Habits affect so much of our lives. A good habit can help you be more productive achieve your goals. There are some habits that many of us want to start, like going to the gym more. My personal habit goal is to drink 8 cups of water each day. But creating a new habit can seem a little tough. I’ve tried it so many times: you start out strong for a few days, then you miss one day, and suddenly you’re back at square one.
Starting a new habit shouldn’t be that difficult. Starting (and sticking to!) a new habit can be boiled down to a science that’s really easy to understand.
First, you have to understand that we’re creatures of habit, and everything in your routine now is a habit. That’s why it’s so hard to change your behaviour. When you want to start a new habit, you’re not just introducing something new into your life, but you’re also taking something away. Let’s say you want to go to the gym for an hour twice a week. You have to figure out what you need to reduce from your life to make that possible. Maybe it’s time you would have otherwise spent watching Netflix, or relaxing in the bath. Think about what you’re giving up, and decide whether the new habit that you want to create is worth it. What will you gain from it, and what benefits will you get? Know your WHY, and don’t just do something because you know you should. Go to the gym twice a week because you want to work on your health or lose some weight, not just because it’s a good thing to do.
Once you’ve decided to create a new habit, it’s time to get down to business.
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When you’re starting a new habit, it can seem a little daunting, especially when it’s something completely new. Research shows that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Commit yourself to your new habit for just 21 days to start with - that will be much less scary, and easier to think about. Once you’ve actually done it for 21 days, you’ll find that the habit has already stuck, and it’s just a matter of continuing.
Building on this theme, I know it’s really tempting to start a few new habits at the same time, but the key is to focus on just one! Starting a new habit requires quite a bit of effort, and it’s really important to get a new habit properly into your life before trying to start a new one. Just like you’d only really focus on one big project at a time, you should only work on creating one new habit at a time.
If you struggle to keep on track with your new habit, the best thing that you can do is to automate it. Schedule that gym session into your calendar. Set a reminder every few hours to drink that glass of water. Pack a yummy lunch so that you’re not tempted to skip it.
Think about what exactly you need to do in order to create your new habit. If you want to wake up earlier, you have to sleep earlier. Is there something that is stopping you from actually doing your new habit? Make sure you address it first. Similarly, think ahead about what obstacles you may face. What if you need to stay late in the office on gym day, or you need to go to a friend’s birthday party? Things like these can interfere with your habit-forming goal, especially during those early 21 days, but they don’t have to be your pitfall. Try to think of solutions so that you’re not stressed when interferences come up. Could you go to the gym on another day, or work out longer during your next session?
Something else that is so important that people often forget is to track your habits. Make sure you know if you are actually keeping up with it, and on the days that you miss out, try to note down why. That will help you to address it in the future and stay on track. You can do it however you like, but my favourite way is with pen and paper. That’s why I created this Habit Tracker.
Lastly, and importantly, set a reward for yourself so that you have an incentive to go through with your plan. It can be something simple, even colouring in a square on your habit tracker, but your brain will find it so much easier to start something new.