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Habit change as a design exercise

Uncategorized Nov 17, 2019



Learn to Successfully Design Your Habits Easily

Previously, I’ve talked about building habits using pure willpower and the danger of anchoring on this alone to develop new habits.  Today is about the different ways with which you can start building really awesome habits. These tips are based on two books that truly inspired me: The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits.

First off, understand that your habits link to your identity.  How you see yourself will be reinforced by the habits that you adopt.  Full disclosure, I have for myself 8 statements that I read each morning in which I anchor my identity. The more reinforced the identity gets, the more improvement you will see over time.  This is fundamental in establishing habits.  

Make them obvious.  Implementation intention is the key here.  Identify a regular time, a place or a situation when you will do the new habits.  The easiest way is to tie a new habit with an already existing habit such as listening to an audiobook each morning during your travel time.

Make them attractive.  Make it rewarding by tying the new habit with something you like to do regularly.

Make them easy.  As in goal setting, break down the habit into small, easy to execute steps which you can observe religiously.

Make them satisfying.  This is about the end of the habit and making it satisfying so that you are more likely to repeat it.

Forming new habits involves intentional design, not just plain willpower.  Today, I share with you the Four Design Elements that will take you through your new desired habits in a breeze.  Do these four elements to make your journey towards your new habits and ideal self-identity a success.


Hey, there!  This is Shobhit, founder of Intentional Product Manager.

Welcome everyone who joined.  These sessions I typically try to keep and limit them to about 15 minutes.  The goal is to get everyone to learn something new and try to apply them this week itself.  We will come back next week where we gather and learn something new again. So, it’s a constant learning.  Now, typically I focus on one practice as a product manager. Today it’s a little meta and by the way, I want to make sure that you can hear me and see  me so you can just say something in the chat, if you can hear me, that would be really awesome.

So it’s all about habits and I realize for the longest time I’ve always tried to build up my habits and try to improve how I’m doing these things but I’ve done it from a place of using willpower to do that which is great using will power but that’s just like using only one weapon in the arsenal that you have of how you can build better habits.  So today I’m going to talk through various ways with which you can start to build really awesome habits and give me just one second I’d like to pull up my notes. I took a whole bunch of notes for this one. So, a lot of this is based on two books. If anybody here wants to go and learn more about this, you certainly can.Those two books are one is the Power of Habit by I believe the author’s name is Charles Duhigg.  But I might be wrong. But if you Google the Power of Habit or look it up in Amazon, you’ll certainly find that. Now the second piece here is, the second book is called Atomic Habits. It’s one that has strongly influenced my own thinking about habits and how I go to establish those. So if you’re inclined to learn more, go ahead and pick up that book. It’s something that’s really awesome. I highly recommend that book.

So for habits, you know I’m gonna talk about 5 main things

So, first of all, your habits link with you identity. 

How you see yourself.  What habits are you doing that are reinforcing that.  They’re basically forming your identity.

You’re essentially casting the work for your identity for what are the habits you’re adopting.So for example, if you want to adopt the habit of exercise, first step is to set your identity as “I’m an athlete”.  I don’t do exercise, I’m an athlete and reinforce that everyday. So, I have a, especially for myself, 8 statements that I read every morning which tend to anchor my identity and help the habits that I‘m building.  Then it’s a loop right, so the more you build, the more you reinforce that and then you add in those great habits, the more reinforced the identity gets and then it just keeps improving over time. That’s like the fundamental thing you can do to try to establish better habits.  But then there’s the four things you can do to treat habit as a design exercise and not just use will power but use these design elements.

So here’s those four, I’ll say them and then I’ll explain what they are.  So the four ones are

Make them obvious

Make them attractive

Make them easy

And make them satisfying

Right now these just seems like a bunch of words so I’ll get in to what these are.

Make it obvious. 

The core thing here is just, you should have some sort of implementation intention on when you’re going to go do these habits.  It could be a date and time that every morning at 530 am, I go and work out and that’s set.  Or it could be something that’s tied to another habit that you already have. So for example, when I try to really establish the habit of meditation, I tried a whole bunch of things and they all kind of crapped out, didn’t work.  And then, I said okay, every morning I’m going to make coffee. I”m gonna pour the coffee in a cup. I”m gonna set the cup down, let it cool down to a temperature I like. Takes about 10 minutes, that’s the 10 minutes for meditation.  I’ve almost never missed that because it’s anchored in a habit that I already have. So you have to find those right opportunities so that it is obvious that you, these are the times that you need to do that habit. And there’s other ways also just environmental clues you can use to build up these habits.  An example of this was when I wanted to take up yoga using a lot of exercise and meditation…. All I did was I took the yoga mat, the way my house is structured, there’s the living room and on top of that is our bedroom and it’s big because the design of the house and I just laid it out and I told my wife that please don’t put this away, let it be out here.  And everytime I walk back and forth, I could see it. It was very obvious that that’s a habit I need to go do. I need to do yoga so many times a week. And that’s just one way of just making it obvious that that habit needs to happen. Cool! So that was number one, make it obvious.


