Habit Course Week 1 notes (The Simple Method)

The Simple Method

Part 1 – Leo Babauta

Started November 2005 (quitting smoking), researched the psychology and physiology of habits

### Feedback loops

Bad habits first. Worst and most addictive is drugs. Get a high which creates a positive feedback look. Quitting is difficult because don’t like the negative feedback loop.

Apply the same positive/negative feedback look to habits we want to food.

Ex. Exercise – Has a built in negative feedback loop (vs. laying on couch, eating chip). Can create positive feedback by making it enjoyable (nature, yoga)

### Triggers

Ex. Everytime he drank coffee, he followed it with smoking. Forms a bond with repetition

In the beginning triggers are not automatic so you need to build it until it is (like driving home). That’s why ambitious doesn’t work. Triggers have to do be done consciously in the beginning and this takes energy

### Skill

Habit creation is a skill. It needs to be practiced.

### Problems

– Too ambitious, try to do too much at once. [plus it is difficult to make time for it]
– Dive right in without being fully committed

Part 2 – Leo Babauta

The Simple method

If you ignore any of these steps, you reduce chances of success

Pick a tiny habit:
– Do only one habit
– make it a 5 minutes (10 at the most)
– dont do a negative habit you want to quit. too difficult
– something simple
– You’ll want to do more but hold yourself back
– Focus on creation of habit, not on the results of the habit itself.

1. Take one week to come up with a plan.
– Make a start date.
– Build up momentum/anticipation/excitement
– pick support network
– write motiviation
– accounatbility
– print out planning form and fill it out
– Act of writing it down makes committment

2. Pick a trigger and do the habit IMMEDIATELY after
– trigger should occur every day once a day
– very conciously at first
– tell yourself you are going to the trigger and right after do the habit
– need to do it 4-6 weeks
– the more consistent the stronger the bonding

3. Have positive feedback built in
– make habit enjoyable
– focus on enjoyable aspects
– get positive feedback from others

4. report on your habit to a social group
– blog, Facebook, twitter, e-mail to friends and family, forums
– also positive feedback and accountability

5. have a support system
– have a support buddy where people encourage you to do things

6. report daily
– report to accountability group
– can also be positive feedback if you get it back from them

### The reason why it works

Positive Feedback and accountability. It’s easy so it won’t have negative feedback. Doesn’t require calendar commitment.

Very effective – 150 beta testers. If they stuck to it, it worked.

### Week 1 checklist

– pick a tiny habit
– pick a start date
– create a habit plan (PDF document)
– ask for support
– find an accountability group
– get active on forums

Clark on Habits – Ian Newby Clark

Social Psychologist at the University of Guelph (Canada), Writer for Psychology Today

### Self-control
People have different amounts of self-control. But the research says it is like a muscle: the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Like a muscle it does deplete you in the short term.

The thing that builds habits is repetition. If you were to constantly to have a self control failure and you resort to the same bad act, than it could form a bad habit. But once or twice is fine because it is just a sign your self-control is at a low ebb.

Realize self-control can get depleted. Plan ahead so that the temptation isn’t as bad. Can remove triggers that cause you behave badly. Be aware of it, but don’t expect to avoid the guilty pleasure.

### Bad Habits
The key is to **replace** a bad habit with a good habit. Then it becomes only about forming a good habit. Removing bad habits have a whole set of bad triggers (stress, coffee, socializing, etc.) so had to find a good habit for each.

### Time management

There are only 24 hours in the day. People are busy, but they can take 5 minutes.

### Positive Feedback

You should want to do it, positive feedback loop.

Some things do it for you (exercise: feel positive benefits and then feel the need to do it). However some people don’t get that benefit immediately. Others have appetite increase (relax, the relationship between exercise and appetite is complicate).

Another approach is to simply reward yourself. Don’t make that a bad habit. It could be watch a certain show or read a certain book or buy a gossip magazine or buy something.

