create a habit one day at a time


i've talked here before about making a habit of practicing my craft.  2013 was a very successful year for me in terms of building creative habits.  i figured i'd give you a couple good tips on how to start (and keep!) a habit of your own...

  1. think small.  tiny, in fact.  keeping a tiny habit is easier than keeping a big one.  at the beginning when you fight the battle to get in another day of practice, a small battle is easier to fight.  for my writing habit, i told myself to just write one page in my journal.  i don't even have to fill up the page.  for my pushups habit, i only had to do 10.  just focus on that tiny step.
  2. don't accept any excuses.  i kept my streak alive in 2013 even when i traveled to oregon, seattle, california, pennsylvania, north carolina, and new york on planes, through the night, through exhaustion, through no internet access.  but i wasn't willing to use any of those as excuses.  believe me, at the beginning, your mind will come up with some amazing reasons why you shouldn't keep up with your habit.
  3. keep a visible account of your habits.  i swear by the streaks app. or you can make a pretty habit tracker of your own.  seeing that little check mark does amazing things for your mind and motivation.  actually, for me, it was the fear of breaking that streak that kept me going.
  4. just think about today.  i remember when my kids were infants, the thought of being worried about them for the rest of eternity seemed so overwhelming i thought i'd drown.  if you think "oh my gosh, i have to do this habit 325 more days?!?!?" it will overwhelm  you.  just think, i am going to do my habit today.  that's it. nothing else.
  5. one at a time.  only build one habit at a time.  you can only fight so many battles.  once it becomes engrained, you can add another habit.  i have 7 streaks currently but i added with caution. 
  6. remember it isn't easy.  don't be hard on yourself on the days you really fight against the habit.  if it was easy, everybody would have tons of habits.  it does get easier.  (although there are some days still, after 399 days in a row, where i feel like it will be physically impossible to do 1 minute of plank.)
  7. routine.  other people who talk about streaks say to do it at a set time each day, such as after brushing teeth, or before bedtime, etc.  there is nothing routine about my life, and that idea doesn't work for me.  as long as i get the streaks done before i go to bed, that's all that matters. i just make it fit in to my life.   sometimes i do my plank or pushups in the kitchen while heating up my lunch.  i often do my 1 minute of extra exercise while i brush my teeth.  (calf raises and wall sits are the most common).  i do my sketch while my kids did homework so we were all at the table together. you can find a place for it in your day if it is important to you.

james clear has a great article here about building better habits.  and here is another good article from him  about not breaking the chain.

if you are interested in learning more about habit formation, james clear is giving an online habits workshop on january 28th.  i haven't taken it and am not affiliated with him, but i love his newsletters and blog posts and have already implemented many of the practices he talks about.