January 14, 2014

Habits – The Organizer Comes Clean

One of the things I’ve learned from reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is that every habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. You can watch this video explaining how the process works. (It’s the book trailer for The Power of Habit, but it’s informative, too.)
True confession: I have never been a regular tooth flosser. It’s not a difficult habit, nor is it expensive or time consuming to maintain – I just don’t think about it. Brushing my teeth is an automatic behavior that is already part of my routine, but adding flossing just hasn’t come easily for me.

I floss the heck out of my teeth the week before my dentist appointment and then lose the impetus the day after the visit. Why? I could say that it’s because I’m too lazy or I’m forgetful, but it’s really because I haven’t developed a habit. The cue for brushing my teeth at night is going to bed; the cue for flossing can be brushing my teeth. Pretty simple, right? Except it hasn’t worked so far. The key, I think, is that there’s no reward.

It might be time for a sticker chart, where I get a tangible reward every time I floss. Studies show that it takes 21 days of consistently practicing a behavior before it becomes a habit. Seeing that page filled with stickers might be reward enough for this simple habit. Jerry Seinfeld has talked about a similar process that works for him, called “Don’t Break the Chain”, where he marks off on a calendar each day he performs a behavior. You could also post sticky notes with numbers on them and pull one off each day.

Behaviors, especially those that are well established, can be hard to change. What behavior would you like to adopt (or let go)?

Organized by Marcie TM: Save time and money by letting go of what you don't need and finding room for what you value
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