Building a Habit

I’ll admit it, right now with COVID-19 still going strong, most of my routines and habits are in shambles. Before this time, I felt like a powerhouse of productivity. Now, though, it seems even the smallest things I was doing daily have slipped. So now it’s time for me to explain how I typically rebuild habits.

Baby Steps

Getting started with a new habit or routine can often become exciting. When we get excited, we tend to come up with big plans and big changes. Much like New Year’s Resolutions where people say this is the year of diet and exercise, but the gyms are empty in February.

Big changes like to hold hands with big disappointment. Instead of planning on a big set of changes, we want to ease into the new routine—small steps with small progress. We aren’t going to run a marathon before we can run a mile. We aren’t going to write a book before we can write every day.

The point is, as exciting as those big dreams are with those big changes, break it down until it seems trivial. Want to write more? Try to write for 15 minutes a day.

Structure and Process

Along with breaking the change down into small bite-sized habits, let’s look at the other central part: structure and process. What I mean by this is that at first, it is more helpful to focus on the process and structure you put in place around your habit than the results.

Back to exercise, if you’re ultimately interested in losing weight, put that on hold for a while and instead focus on your workout form and workout structures. If you want to write, focus on your daily writing ritual and process around editing and whatnot.

The focus you put on the practice will help remove some of the stress about not having big results, while also giving you something to work on with small improvements.

It’s also important to point out that it may take days or even weeks of repeating something before you can make sense of what to change. So stick with something for a few days before you make radical changes.

One At A Time

Maybe this is the year for a new you, but starting too much at once is a surefire way to finish empty-handed. Pick one new thing and work it into your life for a few months before you add the next. Adding a new habit is a lot harder than people think, so give yourself time to get comfortable with it.

When you want to do something new, you are adding to something established instead of figuring both out at the same time.

Tailored to You

Okay, there will be many days when you aren’t in the mood to continue. We all have that. Think about what gets you through the chore of doing this new thing even when you don’t want to? I find for me that I need to see some inspiration about that thing and have someone that holds me accountable. I’ve tried all kinds of applications that turn habit-building into a game, and if that works for you, great! I find, ironically, that I need a habit to check those apps, so it falls flat almost immediately.

No matter what works for you, exploit it to stay on track. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I don’t think my experience entirely agrees. Some habits come quickly, and some take much longer. I think preparing yourself for the idea that you’ll be practicing for a month before it becomes normal or regular to you is probably okay, but life has a funny way of knocking us off balance. The key is to get back up quickly.

Your Turn

Take some time, jot down a habit you want to form or reform. Writing, marketing, and practicing my violin are on my mind. Now, work through how you’ll break each down and weave those small bites every day. Pay attention to the structure and process you’ll follow for each. Lastly, put something in place to keep you doing it, even when you don’t want to.