It’s safe to say that we all have habits we’d like to change in at least one area of our lives. With each day that passes it becomes more of an uphill battle, and it’s not entirely our fault.
Entrepreneurs and app startups are chasing big paydays by attempting to reduce the effort required for us do just about everything. Whether it’s calling a cab with Lyft or getting packages delivered from Amazon, most things take significantly less effort than they used to. Yep. Technology is making us lazier.
That race-to-the-bottom of required effort in the tech industry can be completely destructive. To start and sustain a new habit that requires increased motivation, comparatively, takes more effort than ever. It doesn’t make it any better that we’re starting to get used to instant gratification from our efforts as well.
I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to make any substantial change is to start by implementing small, easy-to-tackle actions and then building from there. Pick something you want to work on, and then break it down into one of the smallest possible denominations. While I’m certainly not perfect, there are some strategies that have helped me continue on with my daily habit journey.
While one small action every day may seem insignificant, it is the enduring nature of this strategy that actually makes it substantially better. With that in mind, here are seven strategies to build effective daily habits that you can start right now.
Strategies for Effective Daily Habits
Start smaller. The best way to establish a habit is beginning with something that you can 100% absolutely do every single day. It might feel pointless when you’re doing five pushups per day, but your ability to knock it out every day is what matters. It takes about 60 days for a habit to become part of your brain’s expected routine, keep it small in the beginning. It’s more important to do the action than to have the action be effective during that time.
Don’t miss two days. We all have mishaps or days when things simply don’t happen, in fact, it’s not the first miss that matters–it’s the second one. Once you drop a habit, it’s actually harder to restart than it is to start out in the first place. If you miss a day, knock it out and get back on track, don’t let two days pass without continuing your habit.
Know thyself. Your brain is going to try to trick you, it will try to tell you it’s okay to skip a day, and that you don’t need your daily habit. You’re going to be too tired, or simply not want to spend the tiny amount of time required to achieve it. Know that this will come, and know that you will conquer it, and you will succeed.
Don’t talk about it. If you’ve told your partner, your friends, or even social media that you’re going to do something and then don’t–stop talking about it. I am guilty of this myself–saying and doing are worlds apart and talking about your goals can discredit them. Take the energy that goes into talking about what you’re going to do and apply it to doing something towards it. Take action, be living proof of what’s possible.
Stack existing habits. What’s something that you do every single day? Hopefully brushing your teeth, or something else of that nature. Utilize this established habit to queue the next action you want to build so you execute them sequentially. In the book Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes about how having a habit trigger that already occurs in your day can significantly increase the stickiness of your new habit. Stack with an established routine, and you increase your odds of success.
Start with one. When you’re starting out making lifestyle changes, don’t try to change everything at once. In The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss insists that his readers don’t start an exercise routine until you’ve been working on diet for almost two months. If you’re attempting to juggle too many balls, one will fall and cause a chain reaction. Stick to one or two focus areas and knock them out of the park until they become routine.
Forget the goal. This is a tricky one, but work on establishing a system instead of focusing on a particular goal. If you can establish a system that is likely to net the result you want, it will help you swing through the punch. What I mean by that is, if you’re dieting to lose and eventually hit a goal weight, people often let go of the system they created in order to get there. This causes the old habits to return and the weight to come back. Don’t aim for a particular goal, aim for the daily actions that will get you there (and beyond).
Start today and do it again tomorrow
Major life improvements look a lot like small daily actions done for long periods of time–get started, build up, rock on. I encourage you to check out how I’m using daily action in my life if you need some additional inspiration as well. I also recommend signing up for my newsletter where I send out exclusive content and important links once per month.