I’m a creature of habit, which is a double edged sword. Especially since bad habits are easier to form and maintain than good ones. A daily habit can take up to a month to establish, and sometimes more. This January I have been struggling to form a new habit, walking 10000 steps a day. Which if I’m honest takes a chunk out of my day. I embarked on this challenge in the hope to keep the ‘black dog’ at bay, get fit, and hopefully have time to mull over my ideas before I got on the keyboard.
Challenges like #Janathon are great because you are a member of a community. It doesn’t matter if its exercise or writing, it is best if you don’t take any days off during the early days of your new writing habit. It is also good if you keep track of everything on a calendar.
The way a habit works is very simple. MIT researchers have boiled down the habit loop to three components. The first is the cue, the second is the routine, and the third is the reward. If something you do is a habit, the moment you encounter the cue, the routine starts and you experience the reward without even completing the task. You experience it right away.
The secret to establishing a habit is to pick a cue. A good way to do this is to pick something that happens every day. Currently, I’m trying to get my steps in first. But since the morning was my prime writing time, I am having to restructure my day to find something I do every day to cue it is time to write. For example if you feed the dog after your walk, and generally have ten minutes to spare afterwards, the feeding the dog good cue to start writing.
Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern.
- Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behaviour)
- Routine (the behaviour itself; the action you take)
- Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour)
So far, I have managed to reach my step goal everyday – it is not a habit yet. But it is effecting other things I need to do in my day, including writing. Knowing how a theory works isn’t the same as managing to incorporate it into your everyday life. So exercise AND writing is still a work in progress.
Great links to forming good habits:
Charles Duhigg’s best–selling book, The Power of Habit.