Schedule Your Habits

As I continue to work on myself and help others do the same, I notice that significant growth seems to happen when we develop a new habit.  I also notice, it’s a difficult thing for most of us to do.  It’s not easy to add something new, because we become quite fond of our routine; and we cling tight to the “I don’t have enough time” mantra.  So, rather than add a new habit, I have found it is much easier to replace an existing one.

For example, when I started to meditate, I found it difficult to “fit it in”, because I really liked the existing structure of my morning.  (Put the coffee on, open all the curtains, feed the cats, empty the dishwasher, browse a catalog, stare out the window, forget I was waiting for the coffee).  Ten minutes of mindless puttzing around while I waited for the coffee to brew.  It was my morning routine, and I was sticking to it!

Then once I had my nice, hot cup of coffee, I didn’t want it to get cold while I meditated for 15 minutes, so I would pencil that in for later in the morning, or plan to do it right before lunch… or after… or before my 3:00 client… or after.  Since it wasn’t a habit yet, there was always the chance that I wouldn’t get to it at all.  And worse than that, thinking about when I would do it distracted me from focusing on what I was working on, which left me feeling….distracted!  What the heck!

I realized I needed to shake things up! One day I decided to put the coffee on and march my butt right back upstairs and meditate for 15 minutes.  It was wonderful!  Not only did I benefit from the practice itself, I freed myself of the gnawing reminder that I hadn’t done it yet.  It was like double-dipping in a big bowl of productivity!

It seems to be the same with other things that are beneficial; reading, exercising, journaling.  We know we’re going to feel good when we’re done, but we often delay it for so long that we either skip it completely, or we dissipate our energy by continuously thinking about the fact that we haven’t done it.  It’s like an inherent, pre-programmed mechanism that diminishes our productivity as we delay doing the thing we know is going to help us.  Sheeeeesh!

The best way I have found to override that mechanism is to make whatever it is I want to do a HABIT.  And habits seem to take hold faster when we do them at the same time each day.  At least, that’s what I have found.

What do you think?  How do you start a new habit?  How long does it take before it becomes part of your routine?  Any suggestions on how to make it easier to do the thing we know we should do, could do and want to do?

3 Comments

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3 Responses to Schedule Your Habits

  1. Great post Linda! It is so hard to create that habit. I believe the time frame is 21 days to create a habit. When there is one I am trying to create I offer myself a reward system. If I do that habit when I am suppose to I allow myself some indulgence (can be anything from allowing myself 10 minutes on the couch to relax to a tasty treat :)) After about 3 weeks I notice I am doing that thing without even thinking about it, but actually WANTING to do it, even without the reward.

    • Linda Ryan

      Christie, what a great idea to reward yourself for doing the thing you want to do. Hadn’t thought about doing that, but I think I will start NOW! Thanks for the suggestion, I like it!

  2. Hi Linda,
    Once again…a great post!
    What I do to replace a habit is to identify the habit that no longer serves me and simultaneously write out the new one that is to be instilled. By creating a void in my life from the eradication of the old, there is then a ‘vacuum’ to be filled. This becomes filled with the new habit that I have been writing about and meditating on.

    To add a new habit, I associate the increased benefits that I am going to receive once this new habit becomes installed on my ‘hard drive’. Again, I complete an in- depth writing exercise which lists how my life will become more improved by installing this new habit and therefore in-turn, how it will benefit the lives of others in my environment.

    Have a great day Linda!
    RCH :-)

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