1. Autonomy
  2. Self-determination
  3. Observation
  4. Agenda setting
  5. Achievable goals
  6. Habit discontinuity
  7. If-then strategies
  8. Social-undermining
  9. Group support
  10. Structure




Don’t let anyone tell you what to do!

  • Free will, choice, because you choose to, not because you are told to. I have decided this is what I want to do, therefore I am more likely to achieve what I am setting out to do.
  • Doing something because someone else thinks it’s important, or someone else thinks you should do it, is unlikely to last for long, and won’t be very satisfying in the meantime. External influences are less likely to lead to lasting change,  the carrot and the stick are both extrinsic and controlling: either wholly, if you are being paid or punished; or partially, with a little guilt or shame.
  • Successful change comes from within: because you want to, it’s intrinsic. Subscribing to things that are important and meaningful for you is good, but the best motivation is where you do something for its own sake or best of all, just for fun!
  • Choice and control: by providing structure and giving a rationale, we can move from feeling externally controlled to making informed choices, acknowledging that it’s difficult. but feeling that we have autonomy.
  • Capability: this is an opportunity to do well. Specific feedback is more effective than vague congratulations.
  • A team, a sense of belonging: other people who I respect do this too, I don’t feel alienated.

Success comes out of autonomy, not control.




Provided with the appropriate information, we can all make more informed decisions.

  • I am determined to achieve my goals because they were informed and set by me.
  • Choosing appropriate motives, ones of importance to me.
  • Motivations can be both intrinsic and extrinsic – avoid both the carrot and the stick.
  • Some are more motivating than others.

Add in a little self-efficacy and you know you can do it.




Observation alone can reduce consumption, time and costs.

  • Monitoring and documenting, keeping a record, you’re now unable to kid yourself.
  • Observation leads to action: monitor whether what you’re doing is working. Knowing that the things you are doing are going to make a noticeable difference can be very motivating.
  • But you’re also trying to achieve something, so it’s also good to know if your changes aren’t making the impact you’d hoped, and you need to try other strategies.

Informing where to concentrate your time and energy.



Agenda setting

You’ve decided you like to make some improvements.

  • However you have a lot of preconceptions, how long it will take, how much it will cost, as well as how it will affect the property and its energy use.
  • Find out how accurate these preconceptions are, by collecting data a comparison can be drawn between preconceptions and truth.
  • Gathering the information you need will enable you to have a realistic look at the situation and help to define exactly what you’re trying to do.
  • And because the information gathered is yours you are more likely to act on it.

Define what your goals are.



Achievable goals

Aim to make changes you can live with.

  • Going for big changes in one go can just make life seem too much like hard work, start slowly and allow yourself to feel a sense of achievement at hitting some targets along the way. You don’t have to solve all your problems in one go.
  • Achievable goals are: specific, positive and measurable; realistic, manageable and broken down; evaluated, planned and scheduled; movable, flexible and forgivable; short term, long term and challenging.

Start small and build momentum.



Habit discontinuity

Once a new habit is in place it is no more difficult than the old.

  • Sometimes changing a habit can be about breaking a pattern of cue-habit-response. We may reach for the tea when we meant to make coffee. Cue – habit – response, change the cue, change the response and we can build a new habit.
  • Know your habits, we’re not always as in charge of what we do as we think. A lot of what we do is directed by habits, rather than by any conscious decisions on our part. Habits are hard to break because they are automatic, the result of our brain bypassing the conscious thought processes to get the job done quickly.
  • These are useful as mental shortcuts to help save our attention and resources to deal with new, incoming stimuli. But they are irritating as we find ourselves doing things that cost us time, energy and money, without consciously thinking about them.
  • If we are in the habit of filling a whole kettle regardless of how many cups of tea we need to make, keeping a mug by the kettle might remind us to take the mug, rather than the kettle, to the tap.
  • But it’s easy enough to form new habits once you recognise which of them you want to change, with a few prompts and a bit of effort to kick start them. And once your improved behaviours become habits, well you can sit back and happily let your new mental shortcuts take over.

Changing a habit simply requires a strategy.



If-then strategies

The best way to make new habits is to set very specific targets for what you’re going to do and when, ‘if-then’ strategies: negate, ignore or replace.

  • Negation involves deciding what actions you won’t be taking in the future. If you want to break a habit, you simply plan not to engage in it anymore. In some ways, this is the most commonly used and straightforward way of attempting to change a habit. It is also the least successful.
  • Ignoring concentrate on turning away undesirable feelings and impulses. In this case, you are simply planning to block unhelpful thought processes, and thus diminish their power over you.
  • Replacement involves making a conscious choice to replace one habit with another. You use new habit where you would previously have given into your old habit, and your old habit is eroded over time until it has gone altogether.
  • When put to the test, negation if-then plans were not only far less effective than other strategies, but they sometimes triggered a rebound effect, with people indulging in more of the behaviour they were trying to avoid than they had before. Deciding not to use the heating and being cold and miserable is less effective than using it a little less by putting on a jumper, and remembering to draw the curtains at dusk and closing internal doors to stay cosy and warm.
  • Negation. “If I am cold, then I’m not going to put the heating on.” It’s a straightforward strategy, but it probably won’t be effective over time, and the resulting discomfort may lead to a rebound effect where you decide to use the heating more than you did before and turn the thermostat up.
  • Ignore. “If I am cold, then I will ignore it.” A physical sensation may be harder to block out than an emotional impulse, so this is not likely to be an effective long-term strategy.
  • Replacement. “If I am cold, then I will draw the curtains, close internal doors, put on a jumper and use the heating more efficiently and in doing so I could be saving up for a holiday!” Replacement is far more likely to be the most successful strategy.
  • Rather than not having a shower, work out how long a shower takes and what could make it a little shorter, or shorter still. Replacement works best, I no longer shave in the shower, it’s more efficient from the sink. Changing one habit at a time is more achievable than trying to do everything at once.



Social undermining

Having decided to turn things down, turn things off and make some improvements.

  • Or just to separate the waste and keep an organised, tidy and safe site but no one else is on board. It’s probably not intentionally social undermining; it’s much more likely to be a lack of understanding and group support.
  • If you start issuing orders, people dig their heels in.

A more effective strategy is to get everyone involved, by explaining what we are doing and why we are doing it.



Group support

Do things together.

  • Practical support is important, so is emotional support. A little recognition from friends, relatives and colleagues goes a long way.
  • Specific feedback is more useful than general congratulation.




Structure your home improvement projects.

  • Formulate a brief, agree on a design, write a programme, set a schedule and assemble a team
  • Strategies, principles, process and protocols help to get things done.
  • Projects, quantifying materials, the equipment required and the availability of people.

Support, commitment and expectation management.