Maintaining Habits and Routines
Now that you’ve developed the framework for your new habit or routine, it’s time to think about how to maintain it. Things to think about: What’s working so far? What’s not working so far? What do you want to do differently?
Now is a good time to remember the mindset and letting go of all or nothing thinking. This is a process in flexibility, if something is not working, you get to change it until it does work! That does not mean that you failed or your new habit does not work, it just means you can find a new way to do it that works better for you. It is important to stay open to adjusting your new habit or routine until it works for you rather than give up completely as soon as something is wrong.
One important thing that Dr. Wendy Wood discusses in her book Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick is the idea of reducing friction. Friction prevents us from making behavioral changes. For example, if before I can begin a workout, I have to pick out my workout clothes, choose a workout class, and set up equipment stored in the closet, there is a lot of friction working against me before I even start working out. Instead, I could set out my workout clothes the night before, select a playlist of workouts for the week on Sundays, and choose workouts with minimal equipment. If I am going to do a workout with equipment, I could also set that up ahead of time. All of these activities reduce the friction of actually working out. They also reduce the number of decisions I have to make to complete the behavior. Dr. Wood also discusses reducing the decisions required to complete a behavior when trying to build a habit. By deciding and setting out my clothes ahead of time and picking out the workouts I will do on Sunday, prior to the start of the week, I am reducing the number of decisions I need to make at the moment to work out, therefore I am increasing the ease with which I can complete the activity. Take a look at the decisions you need to make and the barriers that are in your way and think about how you can reduce them to make your routine easier to complete.
Another useful idea for maintaining a new habit or routine is to create a tracker for yourself. I like to make a grid for the month in my personal notebook and fill in the squares for each day as I complete a workout or get up on time (two habits I am working on building). Remember that this tracker is not to make you feel bad when you miss a day or be used as a way to berate yourself for not doing it perfectly every single time. Instead, it’s a way to see what is working and not working. It is also a way to track your progress so that you can celebrate your successes! Robyn Conley Downs, a creator of The Feel Good Effect, talks about getting it right two out of three times. Rather than beating yourself up for missing a day, try to get it right the next two out of three times. It’s about consistency, not perfection.
In the next lesson, we will consider what to do when you face challenges in maintaining a new habit or routine. I hope this lesson has provided you with some insights into how to make a new behavior easier to maintain through reducing friction and decisions and tracking your progress.
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