How to Crush It with Your New Habits
Practical Advice that Will Make You Unstoppable
David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done,” broke down what’s going on in the human brain when we decide to do something. It applies to everything, from implementing a multimillion dollar business venture to walking your dog.
So, it can be also applied to habit formation. For each phase there are a few questions you ask yourself to determine your process. Those phases are:
What’s the purpose of your simple-good things? Why are you going to start them in the first place?
Those phase also defines your principles. The moment you think about your vision, you also have your constraints and limitations in mind. “I’m too busy to spend 10 hours a week in a gym”, “I’m vegan, so its’ hard for me to keep low-carb high-protein diet”, “I work 2 full-time jobs, so sleeping 8 hours a day is out of question”.
What am I trying to do here? What I’m trying to accomplish? What would wild success be?
What are all the potentially relevant things that pop in your head about simple things that are good for you?
What could you do? What areas it involves? How can they fit your schedule? What would your family react to them?
Brainstorming implies dumping every relevant detail from your head onto paper. You generate ideas, raw data. There is no judgement involved. You don’t ask what’s possible, but “What if?”
How do I get there? What is the most important? What would the biggest thing I need to think about?
This phase is about sorting through the raw data in terms of priority, sequence, or components.
What’s the very next step to undertake?
This phase and answer to the above question provides you with the specific action you need to do to move forward.
Habit Formation with 5 Phases
The trick with habits development is to ask all the above questions in the perspective of regular practice.
For greenhorns in habit development, I highly recommend to frame those questions in terms of everyday disciplines. It’s much easier to develop a daily habit than a bi-daily one, and it is exponentially easier than to develop a weekly habit. In the same way, developing a habit that is practiced a few times a day is significantly easier than developing a daily habit.
Why am I going to start doing simple things that are good for me every day?
What am I trying to accomplish every day?
What are the relevant things for a daily practice?
What is most important for a daily habit of those simple things?
You need to start small to keep doing your disciplines every day. It’s best to focus on one thing at a time, otherwise there is a great danger that you will get overwhelmed and quit.
But if your “why” is big enough, you can start multiple habits, as long as they are small enough to be sustainable. “Small” is relative. For some, it’s one pushup; for others, 5 minutes of pushups.
When I started to turn my life around, I started several 10-minute habits at once and quickly added more to this load. Every habit expert would tell you that this is a recipe for disaster. I succeeded, because my “why” was big — I wanted to completely change my life — and because those habits were “small” in my mind.
Adding a series of pullups on top of a series of pushups I had already been doing, was not a big deal for me.
Studying the Bible 10 minutes a day was a small potato.
Practicing speed reading for 10 minutes was laughable. When I was a teenager, I had read two books a day.
I highly recommend taking a Tiny Habits course. It’s free. It’s simple. It takes only one week. You don’t commit more than 1 hour of your life to learn and implement everything. You end up having three new habits and an intimate knowledge about developing habits that comes from experience, not theory.
Super-fast, you will learn how to frame Allen’s 5 Phases in context of daily disciplines.
Seriously, this course will answer your question: “How to start?” in a way that will allow you to internalize the answer for it. You will never have to wonder about this question again.
Tips & Tricks
Going intentionally through those 5 phases will provide you with action steps that will be easily implementable into your life and your specific situation.
And that’s what successful habit development is about. You need to sleep better, eat better, and move better where you are — right now — not in some ideal future conditions.
You will discover how to start and how to continue. Your eyes will open to the opportunities you hadn’t seen before.
Integrate a New Habit with Existing One
When I wondered about 4½ years ago how I can improve my physical wellbeing, one of the first things that came to my mind was increasing my water intake.
I hated drinking pure water, but I wasn’t properly hydrated and I often had headaches because of that.
I trained myself to drink two glasses of water early in the morning. It was pretty easy because my cue was finishing my morning workout which I had been doing for years at that time. That habit was firmly established and it was a foolproof trigger for drinking water.
Once I learned how to force myself to gulp water, it became easier for me to increase my water intake throughout my days.
Have a Crystal Clear Endpoint (So-called Reward)
I do every morning a hardcore version of HIIT workout.
I do pushups, pullups or chin-ups to a failure point. It simplifies my workout immensely. I just push or pull to my limit and that’s it. No thinking involved.
Don’t Change Your Life (Very Much)
Use the opportunities that already exist in your life. When I had been losing excess weight in 2013, I embedded a few habits into my daily routine.
At that time I lived in an apartment building with an elevator on the first floor — (second in American notation) — I decided to never use an elevator. It was only 16 additional steps one way, maybe a calorie or two. But it compounded because of repetition. Every time I was going out of my flat, I burned an additional calorie.
Then I scaled it up and decided to always run the steps. Then I decided to run stairs every single time. Now I live in a house and my bedroom in on the upper floor. I run 17 steps up and down every single time. I run stairs on my daily commute to and from work (about 200 steps).
This little discipline amounted to thousands and thousands calories burned while simply living my life.
Start Small; Start Intentionally
Intentionally going through the process of habit design helped me to build this automatic discipline (steps= run) practically effortlessly.
Start where you are — with what you have — and then build on it.