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How to Create Habits That Stick

change habits

I have been thinking a lot about habits lately because I want to create better ones around time management in the new year. I am heading into 2020 with the word GROOVE as my guide, so I am l looking for ways to get into a groove of productivity. I am reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, and his advice for making tiny changes in behavior that lead to big results has been just the help I was looking for. I have already been putting some of his tips into action as I’m establishing a daily practice of meditation and this is what has been working for me.

1. Start (really) small - When introducing a new behavior, Clear advises us to scale it down to an increment so small it can be completed in about two mintues. He says that at the beginning the action should be so easy that it’s not at all challenging to complete it. In applying this to my efforts to meditate daily, I decided to reduce my committment to only five minutes, an amount of time that I knew I would find very easy to do. I have been able to do this almost every day this month in part because I know those five minutes go by in a flash.

Once you have established the habit it becomes much easier to scale it up. Within about a week I was bumping up my meditation sessions to ten minutes per day and found it just as easy as during my initial push.

2. Stack your habits - Another tip from Clear is to pair your new habit with something you are already doing. Start by looking at your current routines and see where your new behavior can be stacked onto an established one. My morning routine starts with pouring myself a glass of water and taking a few sips. I decided to attach my new meditation practice to this regular habit: after drinking some water I meditate for five minutes. In just a couple of weeks this has become a natural progression.

3. Show up even when you don't want to - One mindset shift that has really helped me is accepting the fact that some days I simply won’t feel like meditating. I know that if this behavior is important to me I can’t make it contingent on waiting for the mood to strike. I push myself to show up even on the days I don’t want to because I have found when I do I always feel better afterwards. Clear says in order to be successful at establishing good habits you need to “fall in love with the boredom” of doing the same things over and over.

4. Don’t miss more than one day in a row - Perfection is an unrealisic goal, so I allow myself to skip a day here and there. But Clear suggests not letting too many missed days stack up. If I missed meditation yesterday I’m commited to getting back to it today, without question.

These are just a few of the strategies presented in Atomic Habits. If you are also trying to establish a better routine in 2020, I would recommend reading the full book, you can find it here.

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