Habit hacking


I'm massively interested in the field of self improvement (aka personal development). Mostly because I'm in need of it so much. But also because it offers an interesting perspective on learning and professional development.

My current fixation is habit (re)architecture. Making changes to the routines that form the majority of our everyday behaviour, in an effort to lead happier and more deliberate lives.

The power of habits lies in their automacy. They don't require thought or effort. They just happen. They can allow us to perform complex tasks in highly efficient (or inefficient) ways.

If we want to improve the way we live (and learn), then changing our everyday habits seems like a reasonable place to experiment.

The difficulty is that habits are pretty resistant to change.

I've been reading a lot about habit change recently (eg. here, here and here), and have decided to pull together my current understanding into a basic Habit Hacking Workbook to help me (and others) experiment with habit re-architecture.

The workbook template currently looks like:

Over the weekend I asked for some volunteers to have a play and provide some feedback. Here are my answers to some of their initial questions:

How does it work?

1. Identify a routine that you want to change. Something that happens fairly frequently.

2. Identify the various cues that trigger it.

3. Decide on an alternate routine. The smaller the change the more likely it'll hold.

4. Create an IF THEN statement to describe your new habit protocol.

5. Keep up the protocol for a conditioning period of 30 days. After that it should start to become effortless. If you drop it before then you'll probably have to start again. If it's just not working, scrap it and try a different protocol.

What kinds of habits might you start with?

Ask yourself: what area of my life would I like to improve? It could be your approach to eating, movement, listening, thinking, responding. Anything really. Things I'm going to experiment with include:

- Eating less sugar

- Getting up on my alarm in the morning

- Listening better to my wife

- Checking my email less frequently

- Taking more time to look around me during the day

How do I identify triggers?

The best place to start is to catch yourself in the middle of the habit and take note of your context. Do this a few times and a pattern will begin to emerge.

It might be that your habit happens at a certain time everyday, or when you are stressed or bored, or when you are around certain people, or when you are in a particular place, or after a particular event.

Here's an example:


That's pretty much it. Like I say, it's a bit of an experiment. But I'd love to hear your thoughts, and even better: hear your results. Download the template, do some hacking, and then leave a comment below, or write a story and tag it #habithacking  

Author Profile

Peps McCrea

Peps McCrea

Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education, Author of Lean Lesson Planning, Co-founder at Staffrm

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Claire Bracher Claire Bracher @missb 1 year ago
OK - so I have the book - and I think I am also someone very interested in self improvement - I can reflect upon the things I have done and draw both good and bad as a rule.. I am up for giving this a go - I am trying to decide currently which habit I want to kick - there are a few - it's been interesting just having an initial think as it pulls to the forefront of your mind a lot of things that I think habits help us to hide behind... This is great as it gives me more of a focus and starting point.. I am game to give the experiment a go - 'hacking' away at myself sounds like it could be interesting hehe... back shortly I am sure... :) thank you!! those who help me improve are much appreciated and you have always been on of them @pepsmccrea
Peps McCrea Peps McCrea @pepsmccrea 1 year ago
Cool > looking forward to seeing what you come up with @missb :)
Rachael Harris Rachael Harris @fabenglish 1 year ago
I learnt a lot about habits from Gretchen Rubin's book "Better than Before", but I like your protocol & will try it out on my getting-in-the-door binges before dinner!
Peps McCrea Peps McCrea @pepsmccrea 1 year ago
Thanks @fabenglish > looking forward to hear what you think & will check out Better than Before
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