Friday, January 1, 2016

Forming Habits in the New Year

Happy New Year!

Last year I wrote a bit about New Year's resolutions.

As some of you know, I wasn't able to go the full year without checking my e-mail on Saturdays. In fact, that resolution was toast a few weeks into 2015.

One of the problems, I think, was that I had 20 resolutions in 2015. We all have limited self-control, and we can experience overload in January.

I have been doing New Year's resolutions for as long as I can remember, with varied amounts of success, but I am going to try something a bit different this year.

The Cass Sunstein article I included last year gave me the idea. In the article, he states "But how can we ensure that our resolutions actually stick? Behavioral economists have three answers: Make them easy and automatic, make them a matter of habit, and make them fun. A resolution is more likely to work if it is concrete and can be translated into a simple routine."

This year, instead of a long list of resolutions, I plan to focus on forming one habit each month. I hope the habits will continue after that month, but after one month of intense focus, hopefully the habit will have moved into the less laborious System 1.

Interested to see how this works. It may be a more sustainable solution. If you form the right habits, then it is less likely that you will have to continue setting the same goals (like "lose weight" and "save more") each year. For example, my saving-related resolutions are always the simplest to keep because I just change my direct deposit rules and let it run its course. Direct deposit acts a bit like an already formed habit - easy and automatic. Of course, many habits are quite difficult to form, but I think focusing on one a month sounds doable. Whether I can keep all 12 going in December 2016 (and beyond) remains to be seen.

Good luck to all those making resolutions!

Behavioral Economics, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Psychology | Permalink


Nice plan. And I like the quote. I also think accountability can be key. So, I will do this with you. January: I will establish a habit of doing 30 minutes of housework a day. I hate housework, but I will figure out a way of making it automatic and fun! I start today. To account for the time I am at the AALS, I will with pay forward or make up hours. Same with other trips. Let's keep in touch about how we're doing.

Posted by: joanheminway | Jan 1, 2016 7:48:52 AM

Thanks, Joan. I will send you an e-mail. My first three habits (for the first three months) all have to do with automizing my morning routine - reflection first, exercise second, healthy breakfast third. Hopefully all before the children and Katie wake up. 2015 was miserable on all three of those habits. You are right that we have to think about ways to deal with exceptional circumstances, as life is unpredictable.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Jan 1, 2016 9:16:07 AM

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