For the past year or so, I’ve struggled to create good habits in my life. As I am in the midst of a transition, I want to create some good habits. For some reason, I am struggling to do so.
I have always thought about the fact that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. And all you had to do was power through until that point and you would have a habit. Except that misses a very important point:
How do you find the motivation to repeat something every day for 21 days or more?
I knew I wanted to begin a few things to add to my life:
I want to rebuild my writing habit. In my pursuit of my transition, writing daily is one of the things that went by the wayside. With novels and flash fiction to write, not to mention blog posts, daily writing is important to me.
I want to meditate. In my recent studies about anxiety and well being, meditation is one of the best ways to help, even better than medication. Even more importantly, I believe in the power of meditation.
I also want to read more. Reading is one of those things that seems to be last on my list. However, it is important both to working with clients and with my writing. I also love to read and have missed losing hours in a good book. I’ve even created a reading list for the year. The idea comes from Ninja Writers.
I also want to keep up on the housework, make my bed, take walks and attend yoga.
And, how hard this has been.
Since the shift in my life has begun, I have struggled with each of these. I sometimes work long hours and am exhausted. It is easy to “forget” to work on my habits.
So I went looking for some ideas to help me build my habits. Turns out it is more than deciding to do a thing over and over until it becomes a habit.
Interesting thoughts about habit building
According to Routine Excellence, habit building takes an average of 66 days. Seriously, 66 days? How do I do the same thing over and over for 66 days?
Apparently building habits aren’t the simple act of doing a single task over and over again. Habits are an action you do frequently and automatically in response to your environment. The idea is to create an environment that triggers and rewards your habits.
This is why we set up spaces to write, meditate, read, exercise etc. To me the idea is to have a space that is just for writing so that when I see it, I will make the connection and write. I think this would go for having the tools already set up such as your notebook and favorite pen at the ready.
Here are some other tips for setting up habits (for the purposes of this article, I will focus only on my writing habit):
1. Start with a small habit. If my goal is to write every day, I begin with something small, i.e. the act of writing each day, no matter how small. For example, to write 100 words. That’s easy. It’s a paragraph, or a sentence, depending on how wordy it is.
2. Increase in small increments. Some suggest 1% each day. For me this would require math. So if I am writing 100 words per day, perhaps I increase by 25 words each day. Again, this is a sentence or two. I can do this.
3. As you build up, break it down into smaller chunks. Okay, so this means to take my goal and divide it up into parts. Perhaps writing 50 words at a time throughout the day. As the days go by and I am increasing my word count by 25, by breaking it up into smaller chunks, it makes the task seem more reasonable.
4. When you slip, get back on track quickly. I need to remember this one. When I miss a day, it is so easy to just give up and believe I am a failure. Except that if I remember to be gentle with myself, I can just begin again – where I left off.
5. Be patient with yourself. Stick to a pace you can sustain. It would be difficult to add 25 words each day to my goal. If I did that I would have to write somewhere around 9200 words a day. That isn’t sustainable for anyone. For me a reasonable goal is to write 500 words a day. That would be a good pace for me but everyone is different.
*the above information came from James Clear.
One of the other things I often have to remind myself of is the intention of my habits. Why do I want to do these things. Why do I want to improve my life or add these habits? That is a question that each one of us has to answer on our own.
I hope that you can use these ideas to begin to build some habits of your own.
Until next time,