Being a person longer obsessed with self-development and productivity, I’ve long known that habits are the key to success.
Consistency, not perfection is what separates high performers from the pack.
If you’ve read at all about habits, you know there are a few key elements to building them:
Trigger > Routine > Reward
- The trigger is what reminds you or initiates the habit.
- The routine is what you actually do.
- And the reward is the benefit of doing the habit.
The reward can either be intrinsic, like a feeling of pride or a rush of endorphins after a run. Or external like a smoothie or cup of butter coffee (my favorite) after a training session.
There are a lot of ways to increase your chances of success with a habit. Using a habit tracker, getting accountability and making your goal small to start with are a few of the common recommendations.
But if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably tried a lot of these things. You’ve made big goals and struggled to achieve them (New Years, anyone?) not because of a lack of good intention, but because of a failure to implement a system.
I’ve found the weakest link in the chain is usually the strength of the trigger.
If you don’t have a strong reminder to do the habit, you fail before you even start
Let’s look at a common example, trying to jog every day before work. Let’s say I decide that my trigger to run is my morning shower. I take my shower, then I put on my shoes (and clothes, hopefully) and go head out the door.
Great idea. But what if I don’t remember that my shower is my trigger? What if I forget?
You can try to combat this by setting a reminder on your phone, but we all know how easy it is to ignore an alarm amidst the other million notifications. It’s not a great idea to rely on being reminded in a place that is a vortex of distraction.
I mean, how many times have you looked at your phone meaning to do something, and found yourself in Instagram or email trying to remember what exactly you were intending to do in the first place?
My point exactly.
The bottom line is this: the most important first part of creating a new habit isn’t willpower or discipline, it’s remembering to do the habit.
The technique that I want to share with you is called the visual trigger technique. I’ve used it to build my coaching business, exercise more regularly, and create deeper relationships.
So, what is the visual trigger technique and why does it work?
Watch this video to see how I use this technique:
A visual trigger is something that’s in your physical space you interact with every day. Ideally, it’s something very visually loud and hard to ignore.
The more visceral it is, the better. It’s something you want to be physically interacting with.
Example one: The Rock Jar Strategy
One of my current goals is to build more meaningful relationships. I know that doing a better job of keeping in touch with my friends, family and peers will have a huge impact on my quality of life and the success of my work.
So, I put two jars on my desk. One is filled with rocks, the other is empty. Each rock represents a connection, whether that be an email, phone call or voice message. Every time I make a connection, I move one rock to the other jar. My goal is 30 connections a month, or one a day. At the end of the month, I want to have all the rocks moved from one jar to the other.
The rocks for you could represent 30 minutes of movement or submitting a resume. Whatever your goal is, you decide what each rock represents.
The purpose is to choose an action you can control. You can’t control the outcome, but you can control how many rocks you move each day.
Move enough of them, and success is pretty much inevitable.
Note: This is a technique I adapted from James Clear’s paper clip strategy.
Example two: The Sticky Note Strategy
If you’re a coach or some kind of service provider, you know that following up with leads and serving your clients is critical to your business. But it can be easy to forget to forget to check in if you don’t have a system for tracking potential clients.
I solved this problem with the visual trigger technique. Each client and potential client gets a sticky note with their name, primary concern, and the last date I contacted them.
It’s right above my desk and in constant view so I can’t ignore it.
Every day I touch each one and look at the last date I followed up. I never let a client or potential client go more than a few days without me following up to check in and add value.
Since doing this, I have no problem filling up my client roster.
The sticky note approach isn’t limited to building your business though. You could create a note for each workout you do, and the date of the last time you did it. You might have another note reminding you why it’s important for you to follow through, and even another with a reminder what to do if things get tough like “do your best” or “text my coach.”
No coach? I can help with that. 🙂
How you can use this technique to stay consistent with your habits
It literally takes 5-10 minutes to get the sticky notes, or jars of rocks set up. Don’t make it complicated, just decide what your goal is, and how you’re going to track it.
If you want to really bulletproof your odds, use this with some kind of accountability. Tell someone you’re going to do this, so they can follow up with you.
Your future self will thank you.
Want to master the exercise habit?
Get a free mobility lesson you can do anywhere when you join the waitlist for my course, the Primal Body Reboot.
You’ll learn how to create functional strength and flexibility with simple ground-based movements. No equipment necessary.