Another thing is to focus on the positive aspects of the habit. It is easy to lose the experience as you focus on details (going to the gym, knowing equipment, etc.). Or focus on the palette changes on eating nutritous food.

### Interruptions in Routine

“The Bass Line” –

1. Don’t catastrophize about it. These things happen. When you are committing to form a good habit, you need to understand there will be interruptions

2. Make a plan for how you are going to get back on track

3. Doing it partially if possible.

4. Some interruptions can be predicted (like kids).

Most people’s plans are identical to their best case scenario.

How Habits Shape Our Lives – Katie Tallo

Habits are choices we make froma menu of possibilities. Take an inventory of the types of habits you have:

– Time Killers (surf the net first thing in the morning) & Time Savers (pack luncht he night beofre, do groceries on Tuesday night instead of Saturday morning)
– Avoiders (hit the snooze button) & Conquerors (exercise in the morning before too tired)
– Theirs (eat meat before that’s what mother served, party because of friends) & Yours (swithching water for alcohol, yoga instead of TV)
– Zone Outs (TV, video games, texting, surfing web) & Enliveners (walking, stretching, moving, deep breathing, meditating, exercising, reading)
– Stickers (“the bossy one”, “The athletic one”, “the lazy one”) & Gold Stars (habits we’ve chosen for ourselves)
– Instant Gratifiers (over-eating, junk food, smoking) & Delayed Gratifiers (exercise, eat less)
– Old Friends (from childhood) & New Friends (new ideas)

Exercise: Make a list of habits you do every day
– brush teeth
– route to work
– sipping on glass of wine with dinner
– writing few pages everyday

Categorize them as bitter or sweet. Let go of bitter ones to make room for a new sweet one.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers – Barrie Davenport

Want to be in right frame of mind
– positive expectation
– focus
– self-confidence

When you are strong emotionally, then you will be more successful.
– take the time to clear away mental distractions
– use energy to support habit
– Mental exercises like Positive thinking/affirmations. Alter neural pathways in brain making it easier to new habit to take hold.
– If you fight emotional state then you make it more likely to fail

Not sure emotional state or don’t know the roots of habits
– Start by figuring out why.
– you wouldn’t start a race if you were sick, don’t begin a habit if you are emotionally in a funk.

### Questions
First. take 8 deep breaths and relax mind and body.

1. What is your current emotional state? There can be more than one.
2. For each emotional state, as why.
3. Keep asking why until you run out of answers (ex. I’m feelling stressed because I have too much work to do. Because I’ve taken on too much. Because I can’t say no. Because I can’t create boundaries for myself)
4. What has been your emotional state over the last few weeks? Do you have any long-lasting feelings of sadness, anxiety, or stress?
5. Go through steps 2 & 3 for these.
6. Address these emotions. Write down actions you can take and when you might be able to take them on. By addressing any of these, you lighten your burden.
7. May need support from coach or counselor. Might need to delay habit creation.

Idea. Clear up emotional issues that weigh you down so you can focus on creating your new habit.

Habit Planning Worksheet

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” ~A.A. Milne

New Habit:
Planning Week Start Date:
New Habit Start Date:
Research Needed:
Daily Trigger:
Specific Action To Take Immediately After Trigger
Probable Obstacles and How to Overcome Them:
People TO Inform About New Habit Plans (those who will be personally impacted by this new action):
Positive Reinforcement/Encouragement Plan (your personal system for getting positive feedback for your efforts):
Accountability System (your personal system for reporting your efforts and results to help motivate you):
Support System (a person or persons who will be there for you to offer support and feedback:
Daily Positive Affirmation (a statement or statements you create to affirm the inevitable success of your new habit):

Week 1:
Week 2:
Week 3:
Week 4:

Daily Habit Reporting Form

Please fill out this form every day, right after you’ve done your habit. Try not to, but if you miss a day, fill out the form the next day for the day you missed and for the current day.


