How you can break bad habits - in four seconds

Emma Haslett
Follow Emma
You can achieve a state of zen-like calm - or at least break bad habits - in just four seconds (Source: Corbis)

A new book aims to help stressed-out workers break bad habits and find a sense of peace - in just four seconds.

Four Seconds, by leadership coach Peter Bregman, suggests a few moments is all you need to prevent yourself from behaviour you'll later regret.

According to Bregman, you can dramatically reduce stress by pausing for four seconds - the length of a deep breath - before you take certain actions, whether it's indulging a bad habit or joining an angry email exchange.

"In many cases, our best efforts to achieve [success] are built on habits and behaviours that, simply put, don't work," the book explains.

Cut back on stress by ditching behaviours including over-thinking, and a quest for perfection. Setting goals can actually harm your performance, Bregman suggests.

Taking a minute to do nothing could allow you to "reset yourself", giving you a new view on the situation - while taking responsibility for others' failures could actually help you to succeed.

When we feel overwhelmed and stressed by our growing to-do list, our knee-jerk reaction is to work longer hours and pack more into the hours we are already working. We multitask, dash from meeting to meeting, sneak emails under the conference room table, and work early in the morning and late into the night. Our intention is to reduce our stress and overload. But our actions have the exact opposite effect.

Related articles