If you have been trying to cultivate new habits with little success, then you might find these very useful. These habits are not rocket science – they are easy to understand, apply and have worked tremendously for me.
Here they are:
1. Know the Real Reason Why Your Habit Didn’t Stick Previously.
Address the root cause of the issue, not the effect. Desperately battling with yourself every morning to wake up at 5:30am is to address the effect. Understanding why you keep failing to wake up at 5:30am is to address the cause.
Below is an example of the drilling process:
Keep asking why to drill down to the root reason. Once you get to the real cause, you can immediately resolve the issue.
2. Pick Habits that Reinforce Each Other.
Our habits are not standalone; they are interlinked. Some habits have a stronger linkage with each other than others. For example, sleeping early and waking early are obviously linked to each other, while sleeping early and reading a book a day might not be so closely related. If you want to cultivate a habit, identify the other habits that are tied with it and make a holistic change. These habits will reinforce each other to help make the change seamless.
3. Plan For Your Habits (Right down to the timings).
Having a schedule lets you know when you are on or off track for your habits. For the 1st day of my new lifestyle, I did a full-day planning and continued thereafter for all other days.
The beauty of having a precise schedule is it helps know exactly when you’re taking more time than desired, and this helps work on being more efficient.
It may seem like a hassle, but it really isn’t.
It just takes me about 10 minutes to get each day’s schedule done. Not surprisingly, I have allocate time in my daily schedule to do my scheduling for the next day (11-11:10pm). All you have to do is create a template once, and then you can reapply this template for the other days. There will be similar items across all out days that can be reapplied, such as waking/breakfast/commuting/working/dinner/sleeping times, so it’s really very straight forward.
If you don’t plan for when exactly to get the habit done and instead just arbitrarily say that you want it to be done sometime today, then there’s a very high chance it might not get done. This is why most people’s habits don’t stick. Other things will invariably keep popping in and you’d engage them without realizing it and throw your schedule off track. From there, other things get pushed back and you never get to carry out your habit.
4. Stay Ahead of Your Schedule.
I found it’s extremely motivating to stay ahead. Waking up early at 5am means I’m ahead of most people in the world (and myself too, if I were to stick to my old schedule), and that motivates me to work fast and stay ahead. What helps me continue this momentum is that I end my tasks earlier and start the next task before the scheduled timing. By ensuring I stay ahead of my schedule, I’m naturally motivated to work on all the things I have planned, including my habits. There’s no resistance to get them started at all.
If a task is taking more time than needed, then I make a choice. Either:
- Hurry up and get it done
- De-prioritize the unnecessary or
- Borrow time out for my later tasks to continue working on the current one. This also means I have to work faster for the remainder of the day.
This decision-making process is important, because otherwise you will end up playing catch-up for the rest of the day, which affects all your planned habits/activities. Subsequently, it also affects your will to maintain your habits. Stay ahead of your schedule and you will find it easier to stay motivated.
5. Track Your Habits.
Tracking keeps you accountable to your habits. I have a whiteboard in my bedroom which I use to track my habits. On the whiteboard, I drew a large table, split by days (21 days to cultivate a new habit) and by habits. For the days where I do the habit, I will give it a check. For the days I don’t, I make a cross. It’s very satisfying to do the checks every time you finish a habit! You can also track your habits on paper or in your computer.
6. Engage People Around You.
Engagement can occur on 2 levels – (a) Active engagement, where you inform your friends who might be interested in and cultivate the habit together with them or (b) Passive engagement, where you let others know about your plans and having them morally support you.
Don’t feel that you’re alone in your habit change because you aren’t. There are always people around you who are more than willing to support you.
My personal tips above have worked tremendously for myself, so while they may look simple and straightforward, don’t underestimate them. Try them out for yourself and let me know how your new habits are coming along for you.