“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
You are in a slump and decide you need to make some changes in your life. You decide that the time has come to really solidify your life goals and create some new habits in order to reach them. You realize that you are master of your own destiny and only you can change your life by changing your habits. Knowing you need new habits and creating them, however, is not always easy. The good news is that once established, your new habits will become automatic and you won’t have to think about them anymore. Your new habits will become your regular habits and will become part of your daily life. The following tips will get you started on your habit changing journey.Advertising
1. Start with one or two.
Focus on just one or two of your most important goals to work on in the beginning. In starting with just a few goals at first, you are less likely to become overwhelmed, disillusioned and possibly give up altogether.
2. Create smaller, manageable goals.
Rather than setting large, seemingly insurmountable goals, start with bite-sized, more manageable ones. If you want to lose 25 pounds, start with a goal of just 5. Build on the success of your smaller achievements.Advertising
3. Be accountable.
Buy a journal to list out your goals and write out measurable steps you need to take to achieve them. Keeping a journal holds you accountable over time. Keeping a journal also provides a clear written record of your progress and success, keeping you inspired as you go. You may see a pattern for obstacles you encounter and find ways to deal with them to ensure you don’t give up.
4. Plan ahead.
If working out consistently is one of your goals, join a gym close to your house or on your route home from work. Keep your packed gym bag in the car. If you tend to snack at the vending machine during the day, bring fruits and veggies to work so you have healthier options to turn to when you feel hunger pains. The more pre-planning you do and fewer excuses you have, the more likely it is you will follow through with your plan.Advertising
5. Replace old with new.
In order to circumvent the automation of your regular habit, consider replacing that habit with something entirely new. Instead of meeting for happy hour with the girls after work, talk them into taking an art or cooking class together. You will break up your regular routine, learn something new and create interesting memorable bonding experiences.
6. Reward your success.
Acknowledge your successes with something that is valuable and enjoyable to you. Put this reward on the calendar. If your goal is to run 3 days a week, schedule a reward, like a massage, for the end of the month when you have achieved your goal.Advertising
7. Get support from a buddy.
There truly is strength in numbers. If you have to be accountable to another person, you are much more likely to stick with your goal setting plan. Working on goals with a buddy also makes the experience more fun and enjoyable.
8. Give yourself some slack.
Habits are hard to change. If you slip up, forgive yourself and continue moving forward. Get up the next day and try again. Not giving up is truly the key to your overall success. Trust in yourself and don’t give up. If it’s meaningful to you, it’s worth your continued effort. Creating new habits will move you closer to achieving your life goals and is always worth the effort.Advertising
Last Updated on July 21, 2021
The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.
Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”
A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.
Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.
In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.
Table of Contents
From Creating Reminders to Building Habits
A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.
For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.
This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.
The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.
That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.
Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!
The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.
Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.
But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?
The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.
The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders
A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.
For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.
But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)
If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.
For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself) can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.
These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.
For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.
How to Make a Reminder Works for You
Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.
Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.
Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.
My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.
Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.
I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.
More on Building Habits
- 16 Everyday Habits of Highly Productive People
- How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You
- How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months
- How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
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