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How to Build Good Habits and Excel as a Junior Developer Part 4: Make It Obvious

What Now?

You've went through your habits and have identified the habits that do not push you towards the person you want to become. How do you start habits that do push you towards becoming the person you want to become? The First Law of Behavior Change: Make It Obvious. The most common cues to trigger behavior are Time and Location.

Let's Make It Obvious

I have fallen victim to thinking that I lacked the motivation to learn or work on projects. Some days, we will lack the drive and motivation to do things and days off are good for your mental health. However, you aren't lacking motivation on the days where you just decide not to learn, code, read, or write. We lack intention. So to start making a new habit stick, you need to have an implementation intention.

When situation X arises, I will perform Y response.

You could take this a step further and write down exactly what time and day of the week you will do things. People who create implementation intention statements and plans are more likely to follow through with that plan. An example of one of my implementation intentions

When I start my lunch break, I will read at least one chapter of (X) book.

This habit has started taking form and I have a current streak of 24 days straight. Some days it's reading, while other days it's listening to an audiobook. Both are the same goal; when I start my lunch break, I start by reading/listening to at least one chapter of a book.

If you struggle to figure out a good time to start your new habit, try something simple like the first day of the week, month, or even the New Year. The easiest way to implement forming a new habit is to state it like this:

I will [Behavior] at [Time] in [Location].

One of the great unseen benefits of implementation intentions is that by being specific about your plan of what you want to do and how you are going to do it, makes it a lot easier to say NO to things that block your progress or distract you from your overall goal. This is only one way to get started.

Diderot Effect

The Diderot Effect named after French Philosopher Denis Diderot ties into more consumerism than habits, but it boils down to the tendency for one purchase of a good to lead to another. For our cause, the Diderot Effect plays with too many of our human behaviors. We usually decide what to do next based on what we just accomplished. Going to the bathroom leads to washing and drying our hands. Seeing the mail get delivered leads to us checking our mail. Each of our actions becomes the cue that will trigger the next behavior. Why is this important and how does it help us create new habits?

Habit Stacking

The main idea of Habit Stacking is to take the new habit you want to create and stack it onto an existing habit that you already have. Instead of trying to figure out a time and location to do our new habit, we pair it with a current habit.

After I [Current Habit], I will [New Habit]

This is how I have stuck with reading. I always take a lunch break at work, so I tied the new habit I wanted Reading to the existing habit Starting Lunch. It takes a little bit to get used to and figure out which habits stack together. Make sure to honestly evaluate your choices - picking the morning to start a new habit when you know that your mornings are chaos, probably isn't the best choice to start a new habit. Once you have mastered the basic structure, you can advance to creating larger stacks of habits. Chain small habits together and take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from completing one behavior and lead it directly into another one. Hence, creating a Positive Diderot Effect.

Brainstorm some of your current habits that you have by using the Habits Scorecard from the previous article as your starting point. Confirm that the habits you choose to stack with are habits that you perform without fail. Once you have figured out your current habits you can figure out where to implement your new habit in the stack. Ensure that your cue to start the new habit is very clear. Having a vague cue will lead to confusion and a lack of understanding of when to start the new habit. Example could be:

When I go to lunch, I will turn my phone off

Where's the issue? When you go to lunch is fairly vague to start turning your phone off. Do you turn the phone off as you are leaving for lunch? When you get to the place you are eating lunch? After you have started eating? Being precise helps make the habit stick. A better example would be:

When I leave my desk for lunch, I will turn my phone off

The more tightly bound your new habit is to a current habit and the cue it triggers, the better your odds of noticing the cue and acting by performing your new habit.

Up Next:

We have now begun to make our new habits obvious according to the 1st Law of Behavior Change. How can we assist ourselves more in maintaining our newfound success? We will go over how your environment is more important than your motivation to perform your new habit. Thank you again for reading and responding to this series in such a positive way. Please reach out to me here or on Twitter @J3ffJessie.

Top comments (4)

gixxerblade profile image
Steve Clark 🤷‍♀️

Best one of the four. Great job Jeff

j3ffjessie profile image

Thanks. I will credit most of it to my editor.

juanfrank77 profile image
Juan F Gonzalez

Atomic Habits is such a great book indeed.

j3ffjessie profile image

Definitely. So much good knowledge to put to use.