Identify your stumbling blocks

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 4th September 2017

Have you ever tried to adopt a new system, habit or behaviour, only to revert to old ways after a few weeks? Every now and then, I see this happen for clients who are trying to implement the Smart Work system.

In the days after a Smart Work workshop or conference presentation they have great resolve as they are still basking in the afterglow of inspiration, but over the weeks the inspiration turns to perspiration, and they drift back to old, more comfortable habits. What can you do to stay on track in those first crucial four weeks where lasting habits are forged?

I am on a mission to reduce my use of plastic bags. I am keenly aware that I am a part of the problem that our environment is facing, and I contribute to this problem every time I shop for groceries. A few weeks ago I resolved to change my way and bring my own reusable bags to the supermarket. About time I hear you say!

I have tried this several times before, but every time I seemed to slip back into the habit of just rocking up to the checkout and asking for plastic bags. This time I vowed it would be different, so I put my thinking hat on and pondered the stumbling blocks that challenged my new behaviours on the previous attempts. I reckon there were three stumbling blocks that derailed me:

  1. I did not feel very trendy with my bright green, slightly tacky reusable bags. I know, get a life Dermot, but I am trying to be totally transparent here.
  2. I would forget to take the bags out of the car boot, and would only remember them when in the supermarket. Too hard to go back now. ‘Yes please, plastic would be fine’.
  3. I would bring the shopping home, unpack the bags and leave the bags in the kitchen. This would mean that next time I shopped I would not have them with me.

These were the only reasons that I failed to adopt a new, more environmentally friendly behaviour when shopping. So here is what I did this time. I bought some reusable calico bags that I actually like. They have strong comfortable handles, and while I do not see them as a fashion statement, I hold my head high in the supermarket.

If I leave the bags in the car by accident, I force myself to go back and get them. It is now a non-negotiable for me. Over time I find I am forgetting them less and less. Finally, I make a point of taking the bags straight out to the car after unpacking the shopping. That way they are ready for the next shopping trip. As I hit the six-week mark on my new regime, I realise that my new behaviours have lasted, and am confident they will stay in place. All because I identified the potential stumbling blocks and put strategies in place to negate them.

So, if you are trying to develop a new habit at work, think about your stumbling blocks. Maybe you want to get on top of your email, but keep lapsing back. Maybe you are trying to switch from a paper task list to an electronic one. Maybe you have resolved to work more proactively and less reactively. Work out your stumbling blocks and give yourself a fighting chance to adopt your new system, habit or behaviour.

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