Why Traditional Habits Don’t Stick for Women: The Science Behind It


Ever tried to adopt good productivity habits only to find yourself swearing at your alarm clock and questioning your life choices? You’re not alone. The world of productivity is saturated with advice on forming habits: wake up at 5 AM, follow a strict morning routine, use habit trackers, and more. While these techniques do work, many women find that traditional habit-formation strategies simply don’t stick.

Why? Because there are physiological and psychological factors that might make the standard solutions not always work for us gals. 

The Physiology Factor: 

Hormonal Cycles:

Let’s start with the basics. Women’s bodies operate on hormonal cycles that significantly impact energy levels, mood, and overall productivity. But guess what? Traditional habit formation advice tends to overlook these natural fluctuations. For example, the menstrual cycle affects women’s physical and emotional states in phases. What works wonders one week might feel like trying to move a mountain the next. In the Follicular phase of your cycle, you will likely experience Increased energy and focus making it the ideal time for starting new habits. Whereas in the Luteal Phase, you are likely to have decreased energy and higher emotional sensitivity. This is the time for more self-care rather than rigid routines.

Then there is Cortisol, our stress hormone, which peaks in the morning and gradually decreases throughout the day. While both men and women experience this, women’s cortisol levels can be more sensitive to stressors, impacting the ability to maintain consistent habits. So, next time someone tells you to “just push through it,” feel free to roll your eyes.

Psychological Aspects: 

The Mental Load:

Women often juggle multiple roles – professional, caregiver, household manager – which can lead to a higher mental load. This invisible checklist can make it difficult to establish and maintain new habits consistently. It’s not that you’re not trying hard enough; it’s that your brain is already running a marathon while juggling flaming torches. A productivity planner can help to download the clutter from your brain and plan and organised it.

Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome:

Many women struggle with perfectionism and imposter syndrome, driven by societal expectations to excel in all areas. This can lead to an all-or-nothing approach to habits, where a single slip-up feels like failure, causing you to abandon the habit altogether. Because who needs that kind of pressure?

Gender Bias in Productivity Advice:

Much of the traditional productivity advice is based on research and models that primarily reflect male experiences and lifestyles. This bias can make such advice less relevant and effective for women, who may require different strategies that consider their unique challenges. Spoiler alert: one size does not fit all.

Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Neuroplasticity and Habit Formation:

Habit formation involves creating new neural pathways in the brain. Women’s brains, influenced by hormonal changes, might respond differently to habit formation techniques. Understanding neuroplasticity helps in designing habit strategies that are more adaptable and forgiving. In other words, your brain is not a factory, and it’s okay to switch things up.

The Power of Micro-Habits:

Research shows that breaking habits into smaller, manageable actions – micro-habits – can be more effective for women. These tiny changes are less overwhelming and can be more easily adjusted to fit varying energy levels and schedules. Think of it as habit formation for the commitment-phobic.

Tailoring Habits to Individual Needs:

Effective habit formation for women requires a personalised approach. Factors such as personality type, lifestyle, and individual goals should influence how habits are structured and maintained. You can sigh in relief because it’s time to ditch the cookie-cutter approach and embrace what works for you.

Practical Strategies for Habit Formation

Cycle Syncing:

Align your habits with your menstrual cycle. Plan high-energy tasks during the follicular phase and focus on self-care and reflective activities during the luteal phase. It’s like productivity with a side of self-awareness.

Flexibility and Adaptability:

Create habits that allow for flexibility. Instead of rigid routines, build habits that can be adjusted based on how you feel each day. This could mean having Plan A and Plan B options for your morning routine and choosing the one that fits best with your energy levels. Incremental 

valuing Progress:

Emphasize progress over perfection. Celebrate small wins and recognize that consistency doesn’t mean never missing a day but rather getting back on track after disruptions. Because life happens, and that’s okay.

Community and Accountability:

Engage with supportive communities that understand and share your challenges. Accountability partners or groups can provide motivation and practical advice tailored to women’s experiences. Plus, it’s always nice to know you’re not the only one who struggles to be human sometimes.

Traditional habit formation techniques often overlook the complex realities of women’s lives. By understanding the science behind why these habits don’t always stick and adopting strategies that honor your unique physiology and psychology, you can create sustainable habits that empower you to thrive. Remember, productivity is not about fitting into a pre-existing mold but about creating systems that work for you. Embrace your individuality, honor your rhythms, and redefine what it means to be productive on your own terms.

So, next time you’re tempted to follow another cookie-cutter productivity plan, remember: you’re not failing; the system is. And it’s about time we created one that actually works for us.


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