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Pay attention, use the fresh start effect and build new habits

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🌟In this issue of the SHIFT, you will learn:

  • The top behaviour for 2023
  • What is the Fresh Start Effect and how to use it in your favour
  • 3 ways to create habits that stick, according to behaviour science

Total reading time: 5 mins

👀Where’s the Attention?

As we prepare to enter the new year, it’s time to look at the behaviour which will impact 2023. It is one scarce commodity that will make all the difference: Attention.

The human brain has limited cognitive resources that can be used at a given time. When our attention is on one task or piece of information, the resources available for other tasks are limited. We filter information in a way that our attention is only on the most important and vital information. Everything that is irrelevant in that red-hot moment gets filtered out. 

In times of overexposure to content, where attention is allocated matters a great deal. Brands that know how to cut through the noise are the ones that will survive.

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So, what will capture attention in 2023?

🧠What feels easy: Above all, humans seek simplicity. The pandemic made everything complex and stressful. With those experiences still fresh in mind, we now crave and choose ease. In 2023, people will move away from anything that creates friction, anything that keeps them from achieving their desired goal. If it takes them too long to find either what they are looking for or something that is relevant to them, they will not engage with the content, product, or service any further.

💓What matters to me: Imagine you are at a party. There’s loud music and a room full of people talking over each other. And you hear someone say your name. You could never know what each person is saying but your own name cuts through all the noise. That’s the cocktail party effect. The ability of our brains to separate what we want to hear, read, see, or know, even in complex and cluttered environments. Content that matters to you and is relevant to you is all you will pay attention to, everything else will get glanced at, scrolled, and swiped past.

💁🏽‍♀️📅New Year, New Me – The Fresh Start Effect

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Have you made your new year’s resolutions yet? What is it about a looming new year that makes us strangely hopeful and optimistic to list out things we want to achieve? Things that we thought of last year too but did not do.

We think of our lives not as a passage of time, but as chapters that have a start and an end. With each chapter, we adopt different behaviours to fit into the role required in the chapter. New beginnings help us to pause and reflect on what we want to do, and on who we want to become. They help us bounce back from previous failures.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait till next year to feel this way. You can wipe the slate clean anytime, by deliberately creating a fresh start effect. Delete that document you keep getting stuck on and open a new one. Empty your fridge and give those food items you’re trying to avoid to a friend or neighbour.

When you begin to feel stuck, or like you are failing at something you set out to do, capitalize on the beginnings. An easy way to do this is by using the closest event to start: a birthday, a new week, or sometimes, simply, a new day. The key is to see the previous day, week or year as a chapter that is now closing.

3 Ways To Form Habits That Stick

📺Temptation Bundling: Take your so-called guilty pleasures and pair them with a task you want to do but find difficult to do. An activity that gives you instant gratification, like having coffee, with one that is good for you but has a delayed reward, such as doodling to give your brain a break. If you let yourself have coffee while you take a much-required break, you’ll start deriving much more value from those coffee breaks. A short break now equals higher productivity later.

‍🚶🏽‍♀️Habit stacking: Stack a new behaviour on top of an existing one. Want to stop procrastinating on summarizing your meetings? Give yourself 15 minutes to do it when you set your laptop down, right after the meeting. You return to your desk after a meeting and set your laptop down. That’s already a habit. Stacking the new behaviour with this helps you remember to do it with less mental effort. Pair new habits with existing, consistent habits.

🎊Celebration: Notice how you gravitate towards doing things that make you feel good? When you celebrate the completion of a task (a new habit), you create a positive feeling inside yourself on demand. This good feeling helps us wire the new habit into our brain as we crave the good feeling. So next time you fold the clothes fresh out of the washing machine instead of letting them pile, pump your fists in victory and tell yourself, “I’m doing a good job!”.

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