Improvement Resolutions: Forming Habits

Date: 16 January 2020

Improvement Resolutions  forming habits

The next blog in our improvement resolutions series comes from Stuart Kaill. Stuart is one of our senior improvement advisors and works in our Safety, Mortality, Person Centred Care and Capability team. He is involved with a range of programmes including MatNeo local learning sets, human factors and improvement practitioners.


16 days into January and already a number of my (loosely pledged) New Year’s resolutions have started to slip: Maybe think about doing Dry January (the leftover beers in my fridge from New Year’s eve proved too tempting), get more miles in on my bike (have you seen the weather?), be more patient with my kids (tested immediately on 1st Jan), get organised with packed lunches for work, get more sleep… the list goes on but it’s not looking hopeful.

It seems I’m not alone though. On the radio this morning, I listened to an item which was giving advice about how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions. The first suggestion was to set specific goals. So instead of say ‘I will go to the gym more,’ saying ‘I will go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays,’ is more likely to stick. This certainly speaks to me as an Improvement Advisor because all improvement should begin with a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) aim.

Another suggestion was to make an effort to stick rigidly to your resolution for 2 weeks. This way, new pathways are apparently formed in the brain and you will then find yourself wanting to continue the activity – you have formed a new habit. I think that habit forming is possibly just as important as other fundamental improvement concepts, such as aim setting and measuring, but harder to teach.

Forming habits around improvement is how improvement becomes ‘the way we do things around here.’ For example, doing effective PDSA cycles requires getting into the habit of regularly making time to study the effects of your change and planning the next cycle. This is why improvement huddles are a great idea – teams committing to set aside a small portion of the day, at a predictable time, to come together to discuss tests of change. 

So that’s my only Improvement Resolution now – form new habits – and the rest will follow!

Keep up to date with all our improvement resolutions blogs, Tweets and get involved by tagging us @AQuA_NHS and using #improvementresolutions.

  • Summary:

    Habit forming is possibly just as important as other fundamental improvement concepts, such as aim setting and measuring, but harder to teach. Forming habits around improvement is how improvement becomes ‘the way we do things around here.’

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