Number 2 is Make it Attractive.


I am borrowing a lot from a book called Atomic Habits here.  The attractive piece is all around, in some sense, making it so that it’s immediately rewarded.  The way to do that is you tie the habit that you need to do with something that you want to do. And for me the example was when I wanted to take up learning, this book that was kind of dense.  There’s that and oh yeah, the example that I really remember that I want you to take on is going on a trip more often and also doing weight especially. I just tie that with watching one of my favorite TV shows.  I want to watch that TV show but I can’t unless I’m doing those two habits. That really helped cement those two habits because what gets rewarded right away, like that gets done. That’s another way you can start to anchor habits.

The third thing is Making them Easy.

So, very often when we try to establish something new, what we want to do is “Oh yeah I wanna do everything.  I wanna become a better public speaker so I’m gonna go and speak sometimes a week or something like that.” Then you start losing momentum and before you know it that habit is gone.  But what if, what if the only habit you wanted to establish is I’m going to talk for one minute everyday and use public speaking techniques in that one minute. That is so much easier and the thing is that most of the friction comes at the start.  So if you have a small habit that begins that bigger habit that you’re trying to achieve, you might want to actually get that done and just keep going. So for example you’re looking to, let’s say, do better meetings. You know, run better meetings at work. At least in my class, quite a bit, it’s one of the most popular topics.  What I tell my students is, how ‘bout just in a habit of, you walk into the room and you just raise a question of what are we here for or how would this meeting be considered successful. Just start with that. If you start with that, you’ll start seeing some success, that’s easier habit to start doing and then people normally build on that momentum and start doing other things.  So just start with something as simple as what habit, what is the one thing you can do that’s small that gets that habit started. Excellent!

And now, last but not the least, Make it Satisfying.

Make the habit something that gives you satisfaction.  So, this is about the end of the habit. You know we’ve spoken a lot about making it easy so that you get started and making it attractive so that you look forward to it.  This is about the end of the habit because we as humans, we don’t remember experiences fully. We tend to mostly count the beginning, the ending and certain key moments of the experience that stand out to you.  So, the last piece which is about making it satisfactory is how you end the habit. The more satisfaction you get, the more you are likely to repeat that habit in the future. The simplest way here is, of course, to have some sort of habit tracker.  You know, you could use some sort of habit tracking app that you check it off. That checking off gives you that satisfaction and now you’re likely to repeat it. By the way, I have in the past done a task then added it in my to-do list then checked it off.  Just to get that satisfaction of having checked off that item. So, habit tracker works the same way. You could use other ways like, you know, for example, for me I’d go to a spin class every week and the reward is often the socializing and chatting I do when that spin class ends.  That’s kind of fun, catch up with people but I try to keep it as like the reward I get in the end and that makes me go repeat the habit. You know this also could be true for bad habits that you might actually be doing your habit because you get some other reward with it. So, an example is, you know, somebody gave an example like they would go have dessert at a certain point in time during the day and they wanted to give it up.  What they were really getting was the socializing that came with the dessert. So they were like “Okay, can I maybe just keep the socializing but get rid of the habit.” That’s another way of looking at it. All these levers also apply for bad habits that are currently going on for you.

So, I’ll sum up.  You can apply this within the next week and this can become your anchor for applying all these different product management practices or any habits that you want to form.  The levers are

Number 1, the meta thing, is all about reinforcing your identity that you want to build towards.  Don’t say that “I want to exercise more” say that “I want to become an athlete”. That’s the identity you’re building towards.


 And then the four triggers that you can use to build these habits are, number one make it obvious.  Have some sort of place and time or environmental clue that makes a habit happen. Second is make it attractive. Something that you look forward to because it’s tied to something else that you like to do.  Third is to make it easy.  Just have the fullest 30 seconds laid out well so that becomes your habit and then everything else should flow from there.  

And last but not least, Make it satisfactory.  Do something that gives you satisfaction at the end of the habit.  Have a tracker, socializing… whatever works for you and then you’ll likely follow through.  You’ll likely repeat that habit.

Have a great week everyone and I look forward to seeing you again the next time I do this webinar probably next week although I’ll  be in for a conference so I might do it the week after.

If you liked the blog post, you will love my free course “How to be an outstanding Product Leader without working insane hours.” Go ahead, enroll now!








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