• Andrew Wien

How to leverage your bad habits

Habit formation is all the rage these days. Books by James Clear and Nir Eyal. Workshops by BJ Fogg and Charles Duhigg. Blogs by John Doe and Andrew Wien.

You can learn about habits much more quickly, not by reading a book or watching a seminar, but by focusing on how your bad habits work, and reading the next 200 words.

Habits are formed through a habit loop (source: Charles Duhigg), which is a cue, routine, and reward. A cue reminds us to do the routine, which you do because you get a reward. When I am about to work on something difficult at work [cue], I check email [routine], and feel momentarily productive [reward]. The reward [a fleeting feeling of productivity] reminds me to do the routine [check email] when I come across the next cue [start working on a difficult task]. This is obviously a bad habit.

What reinforces the habit so strongly is the reward, that fleeting feeling of productivity. As small as it is, it is much better than the ambiguity and increased brain energy required to start on a hard task. If I don’t make checking email impossible (thank you Boomerang!), then it happens every time. That’s the power of a habit.

What bad habits do you have? Take out pen and paper and list 3, including their cue, routine, and reward. Over the next week, you will become more aware of these happening and will get to experience habits firsthand. Don’t try to change them. Just watch with curiosity and indifference how they drive your behavior.

Once you’ve nailed the cue, routine, and reward, then we can work on changing them. But one step at a time. That’s next! Good luck.

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