How to Successfully Create a New Habit

Written by Briana Cavanaugh

May 3, 2016

Today we’re going to learn about habits. What they are and how to use them to your advantage.

Habits are typically the idea that you do something automatically at a desired frequency of repetition (like you brush your teeth twice a day consistently or whatever).  The question people often ask it: how do I create healthy financial habits like checking my bank account or saving for retirement?

It’s a great question! Truth: Some of that we can solve easily, some with a bit of work, and some of it is still a bit of a mystery. So I’m going to throw in some science below to help us figure this out the things we know for sure (as much as we can know anyway).

Let’s debunk the biggest myth about habits: That if you do something 21 days in a row, you’ll create a habit.

That’s, frankly, bullshit.

I’ve ready study after study about habits. And what they find is that habits take anywhere from 9 to 254 repetitions to create (and 254 is the high end because that’s where they stopped counting, not because that’s the max it could possibly take).

So the first key to creating healthy habits of any kind is to commit to creating the change. And if you can get your head around committing for a year (and you follow up on that commitment) you’ll either have a habit or know that you need more support to form the habit.

So you probably won’t create all of your financial habits in a month. You can start a great habit, but it’s likely you’ll need long term support to make financial habits (or any habits) work.

Exercise: Identify a new habit that you’re committed to creating. Either as a habit around money or something else. But you must be willing to commit to doing it for about a year.

Write it down in your money journal, tell someone who will support..

Keys to Habit Formation

First Key to Habit Formation: Cue response

First key to habit formation is cue response. What the hell is cue response? It means that habits are more easily created in response to some cue or automagically generated stimulus. Meaning that the reason you brush your teeth every night is that it’s become part of your routine. I’m willing to bet that somewhere in your routine you do something (maybe it’s walk into the bathroom) and that triggers you to brush your teeth.

In truth it’s a combination of cues: it’s night time, you’re tired, you’re in the bathroom and you’re headed to bed. That tells your brain “brush my teeth!”

So setting up cues for habit creation and sustainability really helps. That’s why I do mindset Mondays, every Monday you’re learning to anticipate mindset talk and every Tuesday we do something practical.

It’s why having a date and time every week that you sit at your desk and look at your money really works (after 9-254 repetitions of course).

Exercise: Identify what cues you can place your new habit around or what natural cues can help you do – and repeat – your new habit.

 

Second Key To Habit Formation: Sequence Placement

If those words don’t mean anything to you about habits, that’s ok. I’ll explain. Successful habits are based on cues as we’ve seen above.

As you might not have noticed is that the habit happens after a series of cues. In the case of teeth brushing, the cue of darkness, tiredness, time on a clock, going into the bathroom are all cues the preceed (happen before) teeth brushing.

They are all already successful habits in themselves. People who have irregular sleep patterns are less likely to regularly brush their teeth. It follows that if the cues are missing, the habit repetition fails (ie it doesn’t happen: if you fall asleep watching tv, your teeth are dirty and you wake up with little fuzzy sweaters them).

So putting your new habit in a place with well established habits are the most effective way to support success.

Another example: if you want to add flossing to your already successful teeth brushing habit, the most effective way to accomplish that is to floss your teeth after you brush them – at first. This will ensure more consistent success with the habit at the creation stage. Once it’s established you can more easily flip the order and floss first.

If you were working on tracking your money it might look like this so far:

  1. Habit Identification: You decide that you’re going to categorize your money in Mint.com 30 minutes a week.
  2. Current cues and habit: Currently every Friday you work at your desk on closing out your week’s work from 10-11am. You have done this every week for 12 months except when traveling and you always return to this habit. You will always be sitting at your desk (place) with your computer (tools) at 11am (time).
  3. Sequence placement: You decide to add tracking your money habit of tracking your money for 30 minutes to the end of your 11am work slot so that you have a consistent time, place and set of tools to complete your task.

Exercise: Pick an established habit to attach a new habit to. Make sure that habit has a consistent time, place, and set of tools.

 

Third Key to Habit Formation: Early Successful Repetitions

You probably know that you will fail sometimes. You don’t necessarily want to believe it, but it’s true. You will fail sometimes. Hopefully not in any life ending ways, but it’s how we learn, it’s how we grow, etc. Failure is great for learning but it’s not great for habit formation, especially early on.

In terms of how often you’re able to repeat a habit, the data shows that the more often you successfully do your habit in the first 10 repetitions (and early repetitions in general), the more likely you are to create a solid habit.

In truth, the more repetitions you can do successfully, the more likely it is that you will create a solid habit with a high level of a automaticity (yup, totes a word). And that’s what we’re striving for.

Yesterday we talked about this:

If you were working on tracking your money it might look like this so far:

  1. Habit Identification: You decide that you’re going to categorize your money in Mint.com 30 minutes a week.
  2. Current cues and habit: Currently every Friday you work at your desk on closing out your week’s work from 10-11am. You have done this every week for 12 months except when traveling and you always return to this habit. You will always be sitting at your desk (place) with your computer (tools) at 11am (time).
  3. Sequence placement: You decide to add tracking your money habit of tracking your money for 30 minutes to the end of your 11am work slot so that you have a consistent time, place and set of tools to complete your task.

And then add this:

  1. Ensuring early repetition success: You then review your calendar and add the habit to the calendar (plus some buffer time) for the next 12 weeks (because you’re traveling for 2 Fridays). You add your tracking habit to do to your Friday to do’s and make sure you have your log ins handy and available with that to do list.

Exercise: Put at least the first 10 repetitions on the calendar or in your daily/weekly plan. Do it right now. Ideally look out over the next year to plan for a successful habit. Longer term planning will help you see potential blocks and move them.

Exercise part two: If you find you’re missing any tools or supplies, order them right now or create them. Put them where you will use them and make sure they have a good, easily accessible place so that there are no barriers to access.

 

Fourth and Final Key to Habit Formation: Get Support

The other thing we find in looking at habits is that people who have social support around their habits are more likely to be successful in many ways: successful in relationship, successful in work and business building, wealth creation, health and wellness, etc.

The same is true of habits.

Final exercise for today: Share with your AB about the habit you’re working on. And then share it in the FB group!

Research: a Great paper on habits is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habit

 

New Habit Creation Worksheet

This is a cheat sheet for you to use to create this or any habit. Just print it and fill it out and make it go!

  1. Habit to create (be specific):
  1. Are you willing to commit to this for a year? (If yes, proceed, if no, consider a new habit. Commitment is key in habit formation.)
  1. Current cues and habit to attach to:
  1. Sequence placement: Where does this new habit go?
  1. Ensuring early repetition success: Review your calendar and add the habit to the calendar (plus some buffer time) for the next 10 repetitions minimum, preferably 1 year. The more you add, the easier it will be to sustain and earlier you will find conflicts and blocks.

BOOKKEEPING DONE FOR YOU

7 Ways Your Bookkeeper Can Help You Get – and Stay – Profitable.

Your Bookkeeper CAN Help You Make—and Keep—More Money. It’s not as hard a you think. And we can even put the processes in place for you. Sign up to get more details!

You May Also Like…

Key to community

I’m hearing a lot of complicated feelings from people and I feel the same way! When a jury comes to the right verdict...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

LEARN THE SECRETS

To Get- and Stay- Profitable!

The easy step-by-step guide to understanding profitability!

Step by step profitability tools
Straight forward (and loving) advice from a leading expert in the industry!

Get your money working for you
Instead of you working for your money. Let's get you off the hamster wheel!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

77 Money Leaks And How to Fix Them Right Now

You have Successfully Subscribed!