How long does it take for a new habit to become automatic?

The bad news first: It’s gonna take a while. The good news: There’s something you can do to speed up the process: early practice.

A recent study followed volunteers who wanted to make a positive change in their diet or exercise regime. The researchers found that the time it took for participants to ingrain a new habit into their behavior ranged from 18 to 254 days, with an average of 66 days.

But they found that subjects who practiced consistently – especially early in the learning process – solidified their habits sooner.

Takeaway for trainers: Create opportunities for learners to practice a new skill early and often after a learning experience.

Source: Lally, P., et al. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009.

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