Most of our life is lived by habits. We learn how to ride a bike, how to drive a car, we even learn how to speak and read. And then we do all of these with minimum effort and implication. Basically, all of these are habits. They allow us to focus on other things while pushing the routine into background. It would be quite difficult to learn to drive the car every time you need to go shopping, isn’t it?
As any other things in our life, habits are just tools we use in our joyful exploration of life. Habits are not good or bad, they are just ways of handling repetitive tasks that would otherwise require a lot of energy. As such, the master habit of creating / breaking your habits can be quite an asset.
In today’s post I’ll share some of my experiences with habit creation using one of my favorite activities: journaling. It’s a simple way in which you can assess, decide and then implement any new habit. There’s also a free downloadable journal template for you but let’s take the things one at a time.
Why Do You Need A New Habit?
Well, let’s say you want a new habit in order to:
* write on your blog more often
* update your twitter status daily
* write each day a page from your new book
* start a fitness program
* start a new eating habit or diet
* learn a new language
All these new activities are made by some repetitive tasks, a set of moves you have to do daily in order to get some positive results. So until you are proficient in that new language, or until you are that new blogging super star or until you publish your new book, you need a scaffold for your intentions. You need to create a habit of being there.
How To Create A Habit In 15 Days
All you need for that is a journal. You can use anything that fits, from pen and paper to an electronic journaling software. My choice here is the excellent MacJournal. Each day you will follow a simple set of rules thoroughly described below.
Day 1: Name your habit
Define it in the shortest, yet most understandable sentence you can write. Take your time. Write until you finally come with an atomic sentence. Your new habit could be something like this:
* write daily on my new book
* learn thai
* eat healthier
* exercise daily
Don’t go into detail here you’ll have the next day for that. That’s all you have to do in the first day.
Day 2: Describe your actions in detail
Now it’s time to get detailed. Write everything you need to perform in order to create that habit. For instance, if you want to write on your book, be as detailed as you can:
* write each day at least 30 minutes
* write each day at least 3000 words
* read each day at lest 5000 words from previous chapters
* do at least 15 minutes internet research
* borrow time from my other tasks (family, kids, friends, kids, entertainment)
You don’t have to do all the tasks each day, but this exercise is meant to give you an idea of what you actually try to implement, to get into the “doing” vibration.
Day 3-5: Habit Implementation
During these days you’re going to journal your experiences with your habit implementation. You should be extremely accurate but without any comment whatsoever. We’re trying to break the doing from the analyzing here, so during these days don’t write any comment, just what you did. If you did nothing, write that, but don’t write the reasons.
Day 6: Your First Milestone
Now it’s time to start analyzing, This is the day when you’re commenting on your progress. If you haven’t made any progress it’s time to write the reasons. What stopped you? Which of you defined tasks in Day 2 were performed and which avoided? Be as specific as you can. You have a whole day just for assessment. When you finished this, you’re already a week away from your starting point. Whatever your progress, keep in mind that you’ve done it for one week. You only have 9 days to go.
Day 7-9: Habit Implementation Phase 2
You already have a milestone and three days of practice. You can now go on with habit implementation, applying all you’ve learned in the first milestone. Remember, just write down the action performed, not your comments.
Day 10: Second Milestone
Now you have the experience of the first milestone and even 3 more days in which you implemented, It’s time to write down your comments again. From my experience, the second milestone is the most important one. Basically, by the second milestone you already shaped most of your habit. Just write down your progress and any comments you may want to get out of your head. In the free downloadable template there’s also a little questionnaire to help you better assess your progress.
Day 11 – 14: Habit Implementation Phase 3
By now this should be on auto-pilot. Unless you have established yourself a really big goal, you should be able to use the 3rd phase only for lock-in purposes. You may focus now on the doing and enjoy the reflex of being in that context. For instance, if you wanted to start writing a book, right now you should be able to do it acceptably easy. Even more, you should be able to focus on the writing part instead of the habit creation.
Day 15: Final Evaluation Milestone
If anything were right, you just can archive this journal and move on. If you feel you can enhance a little bit the process, or even if you haven’t created your habit yet, you can restart the whole process. It’s only two weeks and you’ve done it once already.
As you may see the actual implementation part is only two-thirds of the total time, the rest is definition and evaluation. From my experience, creating a habit is largely a matter of defining it right first and then implementing it. Also, as you can see this is a fairly loose approach, I don’t think that applying over power to this process could make it more effective. The success of creating a new habit lies in your capacity to accept it and if you try too hard, you may come to a point where actually reject it.
As I already told you there is a free MacJournal template you can use if you want to start a new habit and you can download it here:
Habit Creation Template (868)
The file is archived with a Zip utility so you will need to unzip it first. After that, you should see a file with the .mjdoc extension. All you need is to double-click it and it will open in another MacJournal window. That’s of course, if you have MacJournal installed. If you don’t, you can have a look at the end of this article, there’s something there for you.
The template contains 15 entries, one for each day. In each of the entries there are several indications on what to write and how. Each entry is also named in an easy way: “habit implementation”, or “milestone”. The entries are dated on March 1st and ending on March 15th, but you can easily change the dates from MacJournal inspector, if you really need that.
Included in the template there’s a little bonus. Apart from the 15 entries there are also two smart journals “Implementation” and “Milestones”. They are designated to be perused after you finished the whole cycle. In the “Implementation” smart journal you have listed all the implementation entries, so you won’t be distracted by any milestones or definitions. In the “Milestones” smart journal you’ll have only the milestones entries. It’s interesting to see how your implementation progressed and what you wrote on each of the milestones entries. If you’re curious about how those smart journals are created just apple-click any of them and chose “Edit Smart Journal” option from the drop-down menu.
If you don’t have MacJournal there’s some good news: you can buy it with an exclusive 15% discount as a valued DragosRoua.com reader. You can read all the details on the mariner promo code page.
Let me know what you think about this. Of course, the MacJournal template is not compulsory for this, you can create your own journaling environment, using whatever you see fit, from pen and paper to even more complex applications. Maybe you can even publicly blog about it. Anyway, I’m really curious how this will work for you, please let your comment, so I can adjust / improve / assess.