The 7-Minute Productivity Solution is based on developing good habits. The 7 minutes you use to accomplish a goal are pre-planned and completed routinely. As I read the book and contemplated using a 7-minute process to accomplish a goal, I started thinking that overnight success stories are mainly a myth.

Of course, we all can think of some person that became an internet sensation overnight. Or maybe we can think of someone who put some money in the stock market on a whim and became a millionaire in their sleep. But mainly, success comes through diligence. Research suggests that people who are successful in controlling their behavior in line with their life long goals rely on effortless strategy. Effortless strategy is a fancy way of saying good habits.

Breaking a bad habit is so hard. If you’ve tried and failed, you’re not alone. Bad habits, in large part, are due to neurons firing in a specific region of your brain and at specific times during a behavior. Over time, this becomes a pattern, both in your brain and in your behavior. Thus, you need to make a conscious effort to retrain your brain.

I had a terrible habit of waking up each morning and reaching for my phone. I’d put myself in a trance scrolling through Facebook and elevate my blood pressure scrolling through the news. As I write about this habit, I can’t really think of a worse way to wake up. I hated it, yet I couldn’t seem to do anything to change.

Breaking a bad habit and developing a good habit often happen simultaneously. I think this is good news. It’s almost like two for the price of one. The 7-minute solution already had a developed plan to help me get rid of my doom and gloom phone scroll each morning.

I laid aside the phone and grabbed a journal instead and mapped out my day and how I’d spend my time. I recorded what I hoped for the day and how I was going to fill the 9 or so hours I had before dinner. Thus, I had a plan for what I was going to do instead of reaching for my phone. I was serious about not rolling over in the morning and staring at a screen for half an hour, so I also actually started plugging in my phone somewhere else overnight. I set myself up for success. The point is, to develop a good habit you need a plan.

Good habits also take time. The neighbor kids and I used to run back and forth between our houses when we were children. Over time, the grass wore down and the path was mainly dirt. When we were grown, my parents had to diligently lay grass seed and water to allow the lawn to regrow. This took time in the same way creating a new habit takes time. In fact, I often think of neurons in your brain creating a pattern over time the same way I think of someone taking the same path day after day and wearing down the grass. Just as the worn grass and later the regrowth takes time, the same is true for habits. 

It’s not possible to say how many days it takes to form a new habit. If you believe the popular thought that a new habit will be developed in 21 days, you’re probably going to find yourself mistaken. There are so many variables in developing habits, it’s nearly impossible to give a set time-frame. However, time aside, it’s important to start with your best foot forward.

If you want to get rid of a habit, it’s necessary to have a plan in place. I cannot stand tracking our home budget. I have a bad habit of ignoring our scheduled reminder on the Echo every Monday night at 6:30 that it’s time to track my spending. I hate numbers, pie charts, and decimals points that much. However, I was able to take the 7-minute productivity solution and make myself a plan for Monday night. I was successful in getting the job done, or at least more done than it’s ever been, in 7 minutes. 

Early in your journey to replacing your habits, you may not be successful. Even with my morning routine to get rid of my screen scroll on my phone, I’m still a work in progress. I think the key is to have a plan and be gracious with yourself. If you back-slide after you quit something cold-turkey, don’t throw in the towel. Adjust your plan and start again.

Changing behavior is hard work and getting to a point of effortless strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Overnight success wasn’t true for J.K. Rowling, Jeff Bezos, or anyone else I know. But I do know people, myself included, that have celebrated successes in their lives, both big and small, because they had a plan and worked the plan until they had a well-developed good habit.