I am coming to you today from an unnamed Hilton in an unnamed city on an unnamed treadmill to share a quick tip with you that I think will make a marked difference in your well-being and your ability to add positive behaviors that you want to do by naturally pairing them with other things. It’s the practice of, “if this, then that.”
Now, I travel for a living, and know it can be tough to maintain fitness practices when you have a really erratic schedule on the go. If I get to a hotel and I don’t work out right away I will more than likely not work out at all. If I put my comfy clothes on, watch TV, go out to dinner with friends, grab a cocktail with colleagues, or any of those things first, it’s almost a given that I will undermine my best intentions and miss my fitness practice that day (and likely the subsequent days).
So, here’s what I do every single time I check in to a hotel for business: I immediately go upstairs, drop my bags, put my work out clothes on, and head down to the Fitness Center, do some yoga in my room, or go out for a walk. Whatever I choose, I do it immediately on check-in to make sure I do it and what that does is it gives me a Dopamine hit because I checked something off my list, I’m feeling really good about it, so it makes me more likely to do it the next day. In fact, I’m about 80% likely to work out every single day on a business trip, while many people might do so about 20% of the time because it’s a hard thing to do using willpower alone.
But there’s a stress-free, non-willpower-related alternative. When you “habit stack” or “environmentally cue” or “schedule cue” something, it makes you more likely to do it. So, for me, it’s working out first thing when I travel. “If I check into a hotel, then I work out immediately.” For you, it might be a financial practice–something like every time you pay your bills, you transfer $5 into savings, “If I’m paying bills, then I put money into a savings account.” Or, maybe it’s an environmental cue. For instance, when you walk into your bedroom, you put your clothes away so they don’t pile up on the floor. “If I walk in the bedroom to change my clothes, then I put them in the hamper or in the closet.” Or, you can use a schedule cue for things like having a better organized desk, such as, “When I turn off the lights for the day, then I make sure that three or four things are organized a little bit better than they were when I walked in.” Really simple triggers, like building a bit more movement into your days, “If I’m waiting for my coffee to brew each morning, then I march in place for two minutes while it brews.”
It might sound super simple, and that’s because it is. But these are natural cues, natural triggers in your schedule, your environment, or your practices that you’re already doing, so makes sense to pair those with something that you want to be doing more of, or a habit you want to build.
So have fun with it this week. Try some kind of an environmental or schedule trigger and see the difference that it makes for you, It makes life—and behavior change—a lot easier, and it can make you a lot healthier and happier.
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