Starting a new habit or behaviour is exciting and in those first few days it might feel easy – you’re breezing through the meal prep, or the gym routine with no problem whatsoever.
All too often though, this can fall apart after a week or two and you slip right back into old habits, and you’re left scratching your head about how to make the habit last and how other people manage it.
How many new behaviours have you started working on, only to have the project abandoned less than a month in? This is frustrating, potentially expensive if you’ve invested in contracts or equipment, and worse, it leads you to believe that you’re the sort of person who can’t make positive changes in their life.
You’re not alone – and there is a solution! That’s where the value of tracking comes in.
No matter what you’re looking to change; a diet, a training regime, a daily meditation or mindfulness practice – you will be better able to stick to the behaviour if you track it. This doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t need to take ages and be a project in itself.
Here’s what you do:
1. Get a physical calendar; the app on your phone won’t cut it. A paper calendar that you can print out and stick to your fridge, or keep in a diary works best for this. The important thing is that it’s visible, and you have to use a pen.
2. Next, be clear on what the goal is & make it quick to achieve: Write for 10 minutes every day. Track your calories in MFP. Read one page of your book. Don’t make it a massive, time consuming job – and if the project is a big job, find a way to break it into smaller chunks and make those the goal. Then: go do the thing.
3. Lastly, get a lovely chunky pen – a red Sharpie works great for this, or grab your kid’s felt pen – and cross off that day on the calendar. A bright, bold mark that shows that on this day, you did the thing. Keep it visible where you’ll look at it often, walking past it ideally a few times a day. Maybe even where other people might see it and ask about it. This can help keep the goal front and centre of your mind.
Now you just need to keep the chain going. By day 2, while enthusiasm is high, you already have a streak – and it allows you to capitalise on the relative ease you feel early on and ‘front load’ your streak to make it a bit easier when things start to feel more challenging in a few days time.