Establishing Good Habits

We all struggle with establishing good habits. I can string together 1-2 weeks of solid running, building up my endurance, only to find my schedule pulling me away for a few days, seemingly returning me to felling out of shape. Numerous clients have struggled with maintaining focus on their school work while navigating recruiting, leading to increased stress when recruiting subsides. This week, we will share tips on how to establish and maintain good habits. Doing so will save you time and improve outcomes, not just at business school, but for many years to come!

Tips to start to establish good habits:

Aim for something tangible: Avoid goals that are too vague and difficult to measure (i.e. “I want to be fit””). When setting a habit, think about how easy it would be to articulate whether it was complete or not. For instance, “walk 30 minutes per day) can be measured. Consequently, it will be easier to hold yourself accountable if you are achieving it or not.

Seek support: Share your goals for new habits with friends and family, and enlist mobile apps (i.e. Noom, Stickk, even just your email calendar) to provide you regular reminders. You may even find partners to share your new habits!

Establish something achievable: One of the keys to establishing successful habits is to build an initial track record of success. If aiming to build your mountain-climbing skills, “Climb Mount Everest” is a worthy goal, but won’t give you positive feedback early in the journey to persist when you face inevitable setbacks. Instead, consider something like, “climb 50 sets of stairs per day” that is achievable enough (and relevant to the goal you’ve set) to make you feel good. So instead of aiming to network with the entire recruiting team at McKinsey in New York, aim to connect at least once a month with 3 or more members of their team.

Make habits fun: Like to interact with others? Then instead of networking with people virtually, make a habit of regular in-person meetings that build relationships. Try a new coffee place, or ask others for recommendations, and treat them during your first visit there! Love the outdoors? Shift your networking time there through invitations for walks/runs/tennis/yoga/etc. that allow you to share an interest with someone else.

Create “reality on the ground”: Many broken habits are due to temptations to break them. Remove the temptation, and it becomes more difficult to break the habit. Want to eat healthier? Remove all the junk food from your home, and make a point of buying fruit or vegetables instead. Lack of availability of those junk foods will soon shift your eating habits. Similarly, if there is something you like to do (i.e. binge-watch a TV show) that may be “bad” for you, consider combining it with something “good” for you (i.e. elliptical machine or stationary bike).  

Consider simple choices: One way to establish habits is to make choices very simple. For instance, one of our clients established a “no French fries” rule when trying to eat healthier. Instead of making it explicitly about eating healthier, he chose to never eat French fries with a meal, instead choosing an inevitably healthier side option with meals. While difficult to measure the specific impact, he succeeded in trimming 30 pounds!

Acknowledge your successes!: Once you establish a habit (after a month of consistent behavior), take a moment to savor your efforts. Feeling that success will give you confidence in establishing other good habits, which will continue t change your life for the better.