As you head back into the office or just back into business mode, you’re bound to be making goals and promising yourself you will stop doing X and start doing more Y. And most likely, as most of us are with new habits or resolutions, that new diet or exercise routine will last, oh, maybe two weeks before fizzling out. But why is it so hard for us to make new habits part of our everyday routine? Psychology and neuroscience will tell us that habits are rooted deep in our subconscious minds and there are all kinds of factors that make them so hard to break. Well, here are some proven ways to help get rid of the old and stick to the new:

 

Consistency.

When you create a new routine or habit, consistency is absolutely key in being able to continue it. You’ve got to create the new routine, do it at the same time, same place or keep as many of the factors the same as possible. The consistency creates a pattern and that pattern becomes habit.

 

Replace the bad habit with a good one.

You may have just resolved to give up one bad habit, say spending too much time reading through emails or getting too distracted on social media. If you try to just quit doing something without replacing your bad habit with a new one, you’ll end up falling into your same old routine. Replace the bad habit with a good one, you’ll be more likely to adopt the new routine. Pick up your phone too much while working because it’s sitting right next to your computer, hide your phone across the room to limit distractions and then put a bowl of something healthy like grapes or almonds where your phone would normally be. So instead of reaching for your phone, reach for some fruit to keep you occupied for a minute and then get back to work.

 

Form a trigger.

Our brains develop habits that all start with a trigger. A trigger can be a feeling or an action, anything that prompts us to do the things we do to feel better, indulge a little or relax. When you want to form a new habit, you’ll need to form some sort of new trigger. This will help embed your new habit into your mind. This could be something as snapping your fingers or clicking your pen before you take a walk around the building (to avoid getting that fourth cup of coffee).

 

Baby steps.

Many habits or resolutions fail because we’re too ambitious or unrealistic about what we can change in the long term. Suddenly deciding to go vegetarian for the year or never checking email past dinner time can be too much too soon. When you want to make a change and make it for good, start small – a week at a time and then bump it up to 30 days. Set yourself up to make progress over time and don’t try drastically changing your whole lifestyle overnight.

 

Take inventory of your emotional state.

Self-awareness is a big one too. Most of our bad habits stem from emotional states like stress, anger, sadness or self-consciousness. Do a quick mental inventory of when you tend to indulge in your worst habits. Dealing with a complicated client? A traffic jam on your way to the office? What are you feeling and how do your habits help you deal with those feelings? The more you know about the habits you want to change or get rid of, the better you can swap them out for something healthier mentally and physically.