Did you do your habit today? (circle) YES or NO

Did you do the habit right after your trigger? (circle) YES or NO Did you use your positive reinforcement? (circle) YES or NO

If you didn’t do the habit, why not?

Was your habit easy or hard today?

How do you feel today, either emotionally or physically?

What challenges or roadblocks came up?

Webinar – Leo Babauta, Katie Tallo, Barrie Davenport

### Don’t focus too much on the difficult habits.

– Zen to Done 0 Ubiquitous capture (done many times a day) is possible, but is more difficult
– Breaking habits is difficult
– Instead choose a habit once a day so the trigger is once a day.
– hold yourself back: 5 minutes first 7 days. If perfect, then maybe 10 minutes. This builds anticipation and harnesses energy.

### Week 1 doing nothing

– builds anticipation which is a key part because it helps sustain it

How important? The whole point is to build up commitment. Longer is better.

### Triggers

– Often misunderstood.
– The goal is to bond the habit to the trigger by ding the habit right after trigger.
– Triggers are not times, but events. Our minds do not naturally associate stuff with a time of day. Might have alarm (an event), but not an ideal trigger (alarm not set, computer crashes, battery runs out, phone dies).
– Choose something that you already do during the course of your day.
– The more immediate the better.
– As you repeat it, you start to create an almost immediate bound (Pavlovian)
– Triggers happen all the time: check e-mail, eating after stress, check facebook after X, call up people, watch the news, and we don’t realize. All of them because of repetition of the habit after the trigger.

You don’t want the alarm to become a trigger. If you set an alarm on mobile phone “just in case” then it might become the trigger. Consider instead a visual trigger (post-it note).

Waking up is a good trigger, but remember people do stuff before waking up (peeing, cup of coffee, etc?) Then make the trigger the coffee instead.

If you have multiple times, then you need to remember multiple-times triggers. One nice thing is you can form the habit faster (because you are repeating it). But its tougher.

What about going to bed after work? Maybe then set an alarm, but the alarm is to stop working, not going to bed.

A good trigger for making a list for tomorrow could be putting daughter to bed.

### What to do on Day 1?

Don’t forget. So set up a reminder: post it note, ask someone to remind you.

### Small habit

Leo’s new habit: floss teeth before bed. Trigger will be when he & wife say it is time to go to bed. This way he participates with us and you can see the power of the social.

30 minute habit? Not a good idea. In your mind it should be 5 minutes. If you are really thinking 15-30, the problem is in your mind it is 15-30 minutes.

If your habit is waking up earlier, it might be hard. If you normally wake up 8-10, then 7:30 is a big change. Instead make it at 7:55 (ridiculously easy is important!). The trigger is an alarm which is hard.

If there is a “prep” period (like writing). Then do it before the trigger so that the habit is not the prep, but the writing. For instance, lay out clothing and such so it will be easier to start.

It is ironic that it is difficult to make the habit easy.

### Positive feedback

If waking up: then do something enjoyable after waking up (cup of coffee?) and post on forum.

The reward should be as close as possible to the habit, because if you defer the reward, then it will not make the habit itself enjoyable. Think of drugs: if you do drug, you get immediate pleasure. Another exmaple is checking e-mail and you get more e-mail it is another immediate positive feedback.

Tidying up? Declutter can be a form of Zen meditation. Look at the tidy room afterwards.

### Accountability

Even if you don’t do the habit,
1. You should still report it.
2. Figure out why (it is an obstacle) and what you are going to do about it
3. Let go.

#### Jerry Seinfeld habit method:

1. Get a calendar
2. Mark an X when you do the habit
3. Goal is to have an unbroken string

If the habit is important enough to do, it is important enough to print out

### Failure

Perfection is overrated. Don’t worry about failing, look at it as a lesson and learn from the failure. Each tiny failure teaches you what doesn’t work.

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