Habits: How to Sustain Them

Written by: David McClaskey

Want to stay better?

Now that you know what habits are (see my blog on Habits: A Key to Sustainable Change) and how to change them (see my blog on Habits: How to Change Them), let’s discuss some key ideas on how to sustain the beneficial habits you have started for a long period of time. A habit is sustained if every time a cue or trigger of the habit occurs, the desired behavior takes place that leads to the reward.

This list is a collection of ideas on how to sustain habits from different sources. Some ideas come from Charles Duhigg’s book: The Power Of Habit (whose key concepts I captured in my two earlier blogs on habits: Habits: A Key to Sustainable Change; and Habits: How to Change Them); while some ideas come from other books and articles, such as The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr; discussions with Thom Crosby, President and CEO of Pal’s Sudden Service and other thought leaders; discussions with Pal’s Business Excellence Institute clients who are changing their personal leadership habits to create more extraordinary organizations; and from personal experience. While this list is a useful collection from many sources, it is not meant to be a complete list. Hopefully, you will add to this list by responding to the blog with key ideas that have help you sustain habits.

Some Key Ideas to Sustain a Habit

  1. Be relentless and persistent. In the workplace, as well as in life in general, it usually takes between 21 to 60 days of continual practice to establish a habit. It can take even longer if the cue does not happen at least multiple times per week.
  2. Develop a craving for the reward. As Duhigg writes in his book The Power of Habit, a habit is not sustainable until you have a craving for the reward that occurs as soon as you experience a cue. As reference, a craving is a desire for the reward that you start to feel as soon as the cue occurs. Once you have a craving for the reward, when you hear the cue and don’t get the reward, it causes you to be irritable or at least unsettled.
  3. Be part of a group that helps support your new habit. Studies have shown that having a support group can significantly help you both obtain the initial behavior and sustain that behavior. A support group could be just one person.
  4. Get a mentor. Mentors can play a key role in helping you to establish and sustain a habit; you don’t have to do it alone.
  5. Make the habit part of your identity. Carry out the desired behavior each and every time the cue occurs. The more consistently you carry out the behavior, the more it will become part of your identity. Thom Crosby summarizes this hint as: “Behavior your way into a new way of believing.”
  6. Have a personal feedback and correction loop. Observe if you carried out the desired behavior each and every time the cue occurs. Correct each time you detect that the cue occurred but the desired behavior did not. Usually only you are there to observe every occurrence and you need to notice if indeed the behavior occurred or did not occur.
  7. Build in a process for systematic maintenance of the habit. Thom Crosby notes that if a habit is to be sustained, it requires some systematic maintenance on your part and others. Crosby has developed the following process for sustaining beneficial habits within Pal’s Sudden Service:
    1. plan how to maintain the habit
    2. establish and carry out a recalibration cycle (this will periodically assure you are fully carrying out the behaviors every time the cue occurs)
    3. standardize the habit
    4. be on the leaders’ consistent dialogue
    5. have some way to verify
    6. when critical, have a measure

Developing the skill of being able to establish, change, and sustain the beneficial habits is a key life skill that will help you proactively achieve success in both your work and life overall. Duhigg notes that almost half of all the things we do in the course of a day are the result of habits rather than deliberate decisions. Since what we are going to accomplish at work or in life is dependent on our daily choices that can lead to behaviors we do every day, habits can play a critical role in our success or lack thereof.

At Pal’s BEI, in our Achieving World-Class Results class, we teach how Pal’s Sudden Service has established the habits in each and every one of its employees that make Pal’s operationally excellent. Operational excellence is Pal’s Sudden Service’s key to 400% greater repeat business and being highly financial success for over 50 years.

Habits: How to Change Them

Written by: David McClaskey

changehabitsIn my previous blog (Habits: A Key to Sustainable Change), I discussed two key concepts related to habits from the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

These concepts were:

  • The Habit Loop: Cue (also called Trigger) leads to a Habitual Routine which leads to a Reward
  • The Golden Rule of Habit Change: keep the same Cue and Reward, but change the Routine

Pal’s BEI teaches the keys to sustainability in its “Achieving World-Class Results” class, and one of these keys is making the right things habits. Because habits are important for operational excellence, creating the right ones are a key part of creating sustainable change. Continue reading

Habits: A Key to Sustainable Change

Written by: David McClaskey

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As we seek sustainable change, both at home and in the workplace, habits play a key role in making change permanent. Learning the principles behind habits and how habits can be modified to be more beneficial will improve your ability to manage and lead an organization towards operational excellence.

