When you got up this morning how did you decide what to do? When you got out of bed did you brush your teeth, make coffee, take a shower? Do you remember deciding to do these things or did you just find yourself going through the motions on autopilot? Chances are most of your morning is decided before you even open your eyes. How can that be? Habits. In fact research indicates that 40% of our daily choices are based on habit and not conscious choice which can be a big deal both personally and professionally. Let’s say you own your own business and are in the habit of eating a sugary breakfast that limits your energy. This habit is limiting your ability to work thus you may want to consider changing what you eat for breakfast. Another example could be that you check your email first thing in the morning and you inevitably get drawn to less important tasks. This habit is costs your business since you are distracted by less important issues during your peak focus hours.
The Key To Making A Change
So habits only affect a small part of our life, like tying your shoes a certain way, however, some habits have a much larger impact. Let’s take our breakfast example. A sugary breakfast of maybe a doughnut won’t be the end of your energy for the day, unless it is keystone habit that jumpstarts a whole different line of choices. Think of keystone habits like the road in the Robert Frost poem:"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel bothAnd be one traveler, long I stoodAnd looked down one as far as I couldTo where it bent in the undergrowth" Like the road, certain habits change the trajectory of your day. For most that doughnut won’t sustain your hunger and will turn on cravings for sugar as your body needs more energy thus starting a loop that will end in a lack of focus, possible errors in judgement at work and general health depreciation that could lead to longer term problems. However, if you changed that one habit to starting your day with a combination of key macronutrients like protein and healthy fats, you would have the sustained energy and focus to make similar choices as the day progresses. Changing a habit can be a difficult thing. It is best to not depend on willpower instead changing your surroundings to make new choices easier. For example, if you wanted to start your day by completing your most important work task without being interrupted by emails or calls, you could get up earlier, make sure you are logged out of your accounts, turn off your phone and make a list the night before of what your first action step will be. If you want to make sure you write an article for your website that day, you could turn off your wifi and write first thing in the morning without any internet access. By not depending on willpower, you give yourself a chance to follow through on the habit and the reward of getting it done will reinforce the new habit until you no longer need to block outside stimulants. For more information on these ideas, habit building and how you can use this in your personal life , company environment and marketing practices, read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.