Building Better Learning Habits

Last Updated: 06 April 2022

Join the 100,000s of health professionals who subscribe to The Handover


Forming habits that stick can be tough. Yet almost half of what we do everyday is dictated by habitual or repeated behaviour.

So why is it so hard to make time for things you know you should do? Whether it’s eating healthy food, doing regular exercise or viewing a new CPD resource, just starting can be half the battle.

Make a plan with clear goals

Setting yourself clear goals is a great way to break up the hard work of habits into achievable chunks. Think about a few key outcomes you can work towards and build a path towards each one. With Ausmed, you can add resources to your learning queue and track your progress as you complete them.

You should build some flexibility into the plan, as you might encounter the need to learn a topic you hadn’t accounted for, or external factors like a pandemic could derail your best intentions.



Out with the old, in with the new

A big part of building healthy habits is to break the bad ones first. Have you ever gone onto your phone to fit in some learning on a healthcare topic, but ended up on social media?

We’re all aware of this as it happens but can seem powerless to resist. This is due to a combination of the immediate rewards from social media and the perceived difficulty of the learning task.

The good news is, you can get around this:

  • Reward yourself – Find a way to give yourself an immediate reward for doing some relevant learning or training. Learning has its own rewards of course, but you don’t always have the chance to apply what you just learnt in an instant way. Your goal is to reinforce your learning practice.

  • Make it easy – However you’re doing your learning, take out all the barriers you can. Using an app (like Ausmed) means you can take your learning with you wherever you go and can squeeze it into whatever time you have.

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat – To get the habit of learning to stick, you’ve got to keep at it. Find an existing routine you have and try to piggyback your learning from that.

  • Context matters – Habits are formed with associations to context, such as time and place. Try to be consistent with these things and eventually it will be feel automatic. For example, get into the habit of reading one article on public transport if you travel to and from work, or complete one piece of learning per shift break. These cues will be enough to tell your brain that it’s time to learn.

Reflect on your progress

An important process in habit formation is taking the time to reflect on what you have learnt and how your learning is progressing. This provides positive feedback about what you have achieved so far, and helps you identify ways to improve your learning.

To help your learning stick, Ausmed has a built in feature for reflection. Not only is this part of most CPD requirements, but it’s also a vital step to transfer new knowledge into your long term memory and embed the learning in practice.

A matter of time

Repetition is important for building habits, but it’s also an incredibly valuable part of learning. One of the main reasons you shouldn’t leave all your learning until the end of your CPD period is that only a small fraction of it will stick, and it won’t end up improving your practice or the healthcare experiences of your patients.

To ensure we retain what we learn, we need to engage with the topic in small bursts rather than in a one-off hit. Building good habits now will mean you get more out of the time you spend learning, and get more chances to improve the care you deliver.

It can be hard to find the perfect time to start a new habit, but small amounts of effort can make a big difference. Log in or sign up now to take the first step.

Resources:

Gardner, B.; Rebar, A. L.; & Lally, P. 2021. 'How does habit form? Guidelines for tracking real-world habit formation.' PsyArXiv. Accessed 6 April 2022 via https://psyarxiv.com/umhtz/

Gardner, B.; Lally, P.; & Wardle, J. 2012. ‘Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice.’ British Journal of General Practice, vol. 62, no. 605. Accessed 6 April 2022 via https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505409/

Lally, P. & Gardner, B. 2013. ‘Promoting habit formation.' Health Psychology Review. Accessed 6 April 2022 via https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17437199.2011.603640

Neal, D.T.; Wood, W.; & Quinn, J.M. 2006. ‘Habits - A Repeat Performance.’ Current Directions in Psychological Science. Accessed 6 April 2022 via http://web.archive.org/web/20110526144503/http:/dornsife.usc.edu/wendywood/research/documents/Neal.Wood.Quinn.2006.pdf

Wood, W. & Neal, D.T. 2016. ‘Healthy Through Habit: Interventions for initiating & maintaining health behavior change.’ Behavioral Science & Policy, vol. 2, no. 1. Accessed 6 April 2022 via https://behavioralpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/BSP_vol1is1_Wood.pdf

Join the 100,000s of health professionals who subscribe to The Handover


Subscribe to The Handover

Everything you need to know, every Saturday morning