To my great surprise my post, “12 Habits in 2006” really took off last week. My one day stats for last Wednesday surpassed my largest monthly totals to date. This was clearly an exciting day and many thanks go out to lifehacker.com and other popular sites for running with the post and trackingback. Since this is a popular topic of conversation I thought I would post an update on my progress so far and some interesting things I’ve learned along the way.
The basic premise is each month of this year develop one new habit. Make it simple and doable. At the end of each month decide on a new “habit” for the next month and continue doing the existing habit. At the end of the year 12 habits will be developed.
I am now into my fourth month of the program and I have learned many things along the way. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Keep it Simple: The best way to get started is to download the 5 minute success form. Visualize yourself in 5 years. Who are you? What are you doing? Where are you? What do you look like? How are you dressed? Visualize yourself in one year. Ask the same questions. Then set a timer for 5 minutes. Write down a brief description of what you saw in the five year box and in the one year box. Then write down one simple habit that will take you closer to your one year goal. By visualizing yourself you’ll be able to better develop habits to take you there.
- Start with Something Achievable: Your first habit should be simple. You should be able to write it down in one sentence. Make sure it is measurable and doable. Set a milestone date to start the habit (first day of a month is a good example). Pick up any materials that you will need to accomplish the habit before you get started.
- Replacement Habits Work Well: Lets say you have a bad habit of going to the snack machine at work and buying cookies everyday. You could make a habit of “not having cookies” everyday, but that will probably fail unless you replace the cookies with something else. For example, replace the cookies with an apple, a much healthier alternative.
- Word it in a Positive Way: If your goal is to replace cookies with an apple try keeping the goal positive. Worded as not having cookies or even replacing cookies with an apple will keep you focused on the cookies. If you just word the goal “I will have a delicious apple every morning” you will be much more successful since your focus will be on something new and delicious.
- Put Your Written List Where You Can See It: One of the biggest causes of failure when trying to develop a new habit is forgetting to do it. You need a way to remind yourself everyday both a home and at work. Writing down the goals and habits and copying them can be very helpful. Keep a copy on the refrigerator, one by the front door, and one on your desk at work. Write a copy down on a business card and keep it in the car where you will see it. If you remember it you will do it.
- Write Down One Habit At A Time: To reduce your stress and keep you focused start off your plan with only one habit listed. Focus on that habit for the month and then spend a few minutes at the end of the month planning the goal for next month. By dealing with only one habit at a time you will be able to stay on track better. When you start month two your primary focus should be on the new habit, but make sure to continue with existing one.
My journey has been a lot of fun and some surprising things have happened along the way. I have discovered that writing everything down is the most important key of the whole program. If you see it… you will remember it… and you will do it. I’ve also found it takes much longer than 21 days to make a habit “automatic”. Persistence is a key element of this program. My four habits that I’ve been working on so far are..
- October 2005: Drink Two Quarts of Water a Day
- November 2005: Take My Lunch to Work
- December 2005: Eat an Apple a Day
- January 2006: Write One New Blog Article A Week.
My goal for the year is to become a paid professional speaker (defined as someone paying me to speak to their group this year). As I visualized myself as this speaker I noticed that I was 10 pounds thinner, I had a new professional wardrobe, and I had professional seminar materials in my hand. My habits have helped in unexpected ways.
Drinking a lot of water has replaced many sodas and other high calorie drinks. Taking my lunch has saved both calories and money and has led to fixing breakfast at home. Taking an apple has replaced the snack machine and writing articles have definitely helped create some seminar materials. Here are the stats…
Taking breakfast, lunch, and an apple a day along with replacing sodas with water have saved me almost 700 calories per day and over $160 per month in restaurant fees. This will definitely help with the weight loss, help pay for the new wardrobe, and give me plenty to write about.
Hmmm… what habit will February bring?