Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Why small habits make a big difference

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The word ‘habit’ generates different thoughts depending on your situation. For some it’s that thing they are addicted to. For others it brings to mind the things they’re not doing and invokes anxiety. For many in this audience, it connotes the path to accomplishment, the things they are doing—consistently—to move forward and create success.

For me, habits are an integral part of the processes I put in place to ensure I take the best actions and follow the right systems. For example, I love what exercising does for my body. Years ago, I developed the habit of running; I found things that make it enjoyable—e.g. listening to books and podcasts—that encourage me to keep doing it. Running has become a part of my life, a habit I enjoy that delivers positive results.

What would it take for you to achieve the change or to make the progress that deep down you’re seeking? How would you get started? Why does it matter?

Atomic Habits-runner

When working toward a new or higher goal, too often we look to make major changes, we look for big things that, when accomplished, will assure we have hit the mark. When it works, we’re elated! “I hit my goal!” When it doesn’t work, too often we lose hope and quit. Either way, the tendency is to go back to what we were doing before. Nothing really changed.

Fortunately, there’s a better way—creating small habits that make a big difference over time; developing systems to increase the likelihood for success.

Atomic HabitsI recently found the book: ATOMIC HABITS: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. In his book, James lays out a four-step model of habits: cue, craving, response and reward. He synthesizes evidence he has drawn from biology, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology and more. He looks at external stimuli that influence our habits, and demonstrates how internal emotions—our thoughts, feelings and beliefs—impact our ability to stick with habits we want to form.

The core framework of the book consists of a methodology Clear calls the Four Laws of Behavior Change. These laws offer a new way to think about your habits:

  1. Make It Obvious: Write out what you want to accomplish. Use Implementation Intentions— “I will [behavior] at [time] in [location].” Design your environment in a way that compels you to consistently perform your habit.
  2. Make It Attractive: Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do. Find people who will encourage you to keep going. Create a ritual, e.g. do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.
  3. Make It Easy: Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits. Prepare your environments to make future actions easier. Master the decisive moment. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less. Automate your habits.
  4. Make It Satisfying: Use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit. Use a habit tracker to keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain.” Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit make sure you get back on track immediately.

There is no one right way to create positive habits. This book teaches a set of principles—fundamentals of human behavior—that do not change. I highly recommend you get a copy of the book, study it and start building positive habits. I started with an Audible version and listened to it during my workouts.

Questions: What is your most powerful or important habit? Why is forming the right habit important to you? Please leave a comment in the space below.

The Product Management Perspective: Building great products is no easy task. Creating the right habits will change the game. Committing to seemingly small, consistent actions will accelerate your success.

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