For most of us, we don’t think about every little thing we do during the day. For instance, the route we take to work. Preparing our morning coffee. Our trips to the kitchen or break room for a snack.
Most of us don’t intentionally think about those things because we do them so often, and our minds are on autopilot.
In other words, these are our habits, and it’s a natural part of being human. According to science, we spend nearly half of our day robotically going through these habits.
“We find patterns of behavior that allow us to reach goals. We repeat what works, and when actions are repeated in a stable context, we form associations between cues and response, said Wendy Wood from the American Psychological Association.
If almost half of our day is consumed by habits, making sure that our habits work well for us can have a profound difference in our lives and our career.
How can we build positive daily habits?
Step 1: Survey your existing habits
This week, make an effort to think about what you’re doing. Why are you taking that route to work? How come you’re grabbing your morning coffee at 9 am instead of 8? Don’t judge yourself during this step. Instead, the idea in step 1 is to take note of everything that you’re doing on autopilot. Recognize the things you don’t think about while you’re doing them.
Step 2: Decide if those habits are working
This step might take a few days to finish, but this is the meat and potatoes of getting your habits right. In step 1, we uncovered some of the things we do robotically. In this step, we need to figure out if there is a better way to do them.
First, is there anything that you want to change? For example, you might want to reduce your coffee intake during the day. Or, maybe you would like to start a new exercise program before work in the morning. Write down any habits that you would like to add (or change).
Next, are there habits that are not working? Maybe your route to work is taking too long. Or, maybe you’ve found yourself snacking too much during the day or you are reading too much of the news, and it makes you upset or anxious.
Again, write down habits from step 1 that you want to change. Then, change those habits by replacing them with better ones.
Step 3: Replace bad habits with better ones
Studies have shown that we are more likely to fix a bad habit by replacing it with another habit rather than trying to eliminate the habit. “Atomic Habits” author James Clear outlines a process for replacing bad habits with better ones.
First, decide what you want to replace the bad habit with, then focus on removing triggers that helped to support that bad habit. “If you smoke when you drink, then don’t go to the bar,” Clear said of trying to quit smoking. Or, if you want to stop dropping $5 every morning at Starbucks, try taking a different route to work so you aren’t tempted to stop on your way.
Sometimes, finding a buddy to help keep you accountable makes the biggest difference. Pair up with someone who wants to quit a similar habit, or look to make new friends altogether.
“You don’t need to ditch your old friends, but don’t underestimate the power of finding some new ones,” wrote Clear. Surrounding yourself with positive people will help keep you focused.
And, visualize yourself succeeding, Clear added. Our minds can play tricks on us, but we can use these tricks to benefit us if we think positively.
Most of us spend 40% of our time on autopilot. To improve your life and your career, take the time to ensure your airplane is flying in the right direction.