A few months ago, I read an intriguing article about how Target can figure out a woman is pregnant long before she ever tells her family or friends – by analyzing on her shopping habits. Who knew habits were so insightful? In the article, the author, Charles Duhigg, analyzed his own habits and noticed he had a habit of eating chocolate chip cookies every afternoon. He changed the habit and lost 12 pounds.
Duhigg says that habits occur in loops that basically have three parts: the cue, the routine, and the habit. By recognizing the cue, or the thing that triggers the routine, and by changing the routine, you can turn bad habits into good ones.
For about a year, I’d been drinking powdered cappuccino every morning at breakfast. I was trying to lose a few pounds and realized I was drinking 160 unnecessary calories. So I switched to instant coffee, lost 3 pounds and had about $12 more to spend on healthier options.
Sometimes people don’t realize they have bad habits. These routines have been practiced over and over until they’re as natural as breathing and blinking. They may recognize the habit, but may not realize the negative impact. I realized the cappuccino was costing me $14 a month, I didn’t realize how much it was affecting my caloric intake until I started tracking.
I often hear people complain that they don’t make enough money. They think that making more money would solve their problems. Sometimes, that’s just not true. Often, the real problem is that these people aren’t making good choices with their money. You can’t change a bad habit if you don’t know you have it.
One of the best ways to pinpoint bad habits is to start tracking. If you’re having money problems, track your spending. For help with time management, keep a journal of how you’re spending your time. To figure out why you’re not reaching a weight loss goal, start counting calories.
Eliminating bad spending habits was key in helping me transition to full-time freelance writing. And since writing income fluctuates, keeping my spending habits in check is also key to remaining fully self-employed.
If you want to know more about habit formation, Charles Duhigg has a book on habits: The Power of Habit. I haven’t read it, but I have it on my list. Reviews say it’s not a self-help book in the sense that he tells you how to change your habits. It’s more of a psychological book that talks about how habits happen in the first place. And well, if you know how habits happen, you can change most of them yourself.