I’ve already touched on this in the bullet journal post I did a while back, but in this post I wanted to focus specifically on forming good habits. I highly recommend pairing this with bullet journaling, but if you’re not a fan you can simply create the “habit tracker” pages independently of the rest of the journal.
I’m going to outline the 5 steps I’ve found are key to forming good habits, and then go over how I’d apply these to the current habits I’m trying to form for the new year.
1. The first thing you need to do is work out what your goals are.
My goals for 2019:
Get up earlier, Exercise more, Keep a clean house.
2. The second step is to refine those goals. Don’t think big, don’t think small – think fulfilled. Maybe you want to eat healthier. Why is that? To lose weight, to be more athletic, simply to be healthier inside and out? The key at this stage is to work out the least “superficial” reasons behind your goals, and narrow things down to what you really want.
Let’s expand on the eating healthy example. Why do you want to improve your eating habits? Is it because you’ve gained some “holiday weight” and you’re worried people will judge you? Or is it because you want to feel better, be more productive, and to be healthier person in general? The latter of these two is a much stronger goal which will ultimately drive you further in your endeavours. If you’re doing something for superficial reasons, or because of what others might think, it might be worth addressing those issues first and foremost, and then deciding whether or not you still want to pursue those goals. Just be sure you’re doing it for yourself, and not for anyone else.
Refined goals for 2019:
Get up earlier. Why: I love the morning, it makes me feel so much more productive, and I know from experience I’m more likely to have a “good day” if I wake up early. I also think it’s important to get as much sunlight as possible, which is pretty difficult to do if you sleep in till noon every day.
Exercise more. Why: It makes me feel good to exercise (endorphins and all that), and it’s something I’ve been historically bad at, and it helps me sleep better. I also feel about 1000x more smug than I need to at any given point.
Keep a clean house. Why: I get really stressed if my house is untidy, and I find it much harder to get anything done. Having a tidy house is the single most important factor to how good I feel about my life, so I want to dedicate the time to making it happen.
3. Make your life as easy as possible. I’d highly recommend habit tracking (for more info check out my bullet journal post). At this point it’s all about finding the simplest possible way of achieving your goal.
Let’s go back to the healthy eating example. The key is to finding something you can do on a daily basis that will help you achieve this, such as having one meal consisting entirely of salad, eating no sugar, eating no meat, or drinking no soft drinks. You want to pick things that are really easy to measure – if you choose something generic like “eat healthy”, it’s easy to start obsessing over everything you eat to the point where you actually pick up unhealthy habits (such as starving yourself or cutting out entire food groups because they don’t “feel” healthy).
Habit track this for a month. There’s something immensely satisfying about rewarding yourself with filling in a square for each day that you’ve achieved your goal. If it doesn’t seem to be working at all (i.e. if you notice half your days or more aren’t filled in), pick something simpler – instead of tracking each day you eat no sugar, track each day where you don’t have have a sugar-free breakfast, or you don’t snack (or both!) If you can feel that it’s working a bit, you might want to give it another month before you change tactics. If you’re finding it easy, i.e. pretty much all your days are filled in, you might want to up your game next month – instead of tracking each day you eat no sugar, track each day you don’t eat or drink anything containing sugar. Alternatively, if it’s almost “too easy” to track this habit, it might be that you simply don’t need to track it next month. If you’re already eating no sugar, consider focusing on another aspect of your eating, such as having 3 well spaced-out meals, or getting enough fresh vegetables.
The idea behind habit trackers is that in the moment, it’s sometimes hard to see the big picture. It’s really important that it’s there – but having big goals and finding the motivation to do something every day are two completely different things. The thought process for daily habit trackers should be “I want to tick this off today as it’s not very hard to do and I enjoy ticking things off”. Additionally, you should go easy on yourself when using habit trackers. I have, in the past, used things like “clean something”, and literally picking up a piece of rubbish off the floor will count as cleaning something. The key is little and often. It’s not about perfection, it’s about repetition and mindset.
My 2019 habit trackers:
Get up earlier: be in bed by midnight,
Exercise more: go to either dance or yoga once a week
Keep a clean house: make sure there are no dirty dishes when you go to bed
4. Give yourself the tools to achieve your daily goal. You can’t buy good habits, but a bit of targeted spending can go a long way. For example, I found that I don’t like flossing unless I have a really specific brand of floss sticks (I know, I know) – so I ordered 3 packs of that brand, and now that I’m no longer worried I’ll run out, I can floss to my hearts content. My top, top tip for trying to eat healthy is increasing your food budget. This may not be an option for everyone, but if you at all have the scope to stop worrying about the price of food, then do so. Healthy food isn’t cheap. If you are on more of a budget, it’s still very much possible to eat healthy food – it’ll just require slightly more effort!
My 2019 habit tools:
Get up earlier: night-time candle and night-time tea
Exercise more: membership to yoga and dance studios
Keep a clean house: spice racks and wicker boxes to organise the kitchen, and always staying stocked up on cleaning supplies
5. You’ll stop noticing – it just becomes habit.
After a couple months when it gets to the stage where you don’t think about your habits too much, you’ll start seeing the bigger picture more. It’ll be easier to focus on the overall goals, and to remember why you wanted them in the first place. You can stop tracking at this point – although if you notice yourself slipping up you can always go back!
Remember: with habit tracking each new month is a complete reset. Each new day is a reset in some sense. It’s not all about January and new year’s resolutions!!
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