GOOD HABITS CAN HELP YOU BE MORE PRODUCTIVE, BUT HOW DO YOU BUILD A NEW HABIT AND MAKE IT STICK? USE THESE FOUR (4) TRICKS TO HELP YOU BUILD LONG-TERM HABITS!
How to Build a New Habit ... and Make It Stick... for Good!By: Kel Amstutz
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
I have tried... time and time again... building a lot of new and different habits over the years. Good habits, obviously. Habits that I had hoped would help me strengthen my business, improve my health, and enjoy a more rewarding day-to-day experience.
A few of those daily habits I have worked on to develop and expand include:
- Creative writing
- Taking walks after dinner
- Writing poetry
- Keeping up with the house work
Some of these habits have stuck. And, let's be honest... some haven't.
One of the most obvious reasons they haven't all stuck is that there are too many of them. I have about five hours of daily habits listed there. Add in a four- to six- hour work day and then time to eat, and... well.. you can see that things start to get pretty crowded.
But it's interesting to see which habits have stuck and how long they have stuck around for.
For example. I've kept a daily journal for a full month - multiple times - and I enjoy doing it when I am in the zone... but not enough to stick with it indefinitely. Journaling, for me, is a short-term experiment that I engage in periodically, usually when life has got me down, more so than taking it on as a full-fledged habit.
I also spend a half-an-hour stretching each and every morning... and I have been doing that every day for about two years now. (We won't say it's because I am getting old and my bones need adjusting in the morning! LOL)
Writing poetry has always been a passion of mine and when I think about writing a poem a day... well, it sounds great, but have I ever been able to do this... sadly, no.
However, I do try to creatively write every day for at least 45 minutes to an hour. I'm not quite as reliable with this as I am with stretching... but I do okay.
So, what makes a habit stick?
Having tried on a variety of habits for size with different degrees of success, I have a pretty good idea or assumption of why some habits take... and others just don't.
THEY MUST HAVE A COMPELLING PURPOSE AND AN OBVIOUS BENEFITIf you want to turn something into a long-term habit, you need to have a compelling purpose behind WHY you're doing it. And because someone recommended it in their blog... well, it just doesn't cut it.
It does help to have a handle on what compels your purpose before you actually decide to implement a habit, but it isn't a requirement. Sometimes the compelling purpose becomes clear after you have done something for a while.
That is how stretching has been for me. I didn't set out to make a habit out of stretching daily. Instead I fell and the result of being hurt, the stretching was ordered by the doctor to ease the aches and pains, and turned into a daily habit to keep those aches and pains at bay. Beyond that, my morning stretches started to help me feel more alert... helped me feel like I was starting my day off with a little more pep in my step... and I just really liked it.
That was my compelling purpose. Stretching is a habit that has stuck, because I feel better and work better when I do it.
Journaling, on the other hand, is something that I just simply enjoy. But, unlike many people who find journaling to be life-changing in a positive way... I really can't say that I notice that much of a difference when I journal versus when I don't. My purpose behind journaling (when I sit down and do it) is usually that I read something recently about how amazing it is for creativity and mental health. So I do it for a bit, and it's all fine... but there's not enough impact in it for me to form a compelling purpose.
So, when you start out to build a new habit, think about your purpose behind why you are doing it.
- What benefit do you hope to gain?
If it is and you recognize that it is, keeping it as a habit will become easy. If it's not - and you have honestly given it time to deliver - then consider dropping it to make room for a different habit that may have a better result.
THE COST OF NOT DOING ITA clear purpose and an obvious benefit will go a long way towards helping you stick to your new habit.
But what really cements it is the cost of not doing it.
A habit that is going to stick has a definite, noticeable impact when you don't do it.
For me, creative writing is like that. If I don't make time to write creatively almost daily, my self-esteem takes a direct hit - I like myself better when I am diving into my writing as opposed to when I am not writing. My creativity slips. And I feel out of sorts. I don't get depressed... or sad. I just feel like something if off.
But, when I'm writing every day - or even every other day - my work goes so much better, I get into the flow of my projects easier, I come up with ideas faster, I feel more energetic, and comfortable in my own skin.
The cost of not writing is high. And it doesn't take long for me to notice when I am neglecting that habit.
On the other hand, another creative outlet - crafting, or mostly painting - just doesn't have quite the same effect on me. I enjoy crafting, and I never regret having made time to do it. But, if I don't make the time for it... well, I don't feel any kind of negative impact. So it doesn't stick as a habit in the same way daily writing does for me.
MAKING THE TIMESo far, we have been talking about what makes a habit.... STICK.
But even if everything is in place for a new behavior to become a habit, you still need to get it to the point of being an actual habit.
I've found a few things that make the biggest difference when it comes to giving a new habit the best chance of sticking. The first is to be realistic about the time commitment.
Maybe the new habit you're looking at forming will only take 10 minutes out of your morning. That doesn't sound like a big deal. But if your mornings are already rushed, how likely are you to find that extra ten minutes?
This could mean that you will have to wake up even earlier... or cut out some of your other morning activities... or delegate something to someone else. Is that something you'll be able to do and stick with?
If you can't clearly see how to make time for a new habit, chances are you won't stay with it long enough to realize the obvious benefit and feel the cost of not doing it.
USING EFFECTIVE TRIGGERSBesides having enough time to dedicate to your new habit, the next obstacle is remembering to do what you want to do when you want to do it.
How many times have you decided to make something a habit, only to get to the end of the day and realize as you're falling asleep that... well... you forgot all about it, let alone doing it?
Setting a reminder on your Smartphone is one way around this, and it works really well for some people. For me... well, let's just say that I am really good at ignoring reminders on my phone!
What has worked well for me is connecting my desired new habit with an event to help me remember. So, for stretching, my connection is breakfast. Right after breakfast, I transition into my morning stretches. For creative writing, my connection is the end of my work day. After I complete all my work for the day, I sit down with my computer, or tablet, or sometimes even my notebook and I write. For going for a walk, I connect this with when dinner is over.
Once you set these internal reminders up, you will have to be deliberate about it the first few times. But after a week or two, your brain will start to automatically transition into your new habit before you even realize what you're doing.
I have found that these habits are now ingrained in my subconscious.
Developing positive habits can have a huge impact on your business, your health, and your overall outlook on life. When you choose the right habits - the ones that have a clear purpose and an obvious benefit - and then make the time to do them and tie them to a trigger, you will set yourself up for success.
What about you?
What strategies do you use to develop positive habits and make them stick?
I would love to hear more about it in the comments below!