One of the topics that Pal’s BEI teaches in its “Achieving World-Class Results” class (www.palsbei.com) is the key to sustainability, which is: make doing the right things a habit. One of the ways we illustrate this during the class is by describing Pal’s Sudden Service’s training process that results in employees being certified only when they have the habit of doing the job 100% correctly.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, by Charles Duhigg, outlines the scientific research that underlies how habits are formed and how they can be changed.

Two key points from Duhigg’s book related to habits are: Continue reading

Don’t Just Hire: Make them a Team Member

Written by: David McClaskey

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Several things I have read recently noted people have a strong need to be a member of a group or team.

Meeting this basic human need of wanting to be a valued member of a team can supercharge your hiring and on-boarding process. This led me to think: Is joining a company or organization like joining a team? It is. Because what is a team but a group of people working for the same goals? A company is the exact same thing. Whether you work at a hospital or a manufacturing plant or a fast food restaurant, by joining that company you are working to meet the same ends as your coworkers and the company’s. You are an essential part of the team. Continue reading

The Power of “AND”

Written by: David McClaskey

Sustained excellence is based on a few principles well applied. As is my habit, I do a lot of reading and studying of business related books and articles. I find it to be thrilling when I discover that respected authors’ profound thoughts align with each other and with the practices of Pal’s Sudden Service (Pal’s). It is great seeing the synergy of multiple authors stressing the same underlying concept. In many cases, they each independently came to the same conclusion. It is always fantastic to find those key principles that underpin excellence. We then make sure we are stressing these points in Pal’s BEI classes like our “Achieving World-Class Results” class.  In particular, we show how Pal’s embraces and implements those principles to create sustained excellence.   Continue reading

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Written by: David McClaskey

accountabilityThe question: “How do I create a culture of accountability?”

I recently was asked this excellent question from a class attendee and consulting client. It may be a question that you have asked.

Let’s start with the word culture. Culture is defined as a set of commonly occurring behaviors which occur within your organization. I have observed four common behaviors in organizations whose culture includes a high degree of accountability: Continue reading

All Decisions Are Not Created Equal: Use of Pareto Thinking

Written by: David McClaskey

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It is been said that a person’s quality of life today is a result of decisions s/he has made and actions  taken as a result of those decisions. We make many decisions every day. But the impact of those decisions on our life is not equal. There are some decisions, usually a very few set of decisions, that had a very high impact result on our lives. I know this is true for me personally. Early in my career what I decided to major in college (Industrial Engineering) and where I would take my first job (Eastman Chemical Company) had a profound influence on the extraordinary quality of which I find my life today.

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What is the biggest mistake usually made in strategic planning?

Written by: David McClaskey

The answer: Selecting too many strategic objectives to work on.

At Pal’s BEI, we are privileged to work with the leadership of organizations to conduct two-day strategic planning workshops. We have done this with just about every type of for profit and non-profit organizations. The most challenging and important part of these workshops is to help the leadership select the vital few 1-4 strategic objectives that are going to have the biggest impact in the direction they want to go. Leaders typically want to pick way too many objectives. This has a tendency to doom the implementation before it is even started.

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The World’s Greatest Planning Tool: The Pareto Principle

Written by: David McClaskey

pareto-principle

How would you like to learn a planning tool that is both widely applicable and easy to use? Such a tool has been generally known since the 1940’s so it has stood the test of time.

Joseph Juran, one of the leading quality gurus of the 20th century, defined and popularized the Pareto principle in the 1940’s. The Pareto principle states that 20% of the items from a given system create 80% of the effect. For example 20% of the items in inventory account for 80% of the value; 20% of the students in a class create 80% of the problems; 20% of the customers a business has account for 80% of the revenue. Continue reading

How Not to Listen to the Presidential Debates

Written by: David McClaskey

Have you listened to one or more of the current Presidential debates? Do you come away relatively empty in terms of any useful new information? Would you like something that can help you cut right through the “smoke” and get to the meaningful content? I will outline a few steps that will give you the maximum opportunity of extracting any useful information there might be in a Presidential debate. The wonderful thing is that you can use these same steps to get the maximum amount of useful information from any conversation, article, or any other source of communication.

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