A System to Establish Good Habits

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IMG_9280There is no such thing as “priorities.” There should be only one priority at a time.

James Clear, entrepreneur and weightlifter, said as much in his session on breaking bad habits and developing better ones at FPA Retreat 2016. Building better habits, Clear said, will serve both you and your clients, and it starts with changing the way you do things.

The first order of business: banish multitasking. Second: change up how you approach the goal.

Multitasking isn’t helping you. Focus on one priority at a time. Banish the concept of multiple priorities from your brain and focus only on one at a time.

“Busy doesn’t equal important,” Clear said. Juggling multiple projects at once­­­­ drains us.

“The more that we close these half-finished projects and free up the memory and capacity to focus on one priority,” Clear said. “It increases our ability to get things done.”

Clear said the way to start kicking bad habits and replacing them with new ones is to start with the small habits. Maybe you look at a goal and it may seem intimidating, but if you start with one small thing a day, you could end up achieving a lot.

“Small habits aren’t just nice to have, but they have significant benefits,” Clear said.

Give yourself two minutes. Clear explained that you will experience the Zeigarnik Effect—intrusive thoughts about something that we started and left incomplete—if you don’t finish things. Channeling David Allen, find all the unfinished projects you could do within two minutes and get them done.

Automate your decisions. “Decision fatigue” or “ego depletion” will set in if you have to make too many decisions at a given time. Automate the decisions you can—like pre-packing your gym bag, picking your outfit or packing your lunch.

Set up “hot triggers” for yourself. A “cold trigger” is something that could be ignored, like a Post-It Note on a mirror reminding you to do your run. Successful people set up hot triggers—like alarms or recurring emails—to remind them to do something.

Pre-commit to good habits and know that motivation ebbs and flows. You’re more likely to stick to something if you have already made a commitment to do it. Also, motivation doesn’t come before you do something; it usually comes as a result of doing something.

Have an environment for success. If you want to stop eating junk, arrange your pantry so the junk food is harder to get to, because our default mode is to grab whatever’s easiest.

“Design the environment so that the default options are better options,” Clear said. “Behavior is a function of the environment that you are in.”

Never miss twice. Pre-commit to stick to a habit for a certain number of days, and know that it is OK to miss a day of doing it, but never miss two days in a row.

“Break the inertia of a bad habit as soon as possible,” Clear said.

Measure your progress. Develop a consistent system of measurement to see how far you’ve come.

If you missed the FPA Retreat session, you can download Clear’s presentation at jamesclear.com/habits.

Did you miss Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use this code (PARET17) for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.

AnaHeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.




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