Researchers conducted an interesting experiment a few years ago. They asked two groups of students to write an assignment over their Christmas break about what they did on Christmas Eve. The students were asked to turn in the assignment the day after Christmas. One group of students had to specify where and when they planned on writing the assignment. The other group didn’t specify when and where they planned to write their assignment.
What they found was 71% of the students who specified when and where they would work on their assignment turned it on on time. In contrast, only 32% of the students who did not specify when they would work on the assignment turned it in on time. In other words, the students who said in advance when they would work on the assignment were twice as successful.
What the students were doing was declaring “implementation intentions.” An implementation intention is the idea of deciding in advance when and where you will do something. For example “when I finish eating dinner then I will go brush my teeth.” This concept was discovered by a gentleman named Peter Gollwitzer and has been tested and shown to work in over 100 independent studies. In fact these studies have shown that people who declare implementation intentions are between 2 and 3 times more likely to follow through.
One sentence habits
The concept of implementation intentions aligns every nicely with habit formation. Habits are made up of a reminder, a routine and a reward. The “when” part of the implementation intention is the “reminder” and the “then” part of the implementation intention is the “routine.” By writing a “when… then…” sentence for your habit and reading it every morning you can actually form a new habit. Habit formation really doesn’t get any simpler than that!
How to create a one sentence habit
Pick one habit to build. Remember, focusing on one habit at a time increases your chance of success by 70%. Start small and grow it over time. This will be your “then…”
Pick a reminder for the habit. The most common reminders are a time, a place, an alarm or an existing habit. This will be your “when…”
Write your “WHEN… THEN…” statement on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you will see it every morning. (The bathroom mirror is a great place.)
Read your “WHEN… THEN…” statement every morning. Remember, people who declare an “implementation intention” in advance are 3 times more likely to follow through.
Do your habit at your chosen reminder. This bit is important. 🙂
Go do it now
This is the simplest habit formation tool ever. Go grab a piece of paper (sticky notes work well) and write out your one sentence habit. Read it every morning and marvel at being 2 to 3 times more successful in forming your habit!