I’ve been working on forming new habits in my life as a way to improve my life. This time around I’m working on getting the habit of writing. While last year I did an okay job of writing posts for my websites, it was never a habit, and thus the reason there haven’t been anything written for a while.
Using techniques that I’ve used before, I’ve been improving with my writing, and I thought that I would share with you what I’ve learned about creating habits.
Be Deliberate and Specific
Ensure that you set aside time for whatever you plan to do, whether it’s reading or exercising, or whatever. Say what you are going to do during that period, and write it down; writing it down states a commitment. Choose a realistic block of time to begin with, say 15 minutes and do nothing but that activity for those 15 minutes. Don’t be overly optimistic about the times; it’s best to start small and slowly increase, than to start big and become disheartened because you can’t make it.
I started my writing for 15 minutes, and now I’m up to 25 minutes.
Do the task at a regular time every day. I do most of my writing in the morning as a wake up and just before breakfast. But you can choose what times you want, just be regular.
Use a timer
There is nothing like knowing that you’re on a clock to keep you focused, at least for me. The timer also helps know you can stop no matter where you are. You are not trying to complete something, you are just doing something. It has helped me overcome my perfectionism in some ways as there is no way I could have a perfect article in 15 minutes, or have a clean office in 5 minutes. You get into the habit of performing the activity. Later when you take away the timer, you feel comfortable performing the activity as long as you need to. There are lots of timers available for your mobile phone or your desktop.
Note your distractions and interruptions
During the activity you may get distracted or interrupted. Mark a line in a small notebook every time you get distracted from your main task along with the date. The first time you may have a page filled with lines, but as time progresses you’ll see it becoming less and less. At the end of the session you can add notes saying how you were feeling before the activity, during the activity and after the activity. You may discover things about yourself as to why you feel distracted when performing a particular task.
At the end of the activity you should reward yourself with something pleasurable. It could be a short nap, some time on mindless browsing, a movie or a nice bath. Try not to reward yourself with another bad habit such as a smoke, or a sugary snack (a healthy snack should be okay, but I’d keep away from using food as a reward).
This is part of the habit loop as discussed in the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It helps deepen the habit in place and gives you something to look forward to.
Enjoy the practice
It’s important to have no end goal during the creation of habits, for example, writing a book or losing weight. This is a journey, not a destination. You are trying to form a habit and keep it, and along the way you’ll reach whatever goal you want. It’s about becoming practiced at your activity, so that you become a master at it.
Your only goal should be to be better than yesterday.
What are you waiting for? Start today!
First thing to is make a list of habits that you would like to have, then from that list choose the one or two most important ones, such as reading and exercise. Then for those one or two goals, say what you are going to do to help get those habits, at what time, for what duration. Then do it!
For example, if your habit is to read. Then you can say that you are going to read “War and Peace” every night at 8:30pm for 15 minutes on the couch in the den. Write it down and stick it up by your computer, on the fridge, or anywhere where you can see it. You can even make a comment below to state your commitment.
Here’s to your journey. May it be an eventful one!
For some tips on what habits are worth forming to grow yourself professionally, check out my article on my business website, “4 Habits worth forming to become a better IT Professional“.
What other ways have you found helpful in creating productive habits? Let me know in the comment section below.