Did you start 2023 with a New Years Resolutions, but none stuck until the end? Read this for a successful 2024! With a few tricks it's easier than you though to build strong, good habits and routines.
I never made actual New Years resolutions before 2022. Of course, at New Years Eve I thought the common "I will go to the gym more often", "I want to travel more", "I want to get better at xzy".
But I never saw them as fixed goals. I said it more like wishes instead of goals. But wishes without actions remain wishes. Therefore I tended to not realize the things that I wanted to achieve.
Once I learned more about mindset and how to create good and strong habits, I realized that it is more about creating a good working system, instead of just setting goals. In 2022 I therefore started using habit trackers and it changed everything.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. (James Clear, author of Atomic Habits)
Taking time during the holiday season, I then started to write down what I achieved in the current year and what I wanted to achieve in the next year. Some points are destinations that I want to visit but others are activities that I want to turn into habits to improve myself.
In order to hold myself accountable for sticking to them, I created my own habit tracker and in the beginning I hung it in my office clearly visible on my white board. This made it easier to constantly have it visible. I also used a magnet on the fridge to remind me.
Today, that I am more used to regularly check my habit tracker, I use my eReader (shown on the picture above) to note the progress and additionally I have my fitness progress on my bathroom mirror.
The tracker lists fitness goals, like yoga, mobility and strength training, cardio and also other goals, like studying, leisure reading, flossing, self-care, etc. Some of these continue from 2022 to now 2023 if these are habits that I don't consider as settled in completely. Others are additional small habits or habit adaptions based on what I learned - about the habits and about me.
Building habits is a fluid journey. They can be adjusted based on your current life state. It is important to be honest with yourself. I mean, you are doing this for yourself. So, you need to find a way that works for yourself.
Using a habit tracker and visual reminders helped me since 2022 to actually adhere to new habits and stick with them. Am I 100% perfect at adhering to my plan and schedule? Realistically, no. But I keep trying to adhere to it the best I can. And isn't that what counts? Practice and not perfect. I learned, it's not a fail if you skip a habit once. But I ensure not to skip it a second time in a row. (Unless true reasoning prohibits it of course.)
So let's dive deeper into the topic...
What is a habit?
A habit is a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly. At a certain point will happen automatic or unconsciously. These can be positive or negative.
To just name a few, brushing your teeth before bed, drinking coffee in the morning or smoking can be a habit.
Brushing your teeth is shows how habits eventually just become a part of your daily routine without even thinking about it. Your parents taught you when you were little and by now every morning and evening we just do it. We don't need a reminder, it is simply a part of an automatic bathroom routine.
How to form a habit?
To form an activity into a habit the key is to repeat the action over a long time. No-one can say how long it will exactly take for each person. But I keep finding the recommendation of 3 to 4 weeks for daily routines to really stick.
The key is to:
Start small, make it easy, keep reminding yourself, stay consistent, celebrate achievements, make it obvious and reduce friction.
“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of very habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.” James Clear, Atomic Habits)
How to remind yourself
a) visual daily reminders
Add notes, pictures or habit trackers visibly to your daily routine. These can be on the mirror, monitor, fridge or other daily seen surfaces.
My recommendation, if it's notes or pictures change or move them from time to time or you will go blind and not see them anymore. They become decoration without an effect. Been there, done that. Simply consciously move them or change the colors& designs. Keep them in sight, but not in the exact same place.
b) digital reminder
If paper reminder are not your thing, maybe you are traveling a lot or it may be not daily but weekly or monthly habits, digital reminder could work better for you.
Reminder or calendar entries in your phone can assist by indicating the habit at your chosen dates and times of the day. There are also habit tracker apps which allow you to visualize your progress.
As previously mentioned there are habit trackers that don't just remind you but allow you to track your progress. It is encouraging to see the progress and rewarding to cross off when you've done an activity. These little rewards will make it easier to keep going and for the habit to stick.
Habit tracker apps are one option. Searching through the AppStore you will find many of them.
There are also habit tracker desk stands, calendars with appealing designs, wall posters, and so much more. I don't want to make advertisement, therefore I won't add links. I just scrolled through a huge variety on Amazon and Pinterest and I had seen some in book stores. Soooo many to choose from.
After using other templates or using planners that included weekly trackers, I eventually created my own habit trackers. Feel free to check them out. They come with fun bee designs (for weekly tracking of 1 or up to 8 habits) or an annual edition with monthly motivational quotes and ample room for notes& goals. Here is the link to them.
There are so many options. You just need to find something that works for you and your daily routines. This tracker is for you and you only. Try them out and adapt them until it works best.
Additional tips increase good habits to stick
Of course there are a few more tips to make habits stick faster. I can highly recommend reading the book Atomic Habits or the summary on his website.
The most important tips for me were:
Making it obvious and easy: One piece is to have the habit tracker to visualize the progress, but I also needed to adapt my environment. For example, if I want to eat better, I need to make it easier to do so. For me that meant to have unhealthy treats hidden or further down in the fridge or cabinets and the healthy options on eye level and possibly already ready to eat. So there is no friction of still having to cook or cut compared to just grabbing a chocolate bar. Another cue I added was leaving the gym cloths ready in the bathroom. I see the cue in the evening and know, that I will get up in the morning for my workout. When the alarm rings, I allow myself to snooze once just to wake up, and with the second alarm it is time to get dressed and to head to my gym room. Yes, not having to drive to a gym helped additionally as traffic increased the friction to make it a habit tremendously.
Bundle new with already existing habits: This can be as simple as: After brushing my teeth in the evening, I take my vitamins and allergy pill. As the first habit is already automated it becomes easier to add another step to it.
Bundle a habit you enjoy with one you don't: If you are trying to add a habit to your routine that is technically good for you but you don't quite enjoy it, try to pair it with a habit that you do enjoy. I started by adding some cardio on the treadmill or stationary bike while streaming my favorite podcast, TV show or sport. That also worked with certain house cleaning tasks. Listening and singing along to my favorite music, makes it a lot more enjoyable for me.
Adapt your environment: This may be hard to do in certain cases, but is super helpful. Having in mind what you want to change, analyze your daily environment - at home, at work, commute, etc. It will be tough to stop a bad habit, if many people around you have the same bad habit. Maybe you can win them over to stop the habit together? If you want to exercise more, find a group of friends or neighbors for walks or to workout with. Eating healthier is easier, if we start changing our grocery shopping and for me to plan meals ahead. I changed my go-to grocery stores and it changed what I purchased in the store along with it. That doesn't mean to change from $ to $$$ stores. But the layout and setup of a store can be a game changer. Some have the sweets and unhealthy foods right in there entrance and others start with the vegetable& fruits sections. Having the healthy and unprocessed foods first, just sets my mindset right and it is less likely for me to grab the fast-food options. To add a good habit change the environment by making it easier to do so and on the contrary make it harder to keep up having a bad habit. Less cues, less temptations.
Last but not least: Never miss twice! Of course there will be days on which you miss to perform a habit. That is life and accepting that means being realistic. But make sure not to miss it again the next time. (Unless there is a serious reason, if you have a broken leg, please don't try to train for a marathon. 😉)
I hope this entry helps you on your journey. If you have any questions, suggestions, feedback, you can always reach out to me by email or direct messages on social media.
Please like and share this with your friends and family, if you liked the post. Your support means a lot to me.
Oh and not to forget, here are:
My book recommendations for you