“Habits building is the key to long-lasting behaviour change” – James Clear

Sounds simple enough, right? But I urge you to reread it, slowly, let the words sink in.

Goals are helpful to set direction, but the work of actual change requires small shifts (less than 2 mins) each day built over time into lasting shifts in identity. We build systems that make a new desired habit obvious, easy, attractive, and satisfying to support this small change. This system-building is the key to developing new desirable habits and kicking the less desirable ones to the curb.

Rather than habits, I prefer to use the terminology practice because developing a practice implies that there is an element of self-reflection and improvement in that practice rather than mindlessly repeating a new task.

Each year I’m in the practice of reviewing the year, reflecting on what’s working and not and looking ahead to where I want to be at the end of the next year. The 52-week planner that sits on my wall is part of the ‘obvious’ that helps me mark time and remain present to how precious it is. There’s something about a whole year on a page that elevates the fleeting nature of time for me.

At the end of 2021, it was hard to get interested in this practice. Many things had not gone to plan over the year and the Christmas that I was hoping for evaporated. The fog and funk of the end of year days that blur into one another had me feeling stuck.

What got me out of the funk?

Well, as it turns out, one of my habits really came through for me. Reading and listening to others and reflection on how that applies for me! It seems obvious, but the obvious can be hard to see during a funk.

I listened to Brene Browns’ Rising Strong ‘on a loop.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.

This from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt was something I repeated to myself.

It’s OK that you err and fall and get knocked down; the credit is with you; if you’re in the arena and showing up then, that’s what counts.

This message, coupled with the Atomic Habits book, kept pushing me to just ‘show up’ and do something. And little by little, chipping away at the 2022 plan of attack, I’ve finally made some progress.

One of the activities that James Clear recommends is a review of your own habits, and as I was going through this process, it struck me how many of the tactics put forward in his book I had used over the years without any specific intention of creating a habit.

Where do you want to go? (Set a marker)

The research says that the ‘work’ must be around 4 percent harder than your current level of ability to develop a practice. Once you’ve achieved that new level, the new goal probably needs to be a bit harder than that again 😉

For me, this is setting a goal that feels like a bit of a stretch but that if I apply myself, I can make it. I roughly use a framework shared by Janine Garner, which gives 4 areas of life to consider; self, others, finance and business. How you interpret these categories is up to you.

At 6R last year, we all set ourselves a personal goal each quarter and checked in through the year to see how we were progressing. It’s not all about hitting financial targets or improvement goals; sometimes, it’s about getting your space set up properly or developing a great playlist. There’s no pressure on team members to ‘achieve’ a personal goal, but it’s there and a reminder that you’ve shared with others how you’re going to get to your goal. Many authors have recommended this as a form of ‘social pressure’ that can be good social pressure.

I have various people in my life that help me stay accountable to them and myself, whether it’s for business, fitness or music evolution. Figuring out where you want to be is one of the hardest things. To me, this is where the ‘4 parts of life’ are helpful. If you can’t figure out your professional life, you can usually give yourself a personal goal to aim for and vice versa. You can still get a sense of achievement from one area that builds confidence in the process.

How are you going to get there?

This is where my 52-week birds-eye view is very helpful. I’ve laid out the high-level steps that I use to get this planner into shape (and I use a pencil so I can erase and rework when needed) in this months newsletter if you’re interested. If you would like to get your hands on it you can do that here.

When I use this way of looking at the year, I often find that I need to start a lot earlier than I originally think when it comes to achieving a goal. This is where the building of small changes is so helpful. Clear suggests tactics like stacking good habits with one another (it can be small) add a small behaviour change to something you know you already do each day. I have added a couple of stretches whilst I’m waiting for my coffee to brew – it’s 4 minutes, so it’s not a big deal, but it does mean I get 4 minutes of stretches in now when I didn’t before.

I highly recommend subscribing to the 30 days that Clear uses to walk through how to create good habits, but I use visual markers (like ticking off each day in my calendar/book) and trackers on my phone to record my steps. I find the building of days with the target number of steps completed very satisfying.

Which tactics can be applied to projects?

Buddy Up

Projects, too, require habit changes and building of new ways of working; starting small and repeating often allows people time to adjust. Learning new things with a buddy is a tactic we often use in training and testing; two heads are able to help one another, and having someone else who is learning alongside you is reassuring.

Regular Check-ins

Regular check-ins in the project create a form of social pressure; knowing that a topic will be discussed and reviewed again in ‘n’ days adds some urgency to the team’s progress.


Building a practice requires from time to time that we pause and reflect and confirm for ourselves and others whether or not the practice is still serving our end goal.

Stacking Good Habits with One Another

During a meeting introduce people, make sure they all know one another and why they are there and then closing out the meeting means making sure that people are clear about what it is that they are to do from here.

Creating rules and rewards for completion

If you want people to follow through with any changes they’ve made, then you need to offer them some kind of incentive. In this case, incentives mean something different than rewards. Employees get rewarded for their hard work. Motivation should be built into incentives so they’re not just rewards for completing tasks but rather motivators for embracing and putting forth an effort towards achieving goals. This is essential for a successful project.

It’s never too late to start.

If you’re struggling to get started, then try using the above methods to kickstart your journey. The key is repetition and something small that builds your confidence.

The most important thing is that you keep moving forward.

The 6R team work behind the scenes, leading through project management, testing, training and team building to deliver project success. If you’re preparing for a project or need help to sort out decision making please connect!

Happy New Year! And may your 2022 plans bring systems that support your desired improvements and changes.