Monday, February 7, 2011

How long does habit formation take?

My "day job" is as an IT manager and I spend a lot of time vetting processes, methodologies, etc. I tend to use concepts like "Getting Things Done" and "Inbox Zero" to clear time for my burgeoning shooting hobby.

Some of my experiences in the IT world have translated nicely to competitive shooting and training - more on that in another post - and the following article is definitely one of them!

See, a lot of self-help books and concepts try to instill a 21-day program to form a habit/break a bad habit - I always thought that was a little on the "light" side. I've noticed that I've had to work harder that 21 days to refine/relearn some skills, such as my drawstroke.

Anyway - turns out that 21-days isn't really enough... The full article is available here:

The salient analysis is below:

21 days, 3%, and other self-help myths
Evaluating the evidence behind common self-improvement truisms

Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities, FranklinCovey's flagship time-management seminar, asks seminar-goers to make several commitments in a "21-day experiment"--to plan their day each of the next 21 days, for instance.

When I took the seminar in the fall of 2005, our facilitator explained: "Why 21 days? Because that's how long it takes to form a new habit." I can’t find this in the abridged audio of Focus, but a quick Google search confirmed others also remember this statement. FranklinCovey co-founder Stephen R. Covey and FC blogger Stephanie Vozza both repeat the 21-day story on the web.

Unfortunately, it isn’t true. Jeremy Dean wrote a great summary of recent findings on habit formation by Phillipa Lally and colleagues (Lally et al., 2009):

Although the average was 66 days, there was marked variation in how long habits took to form, anywhere from 18 days up to 254 days in the habits examined in this study. As you'd imagine, drinking a daily glass of water became automatic very quickly but doing 50 sit-ups before breakfast required more dedication. . . .

What does this mean if you're a competitive shooter?

Daily dryfire practice with regular vetting of skills at, say, a match, will allow you to develop the habits/skills you realize your lacking...

How do you know what skills you're lacking?

That's the title of another post, which is still being edited....