How to Be More Productive: 4 Stages of Successful Habit Change

Business.com / Work Life / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Old habits die hard. While those words are true, the reason old habits seem so hard to change is because most of us go about it wrong.

I have carefully developed this plan in a way that makes it easy to work them into your life.

This article is going to focus on the four phases of developing a new habit.

Developing new habits has four essential steps.

While the habit itself might vary, this process will not.

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Stage 1: Plan the Change

This is the easiest stage and most people will begin and end here. You know that you need to make a change to your life, so you plan that change and set a goal. This is the same stage where one would set a New Year’s Resolution or decide to lose 20 pounds.

In stage one, you still don’t have the exact method that you will use to overcome the roadblocks that might stand in the way of achieving your goal.  This stage is easy to get started with but it is probably the most difficult stage to complete. Making the decision to change your life is easy but actually going through with it is not so clear cut.

I recommend that you make a list of pros and cons of changing a particular habit. The pros will be any advantages or benefits that changing this habit will provide. The cons are the obstacles that will stand in your way. Determine how the change will benefit your life. Write this stuff down.

This is another mistake that so many people make. They simply do not write it down. If you cannot make enough of a commitment to write it down, then how are you ever going to be able to take action?

Stage 2: Prepare for Change

This is the stage only a small percentage of individuals reach. At this point, you have made up your mind that you are going to make a change. Therefore, you are left with the important task of preparing for that change. By now, you want to take action as quickly as possible. You know that this change is something that must happen. Now you just need to form a plan.

Reexamine that list of pros and cons that you wrote down in stage one and create solutions that address all of the cons. For example, if one of the cons was that you do not have the time, then you will have to find a way to make the time. Maybe you wake up an hour early each day or replace a less important task with one that works toward achieving your new goal.

Finally, it’s important that any goals you set are measurable.

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Stage 3: Take Action

Again, you can make promises until you’re blue in the face but words are meaningless unless they are followed by action. If you make it this far then you are almost there. Start acting on your plan and follow through with it. You are going to come up against challenges so fight through them.

For example, one of the greatest challenges that those starting their own business come across is when friends randomly show up and try to persuade them into changing their plans. The solution here would be to say, no.

When it comes to change then you’re going to have to make a commitment. When I started online, my first dilemma was learning how to make my own website from scratch. I spent hours but I took persistent action. Rome was not built overnight. It was built one brick at a time.

Track your progress.

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Stage 4: Make Adjustments

This is why it’s so important that you track your progress. You’re going to run into obstacles or feel as if your change is at a stand-still. If you are tracking your progress then you can easily see even the smallest of changes. With all change comes failure. Don’t try to avoid failure; allow it to make you stronger. Success is not determined by how many times you fall down but whether or not you get back up.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” - Thomas Edison

This quote is extremely powerful. No matter what kind of change you are trying to make, if you fail then you will need to make adjustments to your plan. Then keep fighting forward. I promise you that the most successful people in the world have failed multiple times in their life. 

Learning to make adjustments is probably the most important stage in developing better habits. We all make plans that fail. Those of us who learn to make the necessary adjustments are going to have the greatest chance at actually following through with these changes.

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