Bite Sized Habits Newsflash: It's time to forget about motivation

If you want to stay informed on the latest evidence-based ways to support your healthy habits you can join the weekly Bite-Sized Habits newsletter here


“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Jim Ryun

As many of you know I'm a big fan of quotes, the one above being one I frequently start my talks with. Motivation, willpower, drive whatever you call it, it's just the start. Habit change is a lifetime journey. I'm not saying that to put you off but to give you permission. Permission to take the time to experiment (with what works for you), to fail (and iterate as needed) and to find joy (finding those habits you love).

Here are a few habit insights for you. You don't need to engage with any of them but if one calls to you, take it in and use it to inspire you or guide you. 

Something to read:

If you are trying to change your exercise habits, this one is for you. These are some of the top evidence-based ways to harness the power of motivational science to help you not only form exercise habits but importantly, help you to stick to them long term.

Something to listen to:

Learn how vulnerability breeds courage: New York Times best-selling author Brene Brown is a real hero of mine and her new Unlocking Us podcast does not disappoint. What I love about her style is that it is so action-driven. I have taken away so many insights from this podcast to apply to my own life. I highly recommend the episode on learning to apologise - a totally underutilised life skill.

Something to try:

Try tying your habit to a time of day; it takes willpower/motivation out of the equation.

Research has shown for the formation of exercise habits there is great power in the context cue of time.  One study examining two conditions: 

1. Participants who exercised whenever they felt like it / when they were motivated to exercise

2. Participants who chose a specific time of day to exercise each day

Found that:

Those who exercised at the same time every day reported that they did so without thinking or without having to remind themselves to exercise. Exercising at that time of day had become automated for them i.e. it had become a habit.
Those who worked out at inconsistent times/when they felt like it, had far less exercise adherence over time and found it harder to create a habit.
The same goes for research into medication adherence it didn't matter when participants took their pills i.e. if it was morning, afternoon or evening. The key was doing it at the same time each day. Those that did this were the ones who were most consistent. 

Ultimately the conscious/thinking mind can fool us into believing that taking pills or exercising at a different time shouldn't matter if you're sufficiently motivated. However, this isn't true. It's the consistency in time of day that allows these behaviours to become habits. 

Maybe you are struggling to maintain a walking, running or medication habit, why not try tying your habit to a particular time of day (HINT: a time when it's easiest for you to perform the behaviour) and see what impact that could have on your ability to stick with it. 

If you want to stay informed on the latest evidence-based ways to support your healthy habits you can join the Bite-Sized Habits newsletter here

Published on 28th Feb 2020 at 13:19 by Dr Heather McKee

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Copyright ©2024 Dr. Heather McKee

Dr. Heather McKee is registered in Ireland Reg. No. 687397 with the registered address at 314 Mother Teresa House, Loreto Abby, Rathfarnham, D14 NR20, Co. Dublin, Ireland

This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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