How are you doing with those new habits that you are wishing would magically stick and become part of your routine? If you went about it properly, gold star for you, I’m sure you are on your way to making them part of your life. If you are giving me the side-eye and not wanting to talk about it, I can help.
The best way to establish a new habit is to create a system for it. This sounds much more overwhelming than it is. What we are simply doing is making time for this new addition to your life, providing a place for it to go, knowing what needs to be done and how to do it. If all of these are decided on and in place, there is much less of a chance that you will avoid it and that it will stick.
I’ll use examples of how to create systems for habits that are commonly desired and sought after. I’ll show you a system for setting habits around meditation, journaling, reading and replacing paper towels with cloth towels so you can get the idea of what you could do with the habits you’re trying to get to stick.
First, is meditation. Probably what stops most, and especially this one from becoming a habit is that we try and add too much too soon. The majority of us need to work up to a 30-minute practice a day, and maybe we never get to that length of time (and that’s ok!) and always use a guided method. You’re still meditating! Get over the all or nothing mentality and get into the idea of it’s the practice that matters.
Creating a system to make daily meditation a habit which sticks:
1. If you want to make it easy on yourself, choose an app. Set aside an hour to try out a few. Select one that you enjoy the voices of and will make you want to open it every day. I personally find that if I pay for it, I’ll use it more often as I despise waste. But it’s all about personal preference.
2. Choose a time in your schedule to meditate every day. I recommend that you attach it to a habit that you already have. For example, right after you brush your teeth or as your coffee brews, or right before bed. Block that time in your calendar.
3. Pick a spot where you will meditate. This can be a loose definition as many people meditate while on a train during their commute. Some people have a favorite chair. The place itself doesn’t really matter, we’re just trying to remove as many obstacles as possible and avoid excuses to not do it.
4. Select a way to track your practice and create a deadline and a reward. If you use your app, they are great at this and will help gamify the habit. You can also do something like that if you meditate every day for 90 days, you get a massage or to brag about it on facebook or whatever makes you want to hit that goal.
5. Find an accountability partner. Check in with them regularly, this works best if you each have something for which you hold each other accountable.
6. Change your dialogue to “I am a meditator” (is that a word?) or “I am a person who meditates” instead of “I wished I meditated”.
Creating a system to make journaling a habit which sticks:
1. Decide how you like to write and the type of journal you want to keep. Will you write by hand or on your computer? Will it be a gratitude journal, morning pages, a 1 sentence summary of your day?
2. Set up the method you chose. Buy a journal, create a file on your computer, find your favorite pen. Be prepared to begin.
3. Decided when you will journal and for how long. Block it in your calendar and like I suggested with meditation, attach it to an established habit.
4. Track your daily progress with an app, your planner or by using something like the Seinfeld calendar chain method.
5. Reward yourself if you make it a certain amount of time, like with a beautiful journal or pen if those are your jam.
Creating a system to establish a habit of reading more:
1. Set a goal for how much you’d like to read. Usually, this one does well with a goal of books to be read over a year. This also allows you to start slow and increase how much you read per day as you get into the habit of reading more.
2. Pick a book (or a few) to read that you are super interested in. Don’t judge yourself. If YA fiction thrills you, then go with it. Who cares about book lists and bestsellers, go with what brings you joy.
3. Break your goal down into steps. If your goal is to read 12 books in 12 months, you can aim for 1 per month. Divide the number of pages of the book by the number of days you will read (every day, weekdays, weekends) and read the number of pages per day. You can also make a goal to read let’s say, 25 pages every day and however many books that end up being is fine. Or to read for a certain amount of time per day, like for 30 minutes every day.
4. Pick a way to track your progress. I love Goodreads.com where you can set a goal in the challenge and track your progress in detail. There is also a social aspect to hold you accountable.
5. Celebrate reaching your goals by buying more books.
Creating a system to replace paper towels with dish towels:
1. Purchase enough dishtowels for a day to start and add to them as time goes on, It’s expensive up front but pays off in the long run.
2. Choose a place to store the clean ones so you have them handy in the kitchen. I’ve been an avid user of dishtowels all of my adult life and find that I use about 25 per week if I launder them mid-week. I’ve kept them in a basket on the counter, rolled them, hung them, stacked them. Currently, I use 2 drawers (it’s a large kitchen so 1 by the sink, 1 by the island) that each house about 2 days worth. In the pantry is a basket for the backup. I store them all folded as they use less space this way.
3. Choose a place for the dirty ones as they add up fast. I use a tall basket that lives in the pantry. This step also encourages you to not use them until they get gross. I use them abundantly and if they touch anything raw, instantly they go in the washing machine. I also keep microfiber cloths handy as well as an eco sponge.
4. Create a plan for what to do when running low. It seems obvious, but sometimes having the whole process mapped out helps your brain ease into a new system better. I launder them, fold them and fill back up the containers.
5. Consider a plan for the future as they wear out. Once holes appear (over a few years, but I do launder them twice a week, so they wear out), I move them to the household cleaning pile and replace as necessary.
6. Note that I keep a roll of paper towels for pet accidents and the occasional microwave helper to cover food. I go through maybe 2 rolls a year. Pat yourself on the back for using so many fewer paper towels over time!
These were 4 examples of systems to help habits stick. Some of the steps, like changing the language you use to think of yourself with the habit can apply to all of them, as can rewards and tracking. I wanted you to get an idea of the different ways to do so though. Do you have a system that has been a great help in getting a habit to stick? Share below!