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September 2022

I am now an early riser. Not sure if it’s a routine or a habit I have got into or a throwback to my first job as a postman but I do wake early. Sometimes if I am feeling the pressure of my work that will wake me early too.

Over the last few weeks once I am up I have started doing a set of seven stretches (my body is showing signs of a few aches and pains … sitting for long periods at a desk is not good).

So up early and after some cold water on the face I am now stretching. My wife says it’s yoga which I guess it is.

AND I think this short routine has started to make a difference, as at first I couldn’t easily touch my toes. Another small gain is now being able to move from sitting cross legged on the floor to standing without using my hands to push myself up (it does take a few attempts, but I get there) … I could not do that before.

While doing this the other day I was thinking about habits and safeguarding habits in particular.
How can we make them ‘stick’ in the workforce? And by workforce I am thinking individual practitioner, teams, services and whole organisations.

New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg wrote a book called Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive. Published in 2017 it’s a very interesting exploration of habits, their structure and how they work. Knowing a bit more about how habits work, we can make them stick to our advantage, like exercising regularly, losing weight, or becoming more productive...or building strong safeguarding habits for a social movement against abuse and harm of adults.

Duhigg sets out three basic components of all habits – the cue to trigger, the action and the reward see The Science Behind Adopting New Habits (And Making Them Stick) Forbes 2017. This article explains positive habits don’t take hold because:

‘most people fail to adequately reward themselves for taking action on a beneficial habit.’ Harmful habits (smoking, sugar, drinking etc) are ‘all easy habits to adopt because they light up your brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine (and a slew of other pleasure chemicals)’.

The article goes on:

‘On the other hand, many positive habits such as exercise, meditation, focused work, and healthy eating [and building a safeguarding focus into your work] don’t have immediately obvious rewards.’

James Clear author of Atomic Habits tells us we can build a new habit with the follow four steps:

1)    Start (incredibly) small

2)    Increase in very small ways

3)    As you build up, break habits into chunks

4)    When you slip, get back quickly.

I would like everyone who reads this blog to build a strong well established safeguarding habit as part of their daily work (if you already have one please get in touch and let me know). The real key to making a habit stick is to make it so small that you can’t say no.

So here is my suggested safeguarding habit.

Step one:

Before you start work on a Tuesday check the NSAB website news page for new or useful stories for your role (I am saying Tuesday not Monday because after the weekend Monday can be full on)

Step two:

A small increase - include the board Twitter feed (@NorfolkSAB), in your ‘Tuesday check’ too.

As Clear says

'If you continue adding one percent each day, then you'll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish’.

Step three:

Break into chunks - could you check the website in the morning and the Twitter feed in the afternoon?

Step four:

You may miss a ‘Tuesday check’ at some point … that’s ok. But get back on track quickly (step four).

Before you know it you will have a strong safeguarding habit as part of your weekly routine - the safeguarding equivalent of touching your toes.

Thank you.

Walter Lloyd-Smith

NSAB Board Manager

Email: walter.lloyd-smith@norfolk.gov.uk

Also see Stacey McLachlan, The Science of Habit What does it take to stick with something long term? You just have to rewire your brain.