Implementation Intention is a strategy that can be used in forming Habits, and talks about having a concrete plan on how you will implement a certain habit into your life.
Our habits always start with a cue, and the idea behind implementation intentions is to leverage common cues like time and location, in order to trigger some desired habits. Implementation intention is an agreement we write with ourselves, which we then try to follow.
An implementation intention is formatted like so:
I will $HABIT in $LOCATION at $TIME
Taking this formula, we might create an implementation intention like so:
I will do 10 minutes of yoga in my home during my lunch break
While it follows the formula, this is a bad implementation intention as it leaves a lot of and options:
- Will you do the push-ups at the start of the lunch break, in the middle or at the end?
- Where in your home will you do the exercise, next to your desk or in the living room?
One of the reasons why Implementation intentions work is that they remove the decision-making process from the moment of execution, and thus greatly increase your chances of actually following through - there is nothing to think about, just do precisely what you wanted to. This allows us not to get into a trap of thoughts like:
- ok, my break has started, shall I start my exercise? Maybe let's first go to toilet
- ah the lunch is ready and smells nice, and I'm starving - ill exercise after the meal
- who the hell feels like exercising now on the full stomach - guess ill exercise later™
Let's rewrite the implementation intention to suit our needs better:
I will do 10 minutes of yoga next to my desk when i close my laptop lid at the beginning of my lunch break.
There, we removed all doubts and questions from our Implementation intention - next time you close that laptop lid, you'll know exactly what to do.
We can tie in the idea of Designing Environments for Habits and place the mat right next to our working desk, because we want to lower that friction as much as possible.
Once you do a habit, you might realize that the end of a habit might be a pretty good cue for starting a new habit, which is covered in more detail in Habit Stacking.