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Habits, Triggers and Calendars

You may have never heard of Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist at New York University. He and Veronika Brand-Starter are known to be pioneers of something called action triggers. “What in the world is an action trigger,” you ask? Action triggers are systems that precipitate action to be taken. As Gollwitzer would explain it, they are simply specific action steps that interrupt people’s normal stream of consciousness.

How does this apply to you and me? Ever wonder how they do it? How a short-order cook prepares tasty meals in a hectic, rush-rush environment, and does it all with a smile? The answer is simple: A system (an action trigger). The next time you are in a little diner for lunch purposefully sit in a place where you can see the short-order cook preparing the food. It is like poetry in motion. One event triggers another event to take place.

If your world is like mine, it is filled with to-do lists, appointments, meetings, phone calls, and projects. Like the short-order cook, without a system in place your world would not be very productive and probably very chaotic. However, with a system you will be able to focus on multiple tasks at once, prepare for appointments, and make good use of your time.

The first trigger you must consider is your calendar. Do you have one? Just one? Is it helping or hindering you? Your daily calendar should be the tool that tells you…

  • What to do – your task list

  • Who to call – your contact list

  • Where to be – your daily calendar

Putting something on your calendar creates a mental anchor in your brain. It is the “trigger” that your brain needs to get something done or to be at the right place and the right time. For instance, if you really want to lose a few pounds and get healthier you know exercise will be a part of your life. By putting an appointment on your calendar to go to the gym, take that bike ride or play in a tennis match your brain will make sure you follow the trigger.

The better your triggers the more often you will reach your goals and the more successful you will be. Positive and successful habits are formed by putting triggers in your life and one of the best and first places is on your daily calendar.

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