How can we start new habits?

Happy Five-Minute Friday! We’re in our third week of creating good habits in 2020, and this week we focus on ways to make your new habits easy. And if you’re interested in the first two installments, here are the links to find out how to make your habits Obvious and Attractive.

If a habit is easy, you’ll gain momentum.  As author and habits expert James Clear points out, you can get so paralyzed trying to find the optimal plan— whether it’s the fastest way to lose weight, the best way to build muscle, or making the perfect side hustle— that you never get around to taking action. Yet almost any action will move you forward. As you continue that action, you plan, strategize and learn. Clear advises, “If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.”

Here are five ways to make it easy to get started:

  • Reduce Friction: Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
  • Prime the environment: Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.
  • Master the decisive moment: Optimize the small choices that deliver outside impact.
  • Use the Two-Minute Rule: Streamline your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.
  • Automate your habits: Invest in technology and one-time purchases that lock in future behavior.

We humans follow the Law of Least Effort. If we have two options, we choose the one that requires the least amount of work. That’s why Amazon allows us to purchase with one click. Instead of fighting this inclination, use it to your advantage. Trying to manage all aspects of your financial life? Create one spreadsheet that has all the critical elements on it.

Priming the environment has a similar effect. When you organize a space or situation for its intended purpose, you make taking the next action easy. For example, you might put all of your financial applications in one pile, so that when you finish one, the next is right there in front of  you. Create an environment where doing the next right thing is as easy as possible.

According to Clear’s research, 40 to 50 percent of our actions in a given day are done out of habit. These are tiny moments of automatic choices that influence many conscious moments that follow. Clear calls these little choices decisive moments: the moment between ordering takeout or cooking dinner or taking public transportation or calling a Lyft. If you can master these little choices, other behaviors you desire will follow.

And, no choice is as important as starting. Even a small step in the right direction can lead to better results. That’s why you want to break down your desired habits into tasks you can complete in two minutes or less. What does that mean?

  • “Keep up with my budget” becomes “open my tracking app.”
  • “Complete my estate planning” becomes “contact my estate planning lawyer.”
  • “Get life insurance” becomes “download the insurance application.”

And lastly, automate your habits so you don’t have to think about them at all. Need to transfer money to your different savings buckets? Set up automatic transfers on the 10th and 25th of each month.

Quote of the week

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  – Henry David Thoreau


Task of the week

In the past two weeks, we’ve brainstormed. Now, we take action. How can you make your new habit easiest to start? Apply one of these concepts to your new habit and get to it!