How to develop a daily habit
I have struggled FOREVER with self-discipline when it comes to establishing a new habit.
My MO goes something like this. I decide I’m going to create a new routine. It might be getting up half an hour earlier every morning. I set the alarm for 6. The first day I get up full of hope and promise that this new habit is going to change my life. Day 2 I hit the snooze button and tell my sleepy brain that it didn’t really make that much difference to my day (even though it SO did). By 6:10 guilt sets in so I get up feeling crappy that I can’t even string two days in a row together of a new habit. By day 4 I’ve all but given up. Sound familiar?
This pattern has played out repeatedly over the years no matter what the new habit is I’m trying to establish. Like clockwork each spring I decide I’m going to get fit and run every day. Instead what I discover is my masterfulness at making excuses. It’s raining (well sprinkling). It’s too dark in the morning. My exercise clothes are in the wash. I feel a twinge in my back. What’s even worse than the excuses is the feeling of failure that invariably shows up once I’ve fallen off the wagon of the new habit.
My struggle with sticking to a daily habit peaked this year when I started writing a book. I began going to writing classes and kept hearing that to be a writer you need to establish a daily writing habit. I was secretly pissed that this was the main ingredient most writers claimed was the difference between success and failure. I ignored this advice and thought if I pulled a big day or two a week of writing it would be ok. It wasn’t. I had to find a way to write daily and stick to it.
So it is with this in mind that I felt compelled to share the only thing that has worked for me when it comes to establishing a new habit.
All you need is a calendar and a marker pen. And an idea of what the new habit is you wish to establish.
So I started. Each day I write, I mark the day off on my calendar. I have set myself a very easy task. Write just one paragraph a day. What usually happens is I write more. 750 words is now the target. It has become totally addictive marking off the days on my calendar. I’m up to my 39th unbroken day of writing. Now the pain of not marking off a day on my calendar is even greater than just sitting down and writing.
The calendar accepts no excuses. If I don’t write then I don’t get to mark off the day. There have been occasions where I have come home from a night out and started writing at a quarter to midnight just so I can mark off my day. I have found myself fitting in writing where I would have otherwise made excuses. In the car at the netball courts, at the hairdressers while the foils are on, waiting in the departure lounge. I write.
Previously I would have used this time to troll through my feed on Facebook. Not anymore. Facebook has been removed from my phone for this reason.
There will always be excuses. I don’t have time. I’m too busy. You know the drill. However the power of unbroken days is the greatest silencer of excuses.
Is there something you want to introduce into your daily routine?
Have you struggled in the past to stick to a new goal? Take it from me, the queen of excuses, this works.
I’m going for 365 unbroken days of writing. For someone who couldn’t manage a week of a new habit, I have no doubt I’ll make it to a year.