How to build habits faster
Habits are most effectively formed by repeatedly pairing the same cue with the same behavior through deliberate practice.
A single response to a cue won’t turn a behavior into a habit; it takes a lot of repetitions.
This means that habit formation requires a lot of initial effort, even though the cue-behavior pairing that drives the process is simple.
There are three keys to turning a leadership skill into a career-boosting habit: simplicity, individuality, and consistency.
Simplicity: Simple behaviors are more likely to become habits than complex ones.6 This doesn’t mean you can’t turn complex behaviors into habits; it means you will have more success if you first break down a complex behavior into smaller behaviors—a process psychologists call chunking.
Individuality: Another characteristic of behaviors that turn into habits faster is that they are individual. This means having only one behavior associated with a particular cue. If you try to practice multiple behaviors in response to the same cue, the behaviors will compete with each other and your brain will not know which to prioritize. This makes it harder for the brain to refine its behavior models, and can prevent automaticity from taking place.
Consistency: Finally, behaviors that are consistent become habits faster. Your brain is building and refining a model for each behavior that you practice. A behavior that is always the same is easier to model—and its model is easier to refine—than one that is always performed differently.