Hey guys and gals- I hope you´re all good! Today I want to tell you about a common problem people always come to me with.
Since sharing my positive psychology study hacks I’ve been overwhelmed with all kinds of people thanking me for giving them much needed advice and a fresh perspective on things. But there’s been one main sticking point- Actually making these tips long lasting habits was proving difficult for many. I completely agree! Getting into a new positive habit is no easy task, especially when we’re snowed under with our studies and the goings on of our daily lives. So here is a quick and easy technique that will help you easily make the changes you want to.
The 20-Second Rule
It didn’t surprise me to recently learn that as little as 8% of people manage to keep their New Year’s resolution. And I know from personal experience that a lot of the other 92% will attribute their failure to a lack of motivation or willpower. And they’d be right! But it is not huge amounts of motivation and willpower that allow resolution keepers to succeed. Motivation comes and goes, regardless of who you are. Willpower is also a finite resource, one that can be built up over time, but it’s still not the true key to lasting change.
Here’s the simple truth when it comes to fostering lasting positive change:
You need to recondition and reprogramme your environment and routine, so that new habits become automatic and don’t use up activation energy. We love an excuse and our brains will make up a lot of them when trying to do something we perceive as difficult or out of the norm. So what needs to happen when we want to pick up a new habit is that we need to limit the opportunities for our brain to tell us "no". A great way of achieving this is applying the "20-second rule”.
Essentially this rule goes by the principle that when we want to carry out a new positive behaviour, we need to make initiating it take 20 seconds less. Reducing the activation energy and thus the willpower used to actually go through with something, makes it easier to carry out and increases our chances of actually sticking to it. The classic example is wanting to start going to the gym as soon as you wake up. The first time you do this you’ll get up, which itself is a major drain on some people’s willpower! You’ll then stumble to the wardrobe to find your gym clothes. Then head to the shoe rack in the other room to get your gym shoes on. Then go fill up your water bottle. If you've gotten this far, you’ll want to jump straight back into bed. So what should you do instead?
Easy- sleep in your gym clothes!
Some people genuinely do this but I just find that weird. So instead, when I wanted to foster this habit I put my gym clothes on my bedside cabinet, with my phone nestled in one of the shoes. So when the
alarm went off in the morning my hand was already in my shoe, making it a hell of a lot easier to get out of bed, changed, and ready to go exercise. Simple!
The exact same principle can be applied to any habit. So in terms of a study habit, take my ‘Study Gratitudes Technique’ as an example. It’s actually incredibly difficult to get into the habit of journaling. So to get into the habit I simply reduced the time and effort of actually initiating the behaviour.
To do this I would put my study gratitudes journal in my sock draw after writing them in the evening just before going to bed. Then, in the morning, as I went to reach for a fresh pair of socks I would naturally
stumble upon the journal. I would then have a read of the previous night’s gratitudes then put the journal on my pillow, leaving it to sit there ready for me to write again before going to bed that night.
The simple act of reducing the time and effort of actually initiating a behaviour is therefore the true key to lasting positive change. Quickly, these behaviours become habit, which essentially means we don’t even have to think about doing them; they become engrained in our daily routine- 40% of which is made up from habits. So give the 20-second rule a go. You’ll soon find morning gym sessions or study gratitude writing become as automatic as brushing your teeth!