Back in 2014, when I was living in Sydney, I faced an hour-long public transport commute to work every day. When I discovered the concept of Working Out Loud (WOL) I decided to use those precious 60 minutes as the foundation of my WOL practice. It became a joy to connect and interact with people on social media about professional interests. This regular practice not only made my commute more enjoyable but also allowed me to expand my network, deepen relationships, and discover new ideas and approaches that I could bring into my work.
Small, consistent actions in our daily lives are a powerful way to achieve a goal. As a small business owner there is always something that needs my attention. As someone who advocates continuous learning and supports organisations to create a strong learning culture I am conscious of the need for me to walk the talk. Yet I struggle with the same challenges as everyone else to carve out time for my learning and be deliberate with it. The fact that it’s been three months since I relaunched my personal blog and I haven’t made any further posts is evidence of this.
Setting a Daily Learning Habit
This week I was refreshing materials for a Professional Development planning session that I run for a client. At the end of the session I invite participants to set a daily learning habit. I set this up by walking through the habit loop which I discovered through Charles Duhigg’s work on the science of habits. You can read about this loop in Duhigg’s post on how habits work.
Source: Charles Duhigg, How Habits Work
Using Time and Place as Cues to Strengthen the Habit Loop
Then I introduce the habit intention formula from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. To create a strong, sustainable daily habit, Clear suggests anchoring the habit to a specific time and place. These cues help initiate the habit loop and establish a routine, making it easier to perform the habit consistently.
He suggests using the following formula to set the intention to build a habit:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]
Linking a habit to a specific time create a sense of consistency and predictability, while associate a habit with a specific location provides an environmental cue to trigger the behaviour we are trying to build into a habit.
Using my daily commute as a specific time and place to practice Working Out Loud allowed me to anchor the habit. The familiarity and consistency of these cues made it easier for me to establish a regular routine.
Rewards Reinforce a Habit
Initially the rewards were relatively small – someone accepted a connection request, liked a comment I made, answered a question or thanked me for sharing a resource. Then, much like compound interest, they began to accumulate. The size and impact of the rewards grew. I built relationships through a series of gradually deeper interactions. I experimented in my work with new approaches I was discovering, sharing back what I was learning into my network. In a virtuous cycle this strengthened my networks further, feeding my learning and work even more. I could literally see and feel my professional practices and effectiveness improving.
Each small action we take daily may not seem significant on its own, but the cumulative effect of these actions can lead to substantial changes in our lives. It’s not an overstatement to say that my professional development and career path were radically transformed kicked off by the small daily habit of Working Out Loud.
My New Daily Habit Intention
One of my ’23 for 2023′ goals I set in January is to Work Out Loud on a personal blog. Four months into the year, I’ll give myself a (very small) pat on the back for setting up a new blog site. One less excuse for not blogging regularly.
Time to build a daily blogging habit. Putting it out there –
I will spend 20 minutes writing a personal blog post when I first sit at a table with a coffee every morning.
As I’m travelling for a month I was conscious of needing flexibility in both time and location for my cues to work. At some point every morning I sit down at a table and I have a coffee. For these cues to work it can be any table (or desk – close enough) anywhere from London to Iceland to Washington to San Diego. It can also be at any time in the morning. It could also be longer than 20 minutes – so long a I write for at least 20 minutes, even it takes several writing sessions to complete and publish a post.
Ensuring I respond to the cues is what matters. The rewards will follow and reinforce the habit.
Today’s Time and Place
This morning I sat down at the dining table in Laura Overton’s London home where I’m currently staying with a cup of coffee at 6am and started writing. I’ve written for 50 minutes. The first deposit in my daily blogging investment.