All of your little habits each day make up your life. Woah! That can be pretty eye-opening! It’s true. So many things we do in a day are strictly done out of habit, and we end up doing those things hundreds or thousands of times per year. Because of that accumulation, all is well if it’s a good habit, but it’s not so great if the habit is adding up to an undesirable outcome. Changing habits is tough! It’s why gym memberships peak in January and decline by March. It’s always why it’s fairly easy for someone to get organized on the surface, and then quickly fall back into the old patterns and have a mess on their hands again. In this post, I’m going to share with you 7 tips for sticking to new habits.
First, you need to do some reflection. Gretchen Rubin in her book called “The Four Tendencies,” says that we all fall into one of the four categories: Obliger, Rebel, Questioner, and Upholder. Here’s the link to her quiz, so you can determine what you are! The four personality types describe how you react to inner and outer expectations. For example, I’m a questioner, so I resist outer expectations and meet inner expectations. One of my clients told me that she was an obliger, so she meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations. What works to hold ourselves accountable will be very different because we are motivated differently.
You do not have to read the book though to use this information. Generally speaking, we can do some self-reflection to see how we are motivated. Do you think of yourself as a “people-pleaser”? Do love rules to follow? Do others count on you for things, but when you make promises to yourself, you break them? Do you generally make go by feeling and despise rules? Use this information to see what tips for sticking to new habits may apply to your personality and goals.
1) Make sure the new habit is important and makes sense for your life.
This is so important. Around January, Instagram is full of people showing their lists of resolutions for the new year. Do not get clouded by what other people are doing. It may work for someone to want to read a new book each month, but if you aren’t into reading, don’t worry yourself with that habit. Think about your goals and your vision for your life. What are the small habits that will slowly push you forward? Focus on those.
2) Create a calendar.
This is perfect for those who are internally motivated. My most successful attempt at creating a new habit was about two years ago when I wanted to exercise or move with intention every day. I printed out a full calendar on a single sheet of paper and marked each day that I did some kind of intentional movement. Having that visual was a huge motivator. I ended up coloring almost every day of the entire calendar! I didn’t write the type of exercise, minutes, or any details. I simply highlighted the day that I moved. It was incredible how simple and effective it was. Click the button at the bottom of the post to download the 2021 calendar that I'll be using!
3) Keep it simple.
No surprise that I believe simpler is (almost) always better. Changing a habit is hard enough, so don’t overcomplicate things. If you want to cook more consistently and think meal planning is the way to go, then now is not the time to incorporate a new recipe every night. First, get in the habit of cooking regularly. Then, add in some new recipes once cooking is no longer a big deal. Think about the outcome you want and decide the most basic steps to get you there. Spice it up later! (Pun intended!)
4) Make it maintainable.
In my exercise example above, I wanted to add exercise or movement to my daily routine. I didn’t say it had to be a certain type of exercise for a certain amount of time. Because I wanted to foster a daily habit, I needed the flexibility to do what I could do that day. There was no way I could maintain a strict daily, exercise schedule for an entire year (or an entire month to be honest). Some days it would be a structured routine, other days it would be a walk around the block or some push-ups. Don’t set the bar low necessarily, but don’t set it so high that you set yourself up to fail.
5) Put your money where your mouth is.
Pay a personal trainer, hire me to help you organize (shameless plug!), or make a bet with a friend. Not only will you have the pressure (good pressure!) of someone else watching you, but you have your hard-earned money on the line!
6) Simplify everything else.
Don’t try to change too much at one time. It can be easy to get wrapped up in making all of the life changes at one time, but try to work on one thing at a time. The example that always comes to mind is eating well and exercising. They go hand-in-hand for sure, but you can’t give your “all” to both of them at the same time when you are first starting. Start with one, get on a roll, and add the other. I work with clients all the time on this when there are so many changes they want to make in their homes. For example, focus on not letting dishes pile up in the sink before you worry too much about creating a habit around handling incoming paper.
7) Expect speed bumps.
Things will get in your way, and there will be hiccups. Know you will start again because one (or two or three) slip-up cannot keep you down!
I sincerely hope these tricks help you change the habits that will move you toward your vision and goals. I have literally used every single one of these tips in one situation or another! I’d love to hear from you! What habits do you want to change (get rid of or add)? What slip-ups are you anticipating? What tip resonates the most with you?