According to Dictionary.com, the first definition of habit is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”.  Thank you, Dictionary.com.  That really does say it best, doesn’t it? 

I like to pay attention to my habits, because the more helpful habits that I acquire over time, the less decisions I actually have to make.  For example, I brush my teeth before I leave the house each morning.  I don’t have to think about it.  I don’t need to use energy to decide whether I will brush my teeth.  I just do it. 

We already have enough decisions to make over the course of the day.  Why add more?  Decision fatigue is real.  Once the decision quota has been met for the day, we tend to stall out, and that is less than helpful.

So, here are three tips to help create helpful habits and make them stick.

1. Make them easy to accomplish.

I didn’t suggest make the habits easy, did I?  No.  I suggested that you make them easy to accomplish. 

For example, if you want to work out in the morning before work, have all your work out clothing ready to go right near your bed.  It will make it easier to slide into your work out clothing first thing and get it done.  I keep my workout DVD in the player.  It’s already to go.  All I have to do is press play and get it done.    

Another example is flossing your teeth.  If you want to develop the habit of flossing your teeth, keep the floss on the counter next to your toothbrush instead of in the drawer or medicine cabinet where you cannot readily see it, pick it up, and use it. 

When I set myself up for success, it makes it more difficult to talk myself out of it.  And guess what?  We are the champions of talking ourselves out of doing anything that is not super easy.  So, when you are implementing a new habit into your day, find ways to make it easy to accomplish with the least amount of resistance

2. Pair one with another.

When implementing a new habit into your routine, consider pairing it with one that you already perform.  You will remember it easier when it’s done right behind another.

Let’s look at the workout habit.  You can pair it with getting out of bed.  Your workout clothes are laying on your nightstand next to your bed.  Your sneakers are next to your bed.  You get up, get into your workout clothes, put your sneakers on and get it done

With the flossing habit, you’ve already left your floss out next to your toothbrush.  It makes sense to floss right after you brush, right?  The floss is right there in front of you.  Your teeth are sparkling clean.  Just floss and get it done.

Last year, I wanted to develop the habit of taking my vitamin in the evening.  To make it easier on myself, I put my vitamin container on the kitchen counter with my children’s vitamin container.  At supper, I give my children their vitamins, so I give myself one at the same time.  I made it much easier on myself by keeping the container with my children’s container and taking it when I give my children theirs. I don’t have to think about it.  I don’t have to decide to do it.  I just do it

Pairing a new habit with an already developed habit makes it easier to include in a routine, easier to get done regularly.  And one more habit means one less decision.

3. Track your habits.

When you track your habits daily, you become keenly aware of whether you are making it happen or not.  I am human, so I expect that I will miss here and there.  I’ve made it my policy to not miss a habit more than one time in a row.  As soon as I start to miss more than one day in a row, it’s easier and easier to not do the habit. Eventually it’s no longer a habit.  To implement it again, I would have to start all over again. 

I track my habits in my bullet journal.  However, you don’t need a bullet journal to track your habits.  You can use any notebook for that purpose.  You can use a whiteboard on your refrigerator.  You can be as creative as you want with it – or not. 

Whatever method you choose, I highly recommend tracking your habits as you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.  If you are having trouble with your new habit, tracking may help you discover that you’ve paired your new habit with an existing habit that makes no sense. Maybe you can do more to make your new habit easier to perform.  You also may learn that everything is going well. You will feel great tracking your success.  So, track, track, track your habits. 

Question of the Day: What new habit are you implementing? What other tips do you have? Share your answers in the comment section below, so we can all learn from one another.

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