Brain Cycles is really the brain power that is required for someone to follow through on a behaviour. If you need to do something that is extremely complex, and it’s put on your desk at 4:00, just before the end of the work day, and you have had an extremely stressful day and you feel like you are totally burnt out. Brain cycles and brain power is going to be an extremely scarce resource for you if completing this task is going to be extremely challenging for you. It’s going to be very brain intensive. You’re going to want to do it at a time when you have the mental capability of doing it. If you’re drained and you’re stressed, you’re just not going to want to follow through.

So it’s going to be a key factor whether or not someone is going to follow through on that behaviour. It is subjective as well as it varies through the day and throughout time.

Is the behaviour connected in some way that is socially deviant? Is the behaviour that you’re asking someone to do needs to be consistent with their peers or social group? It’s going to be much easier for them to follow through on that behaviour. However, if you’re asking them to do something that is considered to be outside their social boundaries, they are going to be less likely to follow through on it. There’s going to be specific levels of discomfort. The farther away you’re moving from that socially acceptable comfort zone – is it within the comfort zone of your social group or peers? You’re going to be more likely to do it if there’s a greater level of social deviance and if it is outside what everybody else is doing, it’s going to be much harder for you to do it.

Man at desk in shirt and tie holding his head and worrying about money and the economy.

If you ask someone to do something that is considered to be outside their social boundaries, they are going to be less likely to follow through on it. Photo credit: http://www.burnout-syndrom.org/

Again, that can change. It depends on who you consider to be your peers and your mood.

Is the behaviour that you’re supposed to be doing a routine? Or a non-routine? The farther away it is from your regular routine, the harder it’s going to be for you to do. New things are hard to take on. The newer, the more non-routine the task is, the harder it is going to be for you to do. If you want to introduce a new behaviour or a new habit, you are going to want to make the change from doing that new behaviour as least drastic as possible. You want to try to incorporate it to your existing routine so that it’s not really that much of a big change from what you’re currently doing, so it’s much easier for you to follow through on that behaviour.

We previously talked about the activation energy of starting a work-out routine. It’s going to be much easier for you to go out for a walk around your house than it is for you to go drive to the gym and walk on a treadmill at the gym. There are just too many things that are outside on your routine which makes it complicated for you to introduce it. The more that you can add in something and incorporate with your existing routines, the easier it is for you to adopt that behaviour in terms of someone being introduced to a new behaviour, you’re going to want to think about their existing routine. You’re going to want to try to incorporate the new habit as part of their existing routing as much as possible. Maybe if you want someone to wear a specific piece of personal protective equipment and at the start of the day, they get dressed with a variety of other pieces of protective equipment, you’re going to want them to put that on at the same time. So then it wouldn’t be an extra step. You’re just incorporating at a time where they are already putting those other pieces of protective equipment on and it just turns into a 6-piece of equipment they’re putting on, as opposed to their previous 5. You’re going to have much more success when you’re incorporating something like that as opposed to trying to introduce this piece of equipment at a time that they’re not used to putting on equipment and it’s totally non-routine for that person.

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Doing something which is not in your routine will be harder for you. Photo credit: insatiablydecadent.wordpress.com

Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment. We look at the various resources that are available and required for someone to follow through on that behaviour. Time, Money, Physical Effort, Brain Cycles, Social Deviance, and Non-Routine. The scarcest resource at the moment that you’re supposed to follow through on a behaviour will dictate your ability to complete that behaviour or that task.

It’s something that doesn’t require a lot of time, something that doesn’t require a lot of money, there’s no physical effort involved, it’s something that everybody else is doing and something that you do as part of your routine. However, it does take up a lot of brain power as you have to think through it, and it’s introduced at a time of the day when you feel like you are most burnt out. Your brain cycle is going to be the scarcest resource at that moment. It’s going to be a limiting factor of whether or not you’re going to have the ability to complete that behaviour.

If you’re thinking of behaviour design and introducing new behaviour to employees for yourself in terms of habits, you need to take a look at that behaviour. What are the time factors involved? What’s the money? What’s the physical effort? How about brain cycles? What about social deviance? What are the routine elements? You need to factor those in when you’re trying to get someone to do that behaviour.

What time of day is going to be the most likely for them to succeed? If it’s not a requirement for them to do it at a specific time during the day, if there’s some flexibility in the time, what time of the day are they going to have the most time available to complete the task? If you’re thinking in terms of money – is it an expensive purchase? Does it need to be broken into payments? Is it something that perhaps someone could be targeted when they feel like they have more money? Say you’re a non-profit organization and you are calling to collect for donations. Perhaps you want to talk to someone on payday when they have just got their check and they feel like they have a lot of money, or you want to be calling them on the day before they get their check when they feel that money is more scarce? You need to keep that in mind.

What is the physical effort required? Is there something that you can do to reduce the physical effort? Can you target the behaviour when you feel like someone has more physical effort available – when they feel like they’re fresher or they feel like they have more energy available. Do you want to get them to really listen to that top speech right after lunch when everybody has just eaten and all they feel is they want to take a nap? That’s not necessarily when they have the most physical energy available to complete the task.

Can someone complete this task in a simpler manner? Can you simplify it as much as possible so the amount of brain power that someone has to do this is a lot less? Part of what you can do for brain cycles as well as part of the other aspects is break it up. Break it up into smaller pieces or smaller chunks that someone feels that there is a better match with the amount of brain power they have at that moment so they can feel that they can complete that smaller task.

Also Read: BJ Fogg’s Top 10 Mistakes of Changing Behavior

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Break up tasks into smaller pieces so they’ll feel that there is a better match with the amount of brain power they have. Photo credit: http://www.astrixdoc.com/

Is everyone else doing it now? Is it something that I’m going to feel like there’s a level of social obligation to follow through on this behaviour because a lot of other people are doing it, people in my peer groups, it’s culturally acceptable for me to follow through and I feel that this is within my comfort zone based on what other people that I know are doing. You want to reinforce that as much as possible. You want to reinforce it at a time when other people are doing it. If your friends are dieting, it’s going to be much easier for you at dieting because there’s a certain level of social acceptance. But if you are dieting and no one else is dieting and they all feel that they it’s not the right time for them, now you’re doing something that’s outside the socially acceptable boundaries of your peer group and it’s going to be much more challenging for you to be successful.

Change the routine required to adopt the new behaviour as small as possible. You’re going to have much greater chance of success than if you try to bring in a new behaviour and thought that everyone was going to accept this. Of all the other factors or perhaps the reward is going to be achieved if you complete it. If there isn’t a level of consistency to what they’re going to be doing, it’s going to be extremely hard for someone to follow through on that behaviour.

To recap, in BJ Fogg’s theory on behaviour design, his equation looks at the behaviour will be based on someone’s motivation, ability, and their trigger for that behaviour.