When we say that, we really mean, I want a better habit.
I want to change my habits is a favorite as well.
I bet you hear this just as much as I do. I suspect you say this as much as I do.
We all talk about what would be better.
- If only I could start going to the gym in the morning again.
- I wish I could stop procrastinating.
- I want to stop snacking.
- I need to get back on my good sleep schedule.
- I want to stop checking my email every few minutes.
I hear these all the time. Yep, in my head, but also from others.
We’ve all seen people make habit changes when something external happens. The typical example of this could be someone with a health issue that requires them to eat differently.
But, what if we want to create a new habit and don’t want to wait for that external impetus?
There are a few steps that I’ve found helpful.
- Awareness: Know your reason for creating the new habit and keep this present in mind.
- Incremental: Take one small step at a time.
- Anticipate obstacles: Identify the patterns that are stopping you from making the new habit.
- Own it: Don’t blame circumstances or others for not making progress.
- Celebrate: Reflect and appreciate the progress you make.
Awareness. One way to find a compelling reason you want to do something is to ask yourself why five times. What this looks like for the new habit of looking at email only when I have scheduled time to do it. I will look at email four times a day: 8, 11:00, 3, and 4:30.
- Why? I want to spend less time on email.
- Why? I want more time to do other things.
- Why? I want to stop always feeling behind on my tasks.
- Why? I want to get the important stuff done.
- Why? I want to work fewer hours.
Bam! We reached a compelling reason. If I establish this new habit, I believe I can get more done in my workday and therefore not work so much in the evenings.
Incremental. Find the first small step you can take. Be realistic. Most of us can’t change everything at once.
In our example, we could schedule four blocks of time on our calendar to do email. That might not feel big enough, but if it leads to success, you are golden. If not, it will bring you a better understanding of the next step to try.
Anticipate Obstacles. We can all imagine what could go wrong, but we often try to ignore those thoughts. Sit in them for a moment. Ask yourself if you have some existing patterns of behavior that might get in the way? Think of strategies you could use to avoid the obstacle or come up with some if-then plans that are more aligned to your goal than the actions you have always done. For example:
- I expect that I’ll be tempted to use those scheduled blocks to allow someone else to put a meeting there. Is that inevitable? Is it true? If you say yes to using them, then you will find replacement times that you will protect.
- I will want to look at mail on my phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. First, look at your reason for that and decide if you like it. If you don’t, maybe you could leave your phone in your bag in another room.
I can think of tons of ideas for email, but this is enough for you to see my point.
Own it. Don’t give up your power by blaming your choices on something or someone else. Know that you are making a choice, and be OK with that choice, or find a way to make the choice you want.
If you check email during meetings or while you are having dinner with a friend, recognize what you are doing. Decide that this is OK, or not. If the latter, then make a different choice.
Appreciate. Many of us only take the time to think about how far away we are from the change we want. Flip that around and think about how far you’ve come and appreciate the progress you made.
I followed my plan and didn’t look at my email at all on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. Yay me!
Do you know what and how to create the habit and something isn’t working? It might be that you have underlying thoughts about making the change that are undermining your progress. Schedule a discovery session with me and we’ll see what we can find.