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Nail a habit using the One Page Habit Tool


I might go for a walk today

Picture this. You wake up on a Saturday morning, open the curtains, see its going to be a lovely sunny day today. You say to yourself “I might go for a walk today.” Fast forward to the end of the day. Guess what you didn’t do today!
There are several reasons you may not have gone for a walk.
  1. You “forgot.” You simply got caught up in the day and forgot about going for a walk until you closed the curtains at the end of the day.
  2. You didn’t seize the opportunity when it arose. You had some free time after lunch when you have gone for a walk but you folded laundry instead.
  3. You had doubts when the opportunity arose. You looked out the window and their was a cloud and decided to stay inside instead.

Implementation intentions

A Psychologist named Peter Gollwitzer came up with the idea of “implementation intentions” to help people take action. The basic idea is you declare in advance what you will do when sometime happens. “WHEN… THEN…” For example, WHEN I finish lunch THEN I will go for a walk. Over 100 studies have shown this idea to be an effective tool. In fact people who use implementation intentions are 2 – 3 times more likely to do something.
Implementation intentions tie in very nicely with the habit cycle discovered by scientists at MIT of reminder, routine and reward.

Consistency

Robert Cialdini’s book on the psychology of persuasion lists 6 principles that are proven to affect behavior. They are reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. We can use the principle of consistency to help build a habit by tracking every time you do your habit.

One Page Habit tool

The One Page Habit tool is very simple and ties all these ideas together. Take one sheet of paper and write:
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WHEN
THEN
PROGRESS
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If I miss one day I will do my habit the next day.
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How to fill out the One Page Habit tool.

First, pick a habit to build. It is important to work on only one habit at a time. Focusing on one habit at a time increases your chance of success by 70%. Start small with your habit and increase it over time. Make it so small you can’t not do it. It can take several months to form a habit so you have plenty of time to grow it.
Next, pick a reminder for the habit. The most common reminders are a time, a place, an alarm or existing habit. Consider what could get in the way of doing your habit as you are thinking about the reminder and make a plan to overcome it ahead of time.
Now, fill in the “WHEN… THEN…” statement on the sheet with the reminder (“when”) and the routine (“then.”) This is your implementation intention – as well as your habit. Cool, huh?
Place your One Page Habit sheet somewhere you will see it. Then, read your “WHEN… THEN…” statement every morning. This is important. This is setting the intention for your “implementation intention” to work. This is what is going to help you actually do your habit every day.
Mentally rehearse the habit in your head at the same time. Visualize yourself doing your habit. Sports Psychologists use mental practice to decrease the time needed to learn a new action. You can use this to help form your habit more quickly too.
Do your habit at your chosen time. Note: don’t skip this step. 🙂
Mark an “X” on the grid each time you do your habit. Tracking your progress on a chart leverages the brains psychological desire for consistency to help you persist until your routine becomes a habit.
Commit to never missing more than one day in a row. Setting an implementation intention a head of time in case you skip a day helps you continue your habit. Missing one day occasionally is OK. Missing two days is dangerous because it often leads to missing three days then four days and before you know it you have stopped completely. 
Here is an example of a completed One Page Habit tool.
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WHEN I FINISH EATING MY LUNCH
THEN I WILL GO FOR A BRISK WALK OUTSIDE
PROGRESS
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If I miss one day I will do my habit the next day.
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Final thoughts

I’ve found over the years that the excitement for doing a new habit will only lasts for a few days. If you want to keep it up for long enough for it to become an actual habit you need to leverage some tools. This One Page Habit tool combines several proven psychological concepts to help you persist.
Go pick a habit and start today – there is no time like the present!

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