How to quickly create new habits (or break old ones)

Hey everyone,

Recently I decided to quit coffee for 30 days. I was drinking 5 – 8 cups of coffee a day. I was no longer getting that kick that caffeine is supposed to give you. During my caffeine fast I realized that it is a lot more sustainable to create a habit when you do it slowly. It is easy to feel like it’s necessary to create multiple habits at the same time. Many of us, myself included, get lulled into creating ‘habit whishlists’. During this caffeine experiment I learned several things about creating good habits (or breaking bad ones). The aim of this blog is to share the formula that I used to quit caffeine. I am also going to be using this formula going forward to create new habits in my life.

My Formula for creating sustainable habits

Make it an event

When you want to host an event like a house party there are a few steps that go into making that event successful. Firstly, you need to plan the event. The first thing I did when I started thinking about quitting coffee was planning. Planning doesn’t have to be complex, but there are some things you should think about such as:

  1. Where will I do this habit?
  2. Do I have everything I need to do this habit?
  3. Is there anything stopping me or making this difficult?
  4. How can I make it easier, or even, obvious?

After you’ve planned your house party, you need to invite people to attend. I wrote about my desired experiment almost a whole month before I started it. This may be a bit excessive but I believe by writing about my new habit and sending it to my email database, I was keeping myself accountable.

Give it an expiry date

By giving my habit an expiry date, I am giving myself permission to quit the habit after the expiry date if I don’t like it. This may sound counter intuitive, we are trying to create good habits here aren’t we? Yes, but hear me out. Often we decide to start new habits because we someone else doing it. It may seem like a good idea, but in reality it’s not something we enjoy doing or find useful. There is nothing more boring than an useful habit. Say for example, that you decide to start meditating in the morning. If you see benefits, you will be inclined to continue. But if you don’t, you will very quickly feel despondent and give up on the habit all together.

Repeatedly starting a new habit and failing is a problem because it makes us despondent towards habit formation. It also means that we are more likely to fail at creating new habits in the future.

By giving it an expiry date you are giving yourself permission to throw away habits that don’t work for you. You are also giving yourself a goal to work towards.

When I quit coffee I told myself that I’d only quit for 30days and then I could reassess after the 30days was up. During those 30days I craved coffee so much. I expected myself to go straight back to 5+ cups of coffee a day when the experiment was up. But I didn’t. When the experiment was finished, I realized there was a benefit and now I only have 1 cup of coffee a day. I saw the benefits and I am almost too scared to go back to consuming the amount of caffeine I was before.

Make it measurable

Peter Drucker, a famous business and management author once said “What can’t be measured, can’t be managed”. He’s right. Cross the days off a calendar or use a habit tracker. One thing to remember: The metric is not the goal. The goal is to never miss a day. James Clear calls this “showing up”. Aim to always show up and never miss a day.

Some More Habit Tips

  1. Don’t over do it. Start so small that it seems absurd. Aim to show up. Forming the habit is the main goal, not running 100km in a single go.
  2. Remember the 1% rule
  3. Create an environment that is conducive to good habits (or the opposite for bad habits)
  4. Try Habit Stacking

If you have any questions about creating habits or you have your own ideas. Reply to this email.

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