How to Develop Habits to Improve Your Professional Growth

Leverage the power of habit to your advantage!  Take decisive control of your actions and put those actions that move you in the direction of your goals on automatic.  I’ll show you five steps to develop habits that you want to master.

“Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters” -Nathaniel Emmons Click To Tweet

Power of Habit

One good habit that I recently mastered in my own life which has had a fantastic impact on my health is walking 10,000 steps per day.  Now I did not start off one day walking 10,000 steps; I worked up to that distance over a period of time.  When I went in for my annual check-up, the Doctor said “Looks like someone is doing something right”!  My vital signs were right on the mark.

To get to the level of 10,000 steps, I started small.  Every hour of my workday, I would stand up, leave the office and walk a short distance down the hall and back.  After a few weeks of that, I started going all the way to the far staircase, down the stairs, across the lobby to the near stairs and back to the office.  Taking just a few minutes to get away from the desk and a walking a couple of hundred steps helps to release stress.

Over the next couple of weeks, I started walking that route two laps each hour, then three laps.  Trying to go four laps, I started losing track of what lap I was on.  So I found a different route that made keeping track much easier.  On the second lap, I would go upstairs rather than down.  Three laps, two up and one down, consists of about 950 steps.

Develop Habits on top of Habits

Eventually, I found a point in my walking route that was suitable for doing push-ups which I passed twice in the route.  This was at the top of the stairs.  I began developing a habit of stopping at that point each time I passed that way and doing some push-ups.  So that became my normal routine, each hour I now walk almost 1000 steps and stop to do two exercises, twice each along the way.  This Habit has become the basis of my daily fitness routine.

People would normally think that walking 10,000 steps while doing a job that entailed sitting at a desk for twelve hours would not be reasonable.  But if you do a little at a time and repeat that over and over it becomes very do-able.

How to Ingrain a Habit

1. Choose the habit you want to create

You’ve got to decide what you want to accomplish and break that objective down to an activity that can be repeated over and over.  Start developing an awareness of where you are and where you want the journey to take you.  Determine what the next step in your professional growth should be.  How about your health and fitness goals?  Spiritual journey?

What is the one thing that you knew that if you did it consistently over time, you would achieve what you want to achieve?

For me it was to gain the benefits of walking.  Lots of news stories on fitness monitors explain the benefits of adding walking to your daily routine.

What objective do you want to reach?  To learn more about goal setting, see my post The Startling Truth About Goals Objectives and Campaigns.  What would you like to see changed in your professional situation?  Are there skills that you need to develop or knowledge you need to gain.  Identify actions that will give you a boost in that area.  Do you want to develop better study habits toward completing your education?

2. Identify first step towards the goal

When you break your chosen objective down into a defined activity, which one could you do over and over again, either daily or weekly to accumulate an aggregate gain toward the goal?  Write it down.  Now, don’t take too big of a step or you might stall out before you have completed enough repetitions to establish the habit.

Now that you have clearly defined what you can do on a repeated basis that will benefit you, find a time slot in your schedule that it fits in.  It must be consistent with your existing routines or replace an activity that you want to remove from your schedule.

The location where you are going to do this activity must make sense.  You probably can’t swim in your office for example; you would have to have access to a pool for that.  Does your chosen habit take prep time and clean-up time?  If it does, make sure that it is added to the allotted time in your calendar.  Either write it in your calendar if you use one or put a note somewhere that you will see it in a location that corresponds to an activity already in your routine; by your toothbrush for example.  Each time you brush your teeth you will do your activity next…each time.

3. Take the 1st step

Whatever your chosen habit is, start off with slow, small, repeatable steps.  If you are working up to a marathon, but haven’t been in the habit of running, don’t start off with a 10k run on day 1.

Now that you have decided and committed it to paper, take it for action.  Go and complete the first iteration of your new behavior.

“If you really want to do something you will find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” Jim Rohn Click To Tweet

4. Identify the incremental measure to increase and embed the habit

You have started off slow.  Way fewer repetitions than your max.  The next step is to make incremental increases in your daily goal.  Add a little each day or week.  Make sure that your iterations are measurable.  If you want to learn to play an instrument, you must practice every day.  Start by blocking of a very small time-block and increasing it daily or weekly.  Like 3 or 5 minute increases each week.  Remember to stop at the designated stopping point.  Make sure you don’t over-do it and leave nothing left for the next designated iteration.  Over-working muscles for instance could put you off your next scheduled workout, causing you to break the chain.

how to develop habits

Five Steps to Start a New Habit

5. Complete at least 21 repetitions to develop habits

Experts in human behavior say that repeating an action 21 times ingrains the habit.  So, schedule and execute 21 iterations.  Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says that to perfect his craft, he would write every day.  His mantra is ‘Don’t break the chain’.  He would put an X on his calendar every day that he wrote.  Connected X’s on the calendar appear as a chain.  Any missing X would break the chain.  So don’t break the chain.

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Creating good habits can impact many additional areas of your life outside the primary area that the habit is initially intended for.  For example, a habit that is intended to improve your weight and appearance will add longevity to your life.  It might also get you out and about where you meet someone who creates improvement your employment or social opportunities.

On October 2, 2016, I started developing a new habit of writing a certain number of words per day.  I started with a small, easily achievable number that will be a couple of paragraphs and then I will increase the number each week until I am writing pages per day.  An easy, achievable number of 200 words per day will help me develop the habit to the point that it resists being broken.  If I were to set a daily goal of say, 1000 words per day, I would likely burn out before the point where inertia takes over.

Download a Blank Daily Writing Tracking Worksheet that you can fill in!

Writing Tracker Worksheet

Writing Tracker Worksheet



This method has served me well in other areas, usually in the health and fitness arena.  There have been numerous times in my life when I had a short term health and fitness goal such as preparing for an upcoming Navy fitness test.

How I developed a habit of 600 push-ups per day.

I like to start slow and increase my quantity after I have established a habit.  In the case of things like push-ups or sit-ups and things like that, I start at 1 rep.  On day one, I just do one rep and then move up to two on day two.  Since I had already established a habit of walking over ten-thousand steps per day, I was adding on to that established habit.  For my latest push-up habit drill, I started adding one rep per lap doing two laps per hour for ten hours for twenty push-ups in a work-shift.  After a couple of months, I was doing 30 X 2 X 10 for a total of 600 push-ups per day.

These techniques work whether you want to develop habits by creating a new habit or if you are changing habits; replacing one that doesn’t work for you to one that does.

“If what you are doing is not moving you towards your goals, then it's moving you away from your Goals.” Brian Tracy Click To Tweet

Write me a note in the comment section below and let me know how this post has helped you develop habits that you have committed to establishing.

 

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