Habits! Perhaps our minds are biased to think about bad habits when we listen to this word. For now, let’s just look at it from a neutral perspective and understand what this is all about. One way psychologists would describe this is ‘Habits are learned actions that are triggered automatically when we encounter the situation in which we’ve repeatedly done those actions’.
Let’s imagine that upon getting home each evening, we eat a snack. When we first eat the snack upon getting home, a mental link is formed between the context (getting home) and our response to that context (eating a snack). Each time we subsequently snack in response to getting home, this link strengthens, to the point that getting home prompts us to eat a snack automatically – without giving it much prior thought or effort; a habit has formed!
According to research, on an average, it takes 66 days to develop a habit. Habits for simple behaviors (such as drinking a glass of water) are formed quicker than for more complex behaviors (e.g. doing 50 sit-ups). But with a willing mind, it certainly wouldn’t take too long.
This is pleasing news indeed! We can use this to our advantage – we can develop a good habit or reverse a bad habit. Researchers estimate that 40% of our days are mere habits. Just imagine the change in our daily life, if we decide to work on this and also develop strengths this way.
We could use this to stabilize our sleep-wake routine which would result in massive overall improvements. After this, incorporating an exercise regime helps us remain active and focus on the tasks at hand.
Goal setting and use of planners help in managing time effectively and also free up our short term memory. All such improvements, when made a habit, could result in great improvements as they cascade and cause other useful actions.