Building productive habits

Dr Asha Pemberton -
Dr Asha Pemberton -


By definition, a habit is a well-learned, automatic behaviour that is performed with little or no conscious intent. Habits become ingrained parts of our lives, and whether productive or destructive, we do have the ability to change them. Behavioural scientists suggest that many try to create healthy habits incorrectly. We make bold, non-sustainable resolutions without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success. At every eve of a new year, goals, plans and resolutions are created. These are all valuable initiatives toward self-improvement. When we modify approach and strategy, however, we stand a better chance at long term success.

Stacking habits

An effective way to form a new habit is to link it to an existing one. By examining our daily pattern, you can find ways to use existing habits to create new ones. Consider your morning routine. Instead of reaching for Instagram, keep a book or journal close to your phone and instead use those moments for meditation or reflection. The time between rising and heading to the bathroom can be filled with stretches or a short high intensity body weight routine if your exercise clothing is left near to the bathroom door. Find ways in which you can connect your goal to something you already do, and this increases the likelihood of getting it done.

Keep it simple

Dramatic and lofty plans are exciting. But life brings challenges, and with the unexpected many people do not have the consistent energy, motivation or structures to make large adjustments. The concept of ‘tiny habits’ is to make the new habit as easy as possible in the beginning. Taking a daily short walk, could be the beginning of an exercise habit. Keeping less loose cash on hand may reduce your likelihood of buying processed snacks. Having a reusable bottle of water with you will make it less likely that you buy a sugar sweetened drink. The accumulation of sustainable small changes leads to positive and sustainable habits.

Do it every day

There are differing opinions on exactly how long it takes to create a new habit. That said, the lesson is that habits may take a long time to create, but they form faster when we do them more often. Start with something that you can consistently do every day. Once the daily activity becomes a habit, you can explore new, more intense or complex additions.

Remember your 'Why'

Integral to any meaningful and sustainable change is a recognition of why we are embarking upon it. As we start 2022 and can expect challenges, adventures and the unexpected, this is still an opportunity to focus on personal and family growth. Take a moment to write down why each change is important to you and you stand a better chance of success and development in the long term.


"Building productive habits"

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