We’ve being reviewing the structure of a habit.
Charles Duhigg says a habit starts with a cue which triggers a routine which the completion of generates a reward. It occurs to me that a very good habit has at it’s center a detailed, well designed routine which yields the best result.
What do I mean by well designed? I can provide several examples.
A well designed routine may look like a checklist. It has a number of important steps. All are essential. The order is significant. Any step missed or wrongly applied could result in the habit not earnings its reward.
I was reading about Derek Jeter, the Yankee baseball great who just retired after 20 years in the majors. One teammate Brian McCann said about Jeter:
“The thing I’ll tell my grandkids about with Derek is how much I learned about the importance of routine. He is fanatical about preparation. He does the same thing everyday; his work in the cage, his ground balls, his batting practice. He never deviates.”
For 20 years, Jeter had a detailed pre-game practice routine. The same one.
That’s a routine that gains the reward.
Here’s another: our colleague Al H. is a pilot. I’ve flow with him many times.
We would frequently depart early from Bartow and fly to a small air strip in Georgia or South Carolina.
Al’s dad taught him to fly. He insisted on a pre-flight routine. Al carried his pilot log and the ore-flight routine was typed and placed as the first page in the notebook.
Al would walk around the plane. Check the wings, the prop and the tires.
Then he would climb in, open the book and do each step of turning on the ignition according to the list. The same way. Every time. No compromise.
I knew he had the list memorized because I’m pretty sure I had it memorized. But, the list was always handy. It caused him to focus on the task at hand. The reward was we made the trip safely.
It’s one thing to understand how habits are designed: cue, routine, reward.
It’s another to have the wisdom and insight to design one which will assure the desired results.
Pay attention to creating sound routines. Document them. Keep them handy.
Don’t risk the results by taking a shortcut.