Keystone habits to transform your career

How to introduce keystone habits into your working week. Plus how they might help you, wherever you are in your career.

What are keystone habits?

‘Keystone habits’ is a term first used by Charles Duhigg (author of ‘The Power of Habit‘). In an article in Success, Duhigg describes keystone habits as the “lead domino in a powerful series of change.”

This boils down to that one change that will spark a number of successes – and results in overall change or improvement.

Duhigg uses several examples to illustrate this point. The first relates to swimmer Michael Phelps’ ‘videotape visualisations’. The second is perhaps a more relatable example of a woman struggling to start her days with healthy choices.

This got us thinking about how the rest of us could use keystone habits within our working lives.

For each example, let’s use Duhigg’s system of identifying…

  1. Your motivations and triggers
  2. Your roadblocks
  3. How to trigger the change

Creating keystone habits: as a job-seeker

  • What’s your motivation? Is it financial, career progression, a desire for change, or unhappiness with your current working situation (or lack of)?
  • What’s stopping you right now? Not knowing what to apply for, not being invited to interviews, something else entirely?
  • How can you trigger change? This will depend on your answers to the ‘roadblock’ question. Let’s consider both examples. You don’t know what to apply for, yet you will know some of your job search requirements. Start here and refer to ‘Day 3’ in this post. If you’re not being invited to interview, you’re either applying for jobs that you may not be suitable for (see Days 4 and 5) or your CV isn’t ‘selling you’ well enough (see Day 6!).

Creating keystone habits: as an employee

  • What’s your motivation? Increased productivity, day-to-day enjoyment, workplace confidence and target-hitting all spring to mind as examples. However, motivation is highly individual, so there may be something totally different triggering your need.
  • What’s stopping you right now? Is there knowledge you need to seek out online or in person? Are you letting fear get in your way? Which single behaviour is your biggest block right now?
  • How can you trigger change? Do your research, ask for help, consider the ways in which you could overcome that negative behaviour through continued practice.

Creating keystone habits: as a manager or boss

  • What’s your motivation? Inspiring your colleagues, encouraging improved performance, re-inspiring yourself, creating a more innovative workplace, garnering more respect?
  • What’s stopping you right now? Do you need to get to know your team better? Are you struggling to lift morale through your current methods? Are you always using the same methods? Do you find you struggle to get on with those who work for or with you?
  • How can you trigger change? It could be organising more informal meetings, 1:1 mentoring,  training sessions, brainstorming opportunities, team building or social events. Or simply starting by researching your problem on a deeper level.

Now to turn your findings into keystone habits:

Set yourself 15 minutes each morning, lunch and/or evening to focus on overcoming your block. Your block might be very different from today’s examples. If it is, research the possible solutions/ask us if we already have a career advice post on this topic!

TIP: record your progress in a notebook, diary, spreadsheet or app! Tracking the changes will help you see how far you’ve come with your habits and whether there’s another aspect that you need to work on next.

Don’t forget to try this outside of work too. It’s ever so easy for personal challenges to eat their way into your working week. For example…

  • What’s your motivation? You’ve noticed you always get a bout of the Monday blues (often starting as the Sunday blues!). It makes it hard for you to get going each week and you arrive at work feeling quiet or moody.
  • What’s stopping you right now? Habit/you don’t know another way.
  • How can you trigger change? Look for solutions. We have a tip-filled article here. Pick a starting tip to experiment with and track your changes.

Returning to Duhigg’s feature, this could also apply to even more personal elements such as your diet or exercise regime, which also rub off on your mood and motivation at the office.

Let us know if there’s an area you’d like some extra help with – you’ll find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.