Last Christmas, I decided that 2016 would be a year of habits. I’ve never been a fan of New Year resolutions, but I think that January is a good time for getting back into routines after the oddity that is December. I set out a list of habits to pursue, and selected some to start with. It’s had mixed success. Some habits stuck, some really didn’t, but the habit of habits has ploughed a furrow for future habits to take.
The first habits I chose were:
- Update my bullet journal daily
- Inbox zero for my personal email
- In-tray zero for my physical in-tray
- Wash up
Habits work best with a trigger, so I chose ‘before bed’ for updating my journal, ‘before dinner’ for the admin, and washing up at 8:30pm, except on the days I was roleplaying. I found that the time trigger worked really well, and I kept up the habit for 9 months. The ‘before’ something trigger doesn’t work too well, as it often get to the something before you’ve done the habit. If the habit takes more than 5 minutes, choose a different trigger.
I tracked my habits using my bullet journal. I put the days of the month across the top, the habits down the side, and coloured in each day I succeeded (Fig.1). In subsequent months, I used the standard BuJo calendar spread, but with the right-hand page as habits instead of tasks (Fig.2). (By that point I was using a different system for my to-do list). I used this method until the end of May, when I basically just stopped (I find systems get stale after a few months, so I rejigged my productivity system).
In those five months, the washing up habit stuck for several more, my getting up time is now consistently early, if not exactly the same time every morning, and I eat yoghurt more often. My email inbox is overflowing though, and my physical in-tray hasn’t been touched since moving house. It’s amazing what a big change like that does to your habits. It certainly did for the washing up habit too, as the 8:30pm trigger wasn’t suitable any more, and I didn’t set a new trigger.
It’s now Christmas 2016, and I’m planning some new habits for the new year. I’m on a 5 day streak already with meditation in the mornings (just after getting dressed), and started a habit of checking my diary every morning (it has my to-do list in). I’m currently trying out Habit Bull, an Android app, for tracking them. I tried it out on my tablet, and I didn’t like it, but it works really well on my phone, especially as the meditation app I’m using is on there (Headspace, if you were wondering).
I could go on about habits, but I would probably just be repeating things I’ve read, such as https://zapier.com/blog/keystone-habits/, and Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits (it’s hard to search as he keeps producing books of his blog content, but you can trawl the archives here: https://zenhabits.net/archives/)