows you to track those as well), but we need to understand that there is no magic to creating and maintaining a habit. There is a science to it though; cue, action, reward. If we build our habits around these factors we are more likely to be successful. What habits do you want to create?
You can check out Timecap by visiting:
Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit. Random House.
Selk, J. (2013, April 15). Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/?sh=580f0a10debc