How to change your habits

Nigel Bennett

Managing Director

We all have habits which affect our personal and business lives. When we set goals, such as improving the way your business runs or going to the gym more, the key to success often lies in whether we can change the habits which stand in the way of us achieving these goals.

Habits often develop through a recurrent pattern of unconscious behaviour known as a habit loop. Your habit loop consists of a cue, which triggers your routine, and results in a reward. By recognising this pattern, you can begin to take the steps to change your habits.

1. Identify the cues for your existing routine

Experiments have shown there are five recognisable habitual cues:

  • Location - Where are you?
  • Time - What time is it?
  • Emotional state - How do you feel?
  • Other people - Who else is around?
  • Preceding action - What were you doing before the start of the routine?

When you understand the cue for your behaviour, you can avoid these cues or add a different routine to the same cue.

2. Identify the existing routine around the habit you want to change

What EXACTLY are you doing when you do the habit you want to change?

For instance, using the example “I’d like to give up biscuits.”

“Between 2.15pm and 3pm I leave my desk and go to the canteen and get a fresh coffee and a biscuit. I chat with a few people in the canteen, and drop into a couple of offices to see a few people.”

By tracking the exact details of the old bad habit, you will be more aware of your behaviours rather than doing them automatically.

3. Identify the reward you get from your existing routine

Using our previous example “I’d like to give up biscuits.”

Is it the urge to have a few minutes to socialise, then maybe you have the craving for interaction? Is it your feeling peckish and need a sugar rush? Or do you want to reward yourself for doing a good job, or working hard?

By isolating what you are actually craving, which is essential in redesigning your habit change, you can work out another way of getting the same payoff without carrying out the bad habit.

4. Have a plan for your new habit

Master your habit change by recognising the cue, routine and reward for your habit and using your awareness to stimulate your habit change.

For example, getting a bottle of water from the vending machine instead of the biscuits. Recognising the timing trigger and canteen location. Set an alarm on your phone and in your email telling you to choose water at 2:15pm every day.

We are here to help. If you would like any further advice on how you can change working habit within your business contact us on 0161 476 8276 or email

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