It’s 10:58am on a Wednesday. gapper Valerie Alde-Hayman finds herself waiting around in the main area of the gap intelligence office, plate in hand. It’s likely that soon her waiting will get rewarded with some delicious Trader Joe’s snacks – maybe some cheese puffs, maybe some triple ginger cookies, or even some delightfully garlicky hummus.

Snack Attack happens at gap intelligence every Wednesday at 11am. It’s a habit that has been ingrained in gappers for years now. So much so that gappers naturally start flocking to the main office area or getting antsy if they’re sitting in a meeting that nears 11am.

This is a perfect example of the habit loop, something gappers who participate in gap’s book club recently learned about from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. For better or for worse, habits permeate our lives – both professionally and personally.

Change Your Routine, Reap the Reward

Most habits end with some sort of reward. Positive rewards are the driving force behind forming habits. However, the rewards are generally not the “problem” in bad habits. For example, some might argue that biting their nails when mindlessly watching TV or sitting in a boring meeting makes them feel good or productive.  Othes use something like exercise to achieve the same results of feeling good and productive.  The routine to achieve the reward (feeling good and productive) is wildly different.  The principles of the habit loop can help those that want to make a change understand how to do so. 

Reading The Power of Habit made gap intelligence book-clubbers reflect upon what habits, good or bad, our company has.  Here are some of the things we came up with:

  • List Making: many gappers are addicted to list-making. At the end of each working task, boring or exciting, we get to tick something off our to-do list. Checking a check box is a great reward!
  • Emails: keeping a tidy inbox is something a lot of gappers have in common. Making sure that all emails are read and responded to tends to provide similar satisfaction as crossing something off your to-do list.
  • New Products and Services: at gap, we like to please our clients and we love data. When clients ask us if we can start a new service, go to a new retailer, or any other data request, we usually jump at the chance and say yes! In the past, we would sometimes say yes so quickly that we didn't always have a good battle plan. In my six years at gap, I have personally seen this routine change.  We have moved away from a mad scramble to get data ready for client delivery to more organized and efficient timelines. Our reward has stayed the same (pleasing our clients and gaining new business), but our routine has certainly evolved.
  • Meetings: gap intelligence is an incredibly collaborative company, and we have lots of meetings. Sometimes we have so many meetings, we don’t have time to actually work! We also all realize that meetings are necessary to maintain our collaborative spirit. This is a more recent habit that the company is trying to alter the routine for: how can we make meetings quicker and more streamlined without altering the reward of having  productive meetings that cover everything we need to talk about?

Habits come in many shapes and sizes. Once you identify the reward, all you have to do is change the routine. Easy, right?