5 ways to…get out of autopilot

Getting back to work after vacation

As anyone embarking on a post-holiday exercise regime knows, changing habits isn’t easy. Our minds operate on autopilot up to half of the time; while this frees up mental space, it hampers change. Whether getting fit or scoring that promotion, success starts with new habits.

1. Get to know your habits.
Your morning coffee fix; the unread emails; the 4pm social media browse… reflect on your daily routine and what habits have unconsciously crept in. Which of these are constructive and which would you like to change?

2. Figure out your quotas.
In order to make our big-picture dreams a reality, we have to put in a certain amount of work each day. Break your overarching goal down into the smaller steps that’ll get you there, and commit to carrying out a certain quota each day.

3. Identify your triggers.
These are the situational cues that provoke a habitual behaviour: your route to work past a certain bakery, the afternoon tea break. Once you’re aware of them, you can make an alternative, more effective plan of action each time they crop up.

4. Build in rewards.
We continue doing things that make us feel good. Combine the new habit with a personal treat – allowing yourself to watch guilty-pleasure TV while at the gym, for example – to make it more appealing until it becomes part of your everyday routine. Recognise and congratulate yourself each time you practice the new behaviour.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
To quote Aristotle, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. Behaviour that requires conscious thought at first will eventually become automatic, given enough practice. The more you repeat a new habit, the stronger, and easier, it becomes.

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