How to break bad habits (from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)

Two interesting resources related to a book on my “to read” list called the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

First is a Utube video explaining the thesis with an example breaking his “cookie a day” habit and the second is a a more detailed flow chart of the process flow that supports his approach to bad habit breaking.

YouTube video How to Break Habits (from The Power of Habit).

Flowchart: The Power of Habit 

In both cases he outlines his “formula” is as follows:

–  You have a cue.  This could be the time of day, an emotion, a location, a group of friends etc.).  In his case, every day at approximately 3pm he would go to the cafeteria for a cookie.

–  The habit fits into a routine.  This relates to the behaviour itself.  In his example this would include stopping work, getting the cookie and socializing with friends in the cafeteria.

–  You get a reward.  He says this is the most important part of the loop.  Using the example of the cookie, he experimented with whether the cookie was the reward by eating different snacks at his desk, taking a walk instead etc. He found out that the reward was getting to socialize once a day and he “remapped” this cue/routine/reward into a break to socialize only.

Though I haven’t broken any habits that could be mapped against this model, I have a couple of good habits that work against this model, that have been integrated into my work life with some success on suggestions from courses.

One is try to have  routine where, I try to have a look first at my calendar and then my email.  Outlook can actually be set up to launch to the calendar first to help you even more with the routine.  Reward: You won’t be drawn into your email and burn away all your prep time for your meetings.

I’ve also had luck with forcing myself to write the  bulk of the next day’s “to do” list before I leave the office for the day (though truth be told, often supplemented by emails from home).  Reward: Less fretting that I’ll forget what needs to be done.


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