There’s a lot to be said for the power of a good habit. Whether it be waking up early every morning, committing to an exercise routine, or learning a new skill, the ability to build good habits can have a profound effect on work, social life and personal wellbeing.
But developing good habits can be a struggle. How do you get started? What if you miss a day – have you failed? How can you keep it up?
Today in the notebook, we discuss a few strategies from Atomic Habits by behaviour expert James Clear. The book has become a #1 New York Times bestseller and has received critical acclaim around the world.
We promise to keep it light, simple and informative. But we can’t say a voice in your head won’t recommend putting them into practice – you have been warned!
Let’s jump straight into it.
FOCUS ON SYSTEMS NOT GOALS
Little habits transform us every day already. In fact, if you can get 0.01% better every day, that’s 37.78% over a year. But setting a goal doesn’t magically turn into motivation.
Instead of trying to find motivation, try to find clarity – how can I do this? Rather than focusing on goals, develop a system that makes it easier to implement a change and keep it up. Try creating a plan like setting aside a time and place, as well as a contingency plan, to practice implementing the habit into your routine.
DESIGN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE GOOD BEHAVIOUR IS EASY
Physical environments have a major impact on our habits. Remember when you were a kid and you re-arranged all the furniture in your room – it felt like a new beginning! Don’t be afraid to rearrange the furniture to make your new habits more accessible.
Be the architect of your environment, not the victim of it. Design it to make good behaviours easier and bad behaviours harder. Say you want to stop carrying around a thick wallet – switching to a minimalist wallet and moving your cards to your phone will force you to change your behaviour.
Designing your environment is key to keeping habits for a long period of time. When it requires less willpower, it’ll be easier to make it part of the routine.
JUST GET STARTED
It’s easy to get stuck trying to find the ideal plan for change — the fastest way to lose weight or the perfect side hustle. But in actual fact, if you can put consistent work in and learn from your mistakes, progress will follow naturally.
James Clear puts it like this: any outcome you want to achieve is a point along the spectrum of repetitions. The more reps you put in, the more likely you are to reach your goals. Simplify things by using a system that is optimised for the starting line (action) instead of the finish line (goal).
GIVE YOURSELF IMMEDIATE REWARDS
The challenge with good habits is the immediate cost/consequence is there but the reward is delayed. Inversely, bad habits give us instant gratification but the negative effects aren’t noticed until way down the track.
In order to enjoy and repeat good behaviours, find a way to bring an immediate reward into the present moment. One way of doing this could be getting a calendar and crossing out every day you do a task. Eventually, a chain forms and the goal becomes not to break the chain. Even if you stumble, don't get dejected and keep trying.
Eventually, the goal becomes not to break the chain. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the outcome of your effort on a single day is, the fact that you tried will help you give you the little hit of dopamine you need to get the reward. With this strategy, long term goals are achieved through frequent practice. Progress comes from consistent effort, not a perfect execution every time.
TRUE CHANGE IS IDENTITY CHANGE
Change happens gradually, not overnight. The best way to create habits that stick is by thinking of each action as a piece of evidence or vote for the person you want to become.
Imagine you want to run a marathon. Instead of setting “run a marathon” as your goal, set your goal to become a runner. A habit is not only a measure of external success, it also internal change. Every time you go for a run, you build evidence that you are a runner. And the more evidence you have for a belief, the more likely you are to believe it.
The same goes for those who want to become a writer, a musician or entrepreneur. Practice things that this type of person would do, and you’ll start becoming that person. Reaching goals will follow naturally.
OUR MANTRA — DO BETTER EVERYDAY
At Blackinkk, we use the mantra “Do Better Every Day” to guide everything we do. This goes for our market stalls, our design process, our social media, and so on. We express our values, building evidence for who we are and what we represent. And we trust that others out there will connect with us.
We design products that help people implement good habits into their life. Whether you're pursuing minimalism, living sustainably or want to be more organised, Blackinkk can help get you started.