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It only takes two minutes to form new habits

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 23, 2021 5:00 am

Over the course of the past year, the boundaries of home and work have become more and more blurred. Work from home has turned our living rooms and kitchen tables into our offices.

If you’re a city dweller in a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, everything in your space had to be multifunctional. Your dining table is also your work desk. Your bedroom is also your reading or study area. Your hallway is also your gym. 

This phenomenon has changed the way we live and rewired our brains, whether we know it or not.

According to best-selling author and blogger James Clear, habits are automatic behaviors that last mere seconds, triggered by cues such as time and space. 

One of the best practices to form habits around the home and office is to allocate one space for one use.

Researchers estimate that habits make up 40 to 50 percent of our actions every day. These automatic choices influence the conscious choices in the minutes or even hours that follow.

That means just looking at the dining table can trigger hunger, or seeing your bed can make you feel sleepy. This also applies to your actions — tying your running shoes can signal it’s time to run; putting on a robe can signal it’s time for skincare; or rolling out your gym mat can signal it’s time for a workout.

As spaces become multifunctional, it becomes harder for these to happen in our natural living environment.

Luckily, you can use this knowledge to hack your own behavior by priming your environment and building your own cues in the form of micro habits.

One of the best practices to form habits around the home and office is to allocate one space for one use. The bed is only for sleeping, the couch is only for relaxing, a desk is only for working and the kitchen table is only for eating. This will make it easier for your brain to associate certain behaviors with specific spaces. 

Assigning a specific desk for work even while working from home makes for a healthy habit.

If you’re living in a small apartment, it’s still possible to assign at least a side desk or one certain chair for working, an area that’s only for eating and relaxing, and a roll-out mat that’s only for exercising.

Designing your environment around the healthy habits you wish to form is priming yourself for success. Unlike conventional books that teach you that willpower and motivation are the secrets to building highly successful habits — the reality is that the habits you stick with are those that are the most convenient and easy. If you want to develop a habit, make it easy. 

The difference between a good day and a bad day can usually boil down to a couple of small, decisive choices ­— whether you change to workout clothes or crash on the couch, order delivery or cook dinner, check your phone or continue work. These little choices that take a few seconds have a big impact on your day.

James Clear proposes using the “Two Minute Rule” when building new habits. To ensure success when you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. This means scaling down your desired habit into a bite-sized version that’s easier to chew. 

Designing your environment around the healthy habits you wish to form is priming yourself for success.

For example, “I will work out at home every night” becomes “I will roll out my exercise mat.” I will read every day becomes I will read one page every day. I will run 5k becomes I will run 500 meters. Once you have started doing the right thing, it’s much easier to keep going. 

Making it easy to start is key to forming automatic habits that lead to healthy, new behavior. Even if the actions that follow may be difficult, the first two minutes should feel easy.

The more you can ritualize the beginning of a process, the more easily you can reach the state of deep focus and concentration.

You are only as good as your actions. Building up two-minute habits is casting a vote for your desired identity. Clear had a client who used this technique to lose over 100 lbs. He started the habit of going to the gym and working out for five minutes then leaving. 

After a few weeks, he thought that since he was already there every day, he might as well work out for more than five minutes. In a few years, a hundred pounds was gone. Showing up at the gym for two minutes every day is already casting a vote for the type of person you want to be. 

The smallest changes can create the greatest change. When you add up the impact of your two-minute habits over time, you will be surprised at how you’ve achieved what you once thought was next to impossible. 

Let me know how these tips work for you.