Monday, June 13, 2011

How long does it take to turn a routine into a habit?

Have you heard it takes 21 days to create a habit? Tons of books state that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, but is that really true? It turns out to be a bit of an urban myth. It actually takes on average 66 days to form a new habit. The range, though, is 18 to 254 days Lally et al. (2009).

What does this mean for you as a teacher?

What routines would you like to have for yourself? Would you like to take a daily walk during lunch time? Would you like to correct all of your papers every day before you go home? Do you want to start a new program with your students?

One simple thing I wanted to do this year was drink more water when I was at work. I realized that many days the bell would ring, the kids would go home and I had not drunk any water all day! Somehow, I just didn't think about it.

To help me change this habit (a very easy habit to change, you will see looking at the graph), I made sure that my environment would support me. I bought a beautiful green water bottle. Then I enlisted the help of other people. I had a few students be my water monitors. (These were kids that needed a few stretch breaks during the day). They could go and fill up my water bottle whenever it was halfway full. They were happy to remind me to drink water, because it meant that they would get to walk and fill up the water bottle! I was able to successfully create this as a new habit over the course of a few months.

Here is a picture from PsyBlog that shows how long it takes for habits to form.

If you know that it is going to take you about three months to form a habit (3 months x 20 work days), you are going to have more realistic expectations of yourself. What supports do you need to put in place to help you do something for those three months, till the activity becomes automatic? Would it help you to make a chart to track your progress, have a fellow teacher who you work with etc.?

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