Not to brag, but I’m really good at starting (and sticking with) new habits, completing goals, seeing projects through, etc. It’s partially my Type A personality refusing to accept failure as an option, but it also has a lot to do with knowing myself and knowing what actually works to make habits stick. Here are five tips I’ve learned through the years of habit-forming and reading about habits about how to make habits last. 

Set a SMART goal 

The best kind of habit has a SMART goal at its center. SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievably, relevant and time-based. SMART goal-based habits are more effective because you can follow them through. For example, instead of making it a habit to “be healthier” make it a goal to exercise three times a week at a particular studio that you know you like. Similarly, don’t make goals or try to form habits if they aren’t relevant to your life because you’ll lose the desire to complete them fast. For example, I’m a librarian. It doesn’t mean sense for me to try and build a habit where I write twenty lines of coding each day. Similarly, coders wouldn’t try to form a habit of reading for 20 minutes before bed. Know thyself, because if you don’t, you’ll only let yourself down. 

Tell people

I’m very vocal about my habits, my goals, and my projects, both online and in real life. Before I started doing yoga, I told all my friends. Now, they bring it up, and even sometimes come with me. It helps with accountability. In July, I pledged to read 100 children’s books. So, I tweeted about it, making a thread of each book for the month. Not only did I complete my goal because I was ashamed of people realizing I hadn’t, but I also had some great conversations about the books I was reading. 

Physically track your progress

As much as I love what the digital revolution has done for society, I still love analog trackers. You can find lots of examples of online trackers to help you build habits–for example, tracking your water intake each day until it becomes natural. If you are looking for something specific, consider making your own using a site like Canva or even Microsoft Publisher. When I watch a completed TV series, I make an “episode tracker” that I can cross off to show my progress. It seems silly, and it’s just for me, but it helps it stick!

Build in a rewards system

Bribery works sometimes, especially when you’re bribing yourself. Set a reward for meeting your goal, or for steps along the way, and you’ll be addicted to your habit in no time. For me, it’s a perfect way to keep my practice and to build the habit. When I started doing yoga, I just got a mat and I only wore the clothes I had (yoga pants and t-shirts). But there’s so much more to yoga (including new workout clothes). So, I told myself, that for every 10 yoga classes I attend, I can buy one yoga-related item. First, it was a super cute mat bag, then new leggings (that, yes, matched the bag) and then a yoga strap (great to use at home) and blocks. Next up? Some new sports bras. Exciting, right? Not always, but it works!

Be okay with off days

When you’re a perfectionist and trying to build a habit, it can be easy to become demoralized when you miss a day, whether by choice or some higher power. Sometimes, in my early days of yoga, the studio’s schedule didn’t line up with mine. In a past life, I might have said “well, guess that habit’s over” because I couldn’t go to a Tuesday morning class, but now, I say, “okay, I enjoyed my morning sleeping in, but I can’t wait to go on Wednesday!” The same goes with other habits–they’re a progression, not an all-or-nothing. Just because you didn’t drink 80 ounces of water one day doesn’t mean you would give up drinking water altogether. Keep an open mind and be kind to yourself–especially about taking off days for intense habit formation like exercise. You can’t go from 0 to 60 in a day. Life demands breaks. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member