Habits are routine, subconscious behaviors – actions you do not necessarily need to put a lot of thought into. Many of our daily actions are a combination of habits, both good and bad. Creating positive habits is important, according to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit.” He reports about 40% to 45% of what we do every day feels like a decision but is actually habit. That’s nearly ½ of all our actions!
At the organizational level, habits and culture are closely related. How do people behave, work, grow, interact, and learn when they have the environment or flexibility to make decisions on their own. More than a numbers game, workplace and organizational habits contribute to the bottom line. “A huge amount of whether a company succeeds or fails is based not on sort of the big strategy decisions that people make, but on the habits that emerge within the organization,” added Duhigg.
If you think about your own organization’s practices, much of what we do as employees is the result of history – “that’s the way we’ve always done it” – also known as organizational habits. But what if you had the power to change the status quo?
Ryan Seamons, a Product Manager at Degreed, recently spoke on the value of habits during a presentation at Puget Sound. Here are 6 recommendations he made for things you can do to jump start new habits.
- Start small
Dream big, but start small when picking new habits. If the goal itself is too lofty at the beginning, it easily becomes hard or too time consuming to achieve. A couple examples of starting small include doing two pushups, flossing one tooth, reading to the bottom of the page. These small actions can seem inconsequential, but set the foundation to keep growing the habit bigger and bigger.
- Change your environment
Start fresh. If you want to read more, move the book onto your pillow instead of your nightstand. If you want to take walk at lunch, ask a friend to go with you to hold you accountable and mark the time off on your calendar.
Take the time to evaluate where you currently stand. Ask yourself things like: what do I want to achieve, what has gone well in the past, and what hasn’t, what reward would be the most powerful? It also helps to document your reflections. Set 15 minutes of time apart on your calendar specifically for thinking and write down your thoughts in a dedicated document.
- Find “domino” habits
Find habits you currently do that can propel your new habit in the right direction. A good example is working out. Typically, when someone makes the decision to go to the gym, that sets up the desire to also eat healthy. Try identifying well-established habits to which you could anchor your new habit.
Pick a small but meaningful incentive to reward yourself with when you complete the action.
Create a trigger, a queue that brings your desired habit to mind. Like ‘domino’ habits, a trigger can help you start the action needed to develop a habit.
Employees have a way they naturally respond to problems and allocate time during their work day. Being more aware of current habits and setting aside time to make an impact on your organization is a key to positively changing culture.