Creating Habits 101: Develop A Healthy Routine That Sticks (+ A Workbook)
We’ve all been there, right?
Maybe it's when you're in the snack aisle at the grocery store or lying in bed scrolling on Instagram for 2 hours.
Whatever the situation, shame manages to creep its way up to give you an oh-so polite tap on the shoulder. A friendly reminder that you could be doing better. “Just look at you and what you've become”, it whispers.
And whether it’s 2 am or 2 pm panic hits and you think “Oh my god, I’m a failure! I need to do better and I need to do better... right. now.”
Why you're creating habits all wrong
So you start flossing and waking up early to go to the gym. You make every meal from scratch. You read actual books instead of taking all those Buzzfeed quizzes. You clean all the forgotten corners in your home and brush your cat every day so she doesn’t get hairballs. Maybe you even do some of these things simultaneously. I mean, no judgment.
When we so much as feel an inkling of perceived failure we have a knee-jerk reaction to make a complete 180 turn. We stack our metaphorical plates with the things we MUST be doing to be A Great Adult.We manage to keep the momentum for a few days or even a couple weeks and then crash and burn. Hard.
So hard that you go back to laying on the couch scrolling through Instagram for hours on end. And let’s be honest, after the whirlwind of Great Adult-ing it’s all your brain can even handle, right?
So today I’m sharing 5 totally reasonable tips for creating habits that stick.
They won’t help you win the Best Adult award and most days you won’t exactly feel like you’re kicking ass and taking names. But you WILL be making progress and more importantly the kind of progress that sticks around.
Okay, enough blabbering, let’s get started:
If you get a flat tire on a road trip you wouldn’t get out and slash the other three in frustration, would you?
But how many times have you slipped up on building a new habit or routine and called the whole thing off?
We tend to see our mistakes as a big neon failure sign instead of a part of the process.
But life isn’t about perfect execution. With this level of expectation, we only set ourselves up for failure. You see, there is no such thing as a flawless journey.
You know the popular image of what you think the journey will look like and what it actually looks like? It totally applies here.
Adding a new habit to your daily routine is a journey to success in itself. It may not be one that leads to a college degree, new family or even learning a new skill like knitting or coding. In comparison, doesn't feel like much of a journey at all.
You’re simply adding a small task into your routine, right? No big.
But it IS big. Humans love routine. And establishing a new habit isn’t as simple as adding a task to your to-do list each day. Because your mind is going to resist the new habit at first. It wants to stick to the familiar, the known. To what's easiest. So when first introducing this habit into your routine, you’re fighting upstream.
If you want to succeed allow yourself some grace. Practice patience over the next 3 months and work on one or two habits at a time. I know the temptation to add five new habits at once is REAL but resist! Incorporating one habit at a time allows you to focus your energy on the change you want to make.
Set yourself up for success
Set yourself up for success by creating a proactive plan ahead of time. You know, instead of the 5 minutes before you want to begin...
Ask yourself what you need to put in place to make this habit stick. Gather supplies, reach out to others and schedule appointments. Pin down what time of day you’ll do your habit by, where you’ll do it and how often. Do some research, take notes and create a plan.
I highly recommend creating a plan for when you can’t (or don't want to) make your new habit happen. Choose an alternative that you can do instead to keep the momentum going.
Maybe instead of heading out to the gym, you complete a quick 15-minute HIIT workout. Instead of morning pages, write out a paragraph or quick brain dump. If you don’t have time to make a home cooked meal, order a healthy dish out instead.
You should also make your habit stupid easy to complete. Lay out your workout outfit or journaling notebook the night before. Go to bed early and set an alarm you know will get you out of bed. Keep a list of tried and true recipes to pull from to make meal planning a snap.
Or even better stack your habit…
Sandwich a new habit into an existing habit stack.
“What the heck is a habit stack”, you ask?A habit stack is a set of habits you already do each day.
Do you always take your medication, wash your face and brush your teeth in the morning? Or on your lunch break do you go for a walk before eating lunch and listening to a podcast?
These routines are made up of habits. Habits that when grouped together add up to a stack.
These habits that make up our routines have been ingrained into our brain's structure. It’s like a well-worn path that’s been traveled thousands of times. And well, that’s because it has!
When you tap into an existing routine with a defined path it’s easier for your brain to take on something new. Instead of creating a whole new path it can create a little more room on a well-established one.
So in not-so-scientific terms, it’s like attaching the caboose to the end of a train. By adding a new habit to your existing routine you make it easier to follow through.
You’re already in a familiar rhythm of your day-to-day routine, the momentum is there. And by sandwiching it between existing habits you make it easier to become a part of your rhythm.
Hold yourself accountable… in a way you enjoy
Hold yourself accountable in a way you can look forward to each day and enjoy the process. This could mean creating a habit tracker in your bullet journal, laying down a sticker in your planner each day, or tapping done in your app of choice.
Whatever the case choose a way that works for YOU. And if it’s in a way you’re excited about? All the better.
If you want to move more you might find that you do your best when you follow a calendar routine. A list of daily prompts might be exactly what you need to show up each day and write in your journal. Or if you’re looking to switch up the way you eat maybe you get creative and snap a picture of your dinner plate each night.
When you make your new habit a moment in your day that you can look forward to you practically guarantee yourself success. You don’t need me to tell you that an enjoyable task is far easier to complete than one that you dread. Right?
And if your habit is one that you dread? Get creative with a way to make it one you can love. Have a think on why you are incorporating this habit in the first place.
Define your intent
So let’s talk about how to do that. You might be thinking, "I hate this thing and I need to do it every day and it’s the WORST! I could never enjoy it." But there is a reason you have to do it. There is some benefit to this habit. Whether it’s having a clean home, keeping all the teeth in your head, or maintaining your mental health.
Take time to really get clear on this. If you take only one of these tips, make it this one. So pull out pen and paper and start writing out why you want this change to be a part of your routine. What do you expect to gain from it?
I am a very lazy person. Like, a VERY lazy person. So I’m kind of the worst at upholding habits and adding new ones in. But, the biggest game changer for me has been getting clear on the “big why” behind my goal. I dig deep for a meaningful answer.
The key here is having a "why" that helps you get your butt out of bed when you don’t want to. It will get you moving when all you want to do is lay on the floor. And it will push you to get a little creative in the kitchen even though it’s so much easier to pour a bowl of cereal. So please, make time for this step.
Hey, you made it!
Welcome to the end!
I know, this post is a doozy. But I have SO much to say about creating new habits, especially ones that will actually stick around. I’ve spent YEARS trying to crack this code and have absorbed every drop of information I could get my hands on.
Don't get me wrong that doesn’t mean I’ve got this in the bag. I'm just a lot better at it than I was. I now know what I need to do when I lose sight of my end goal or "big why". And honestly, it makes such a difference.
So I hope this helps you to do the same. And because I don’t want you to flail around like Magikarp for as long as I did I’ve created some worksheets for you.
Click the button below to grab your copy of The Creating Habits Workbook
Inside you'll find worksheets to help you decide which habit to focus on first, your intent behind your habit and calendars to print out and hold you accountable.