9 Tips For Developing Better Habits

More than half of adults make New Year’s resolutions each year.  Unfortunately, many give up after a few weeks because they haven’t turned their goals into habits.  Whether you want to lose weight, save for a home (click here to view our “how-to” article for saving) or eat more vegetables, adopting good habits is sure to help you reach your goals.  Here are a few tips to help keep you on track this year.  Here’s one way to start this process: save this link in your “notes” function on your smartphone, so you can refer to it when needed.  Here’s what some of the experts have to say as well…

Make “micro quotas” and “macro goals”

In a fascinating study on motivation, researchers found abstract thinking to be an effective method to help with discipline. In the most basic sense, “dreaming big” is pretty good advice after all. And since a variety of research around the self-determination theory shows us that creating intrinsic motivators (being motivated to do things internally, not through punishments or rewards) is an essential process of building habits that stick, you need to find a way to balance this desire to dream big with your day-to-day activities, which often do not result in quick, dramatic changes.

The answer is to create what I call “micro quotas” and “macro goals.” Your goals should be the big picture items that you wish to someday accomplish, but your quotas, are the minimum amounts of work that you must get done every single day to make the bigger goal a reality. Quotas make each day approachable, and your goals become achievable because of this.

Writer/developer Nathan Barry has made for a great case study of the use of these quotas as someone who forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water. The result was three self-published books resulting in thousands of dollars in sales.—Gregory Ciotti, author of Sparring Mind.

1. Get motivated.
Why do you want to adopt the habit?  How will your life improve once you develop this habit?  What will happen if you don’t?  These three questions will help you streamline your goal and maintain motivation when you need it the most.  If you’re a visual person, write down your answers and post them where you’ll read them daily.

2. Start small.
Lasting habits take time to develop.  Start by setting small goals that will eventually lead you to accomplishing your end result.  By focusing on manageable changes at the beginning of your transformation, habits are more likely to become automatic.

3. Set reminders.
It’s easy to fall off track when you’re in the process of adopting a new habit.  Consistency is key, and setting a reminder will help you build good habits.

4. Replace a bad habit.
If you want to kick a bad habit, it helps to replace it with a better one.  Trying to quit eating sugary snacks?  Keep carrot sticks or nuts nearby so when the urge to snack hits, you’re less tempted to reach for candy or other sugary treats.  Sugarless gum works well, too.

5. Get others on board.
Tell people about the habit you’re trying to adopt.  The more people you tell, the more accountable you’ll feel. And who knows?  They may even become inspired to adopt a new habit themselves.

6. Have realistic expectations.
Changes don’t happen overnight—they happen over several weeks and months of consistent action.  Remember that achieving results only comes when you create consistency.

7. Do it for 30 days.
Studies show it takes 30 days to form a habit.  Stay committed to your habit for a full 30 days.  If it hasn’t become automatic by then, try to pinpoint the challenges you’re experiencing so you can try again.

8. Take on one habit at a time.
Although you may feel motivated to revamp your life and change several habits at once, doing so may prevent you from adopting any of them.  Focus on one good habit at a time.  Once it becomes routine, take on another new habit.

9. Reward yourself for a job well-done!
A small reward will keep you motivated, especially on days when it’s tough to stay on track.  Think about how you’ll reward yourself ahead of time so you have something to look forward to for the future.

According to the Harvard Business Review, if you want to maintain long term discipline, it’s best to “Identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane — and then ‘routinize’ those aspects as much as possible. In short, make fewer decisions.”

Avoid these roadblocks to stay on track…
  • You’ve lost motivation.  Remember your original intention for wanting to adopt the habit.  Keep an inspirational quote or photo nearby to reignite your fire when you need it the most.
  • You missed a few days due to an illness or travel.  Don’t let missing a day or two derail you.  Instead, try again the next day, or as soon as you are able.  You only fail when you fall off track and stay there.
  • Negative thoughts. Silence your inner critic by surrounding yourself with positivity.  Read inspiring books, listen to upbeat music and seek out encouraging people.

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