Every time I read about creating new habits, the term “daily habits” always pops up.
You’ve probably heard it before…
“You must do this habit every day to make it stick.”
“Your new habit should be a daily practice.”
I always had the question: “Does that really mean every single day?” Even weekends and holidays?
I’ve finally figured out the best way to approach new “daily habits”.
Let me share what I’ve learned…
Daily, But Tiny
The short answer to the question behind this entire article is “yes”, if you want a new habit to really stick, it needs to become a habit you practice every single day. Weekends and holidays included. You should even stick with it on vacations. (I know all of my UK friends are thinking: “On vacation? You already mentioned holidays!” 😉 )
It may seem overwhelming and possibly even undesirable to consider practicing a habit every single day of your life. If this is the case, your habit is too big!
The first step when creating a new habit is to make it small enough to be able to do it every day without interrupting your life significantly.
If you have a million things going on, your habit should be small enough to be the 1,000,001 thing.
Here are some examples of how small your habit may need to be when you’re first starting out:
- Reading – One page each day.
- Writing – Fifty words each day.
- Running – One minute each day.
- Calisthenics – Five reps each day.
Seems too small doesn’t it? It’s not, let me tell you why…
Tiny Habit, Large Time Slot
I’m sure you realize that reading one page a day won’t equate to much over time. That’s why you schedule more time to read your one page than you need. If I schedule 15 minutes to read one page, it’s likely that I’ll be able to read much more…at least 2 pages, right?
The beauty of it all is that even if you really do only have time for one page or one minute, that’s all you have to do. That’s the habit.
If I schedule a one minute run every day, I’ll make sure to schedule at least 30 minutes for that one minute run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So, those three days are my real running days, but all that is required is still just the one minute.
Once I put on my running shoes and head out the door, I can usually door more than a minute on the other days too. And anything over a minute is a bonus.
Increasing the Habit
If you read How to Create Good Habits (And Actually Stick With Them) and How to Create a New Habit (Even if You’re “Too Busy”), you might remember that the key to creating new habits isn’t just starting small, it’s also gradually increasing the habit.
You should be increasing your habit gradually, but you don’t have to increase your “everyday” habit. You build onto your daily habit, insofar as it makes sense for your schedule.
Your goal may be to run for one hour, 3 days a week. So, that means you should set aside an hour a few of the days each week to complete your small habit. You’ll always be running for one minute per day, but you should be gradually increasing to run more on your “running days”.
What does that look like?
Week 1, you run for one minute each day. Week 2, you increase to two minutes per day on Mon, Wed and Fri, but you still continue to do one minute on the other days. You will be building up your 3x per week run, while maintaining the habit by just a minute each day. Once the habit of running three times each week sticks, you can get rid of the other days, as long as you stay disciplined.
You may have heard me talk about identity based habits before. That’s what this is all about. Becoming a daily reader/writer/runner or a financial expert…one day at a time. Eventually, you may be running 5 or 10 miles several times each week, but we’re not there yet…
I know, you’re not going to read a million books by taking it one page a day, but you will become a daily reader. And that’s the type of habit that will stick. There is always time to grow your habit. The important thing is starting it. And too often people don’t grow their habits, because they never get started.
If you practice a habit every day, it will become an identity based habit. You will become a daily reader, a financial expert, a runner, a weight lifter, etc…
The Most Important Thing
Nothing is more important than persistence.
What happens if you miss your habit for some reason? Absolutely nothing. You just pick up where you left off. You’re supposed to be practicing your new habit every day, but you’re not a failure if you miss it.
Maybe you forgot or you were sick or you were too busy making an excuse of why you couldn’t do it, so you didn’t have time to actually do it. The point is that if you mess up, keep going.
A daily habit is the goal. You’re on your way, but there will be setbacks since we’re dealing with life here. Identify yourself with your new habit.
Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo, Tim Ebbs
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