Let’s talk about forming new habits. We all have times in our lives where we intentionally want to change our behavior for the better and create new habits for ourselves. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or focusing on positive thinking. Or it could be work related, or spiritual, or… There are so many areas in our lives that could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging. Or is that just me?
Let’s break it down into a three step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new behavior and made it a true habit – something we do automatically without having to think about, like brushing our teeth.
Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more. Instead say something like “I will go for a 30 minute walk every single day”. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.
Many use SMART goals
S - specific
M - measurable
A - achievable
R - realistic
T - timely
Going from a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon in a week may be specific and measurable, but for most of us it is neither achievable nor realistic.
Remind Yourself To Get It Done
The next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t really want to go out and walk. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder.
Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while. I use Google calendar with alerts that nag me on both my phone and computer, one of which is almost always with me. Some productivity experts I know like ToDoist or Evernote.
Another productivity tool I want to mention that helps remind me to stay on task and not get distracted by social media is Strict Workflow (for Chrome) which blocks sites for me for a set period of time so I am not tempted to start wandering off on Pinterest.
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Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit
Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Make that daily walk part of your after dinner routine, or change from grabbing a snack at the vending machine at work at 10:00 in the morning to packing a healthy snack.
Congratulations! Decide to create the new habit, practice the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to forming a new good habit.