Habit loops are the patterns of behaviour that we repeat without thinking. They consist of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
For example, when I feel stressed (cue), I crush a bag or chips (routine) and "feel better" (reward). This creates a loop that reinforces the habit over time... unfortunately for my waistline.
How can you and I use habit loops to our advantage?
- Identify your current habit loops. What are the cues, routines, and rewards that trigger and sustain your behaviors? Be honest and specific. For example, if you want to stop procrastinating, you might notice that you check your phone (cue) whenever you face a difficult task (routine) and feel relieved (reward).
- Replace the routine with a better one. Once you know your habit loops, you can change them by substituting the routine with something more positive and aligned with your goals. For example, instead of checking your phone, you could take a deep breath, remind yourself of your purpose, and break down the task into smaller steps.
- Reinforce the new reward. Changing habits is not easy, so you need to reward yourself for your efforts. Make sure the reward is immediate, satisfying, and consistent. For example, after completing a task, you could treat yourself to a cup of tea, listen to your favourite song, or watch a few reels on Instagram... sigh!
If you feel compelled to learn more about habit loops (and how marketers are using this tool too BTW), you will enjoy reading the excellent book Hooked by Nir Eyal.