Blogging almost daily for three and a half years has led to self-awareness. I have grown bored of boasting of my weaknesses.
There is a time for self-analysis, and a time for acting on that analysis, and that time came!
And so I am in the process of developing shiny new habits. These are not yet jelled, but the trajectory is looking good.
* * *
The best way I know to form new habits is the most boring, but the most certain.
Start where you are.
Reading :Do you want to read a book a week–52 in a year, as I want to? How many did you read last year? 5, 12, 18?
In that case, it may not be realistic to read 52 books in a year immediately.
To acquire time for the new habit, you will have to form and reform numerous small habits. Firstly, find a slot for it. The first thing in the morning perhaps? Or audiobooks as you walk?
Then reform a few habits. Compulsive checking of email, of your phone, of facebook, of newspapers, for instance. You might need to become tidier so that you can enter your house, go straight to your bedroom or living room, pick up a book and start reading as Iris Murdoch was reported to have done.
You might need to wake earlier. Or develop the habit of reading before you write to prime the pump, just as it’s a blessed habit to read Scripture before you pray. It may be best to start with 5 pages a day (6 books a year) or 10 pages a day (12 books a year) if you haven’t been reading very much. Then aim to read the next book in one day less, and so on, until you are reading a book a week.
* * *
I have failed with many exercise programmes because I go too fast to begin with. After my (failed) pilgrimage, I am determined to increase my strength slowly, walking 1-3 miles at each session, two sessions a day, adding 10% a week. I am now thoroughly enjoying exercise.
An exercise habit requires adjustments. You will need to find a slot for it. You might need to do it earlier in the day to get it done before darkness, and to enjoy more of its benefits. You might need to carry an audiobook with you so you don’t get bored. And, most importantly, start small.
* * *
Tidying the house or decluttering
If you are embracing minimalism, you will experience some of the pleasure and sense of satisfaction of decluttering and tidying with the very first session.
I am currently putting in an hour a day 5-7 days a week getting my house decluttered (in between writing sessions). However, I began with 5 minutes, and built it up to 60 by adding 5 minutes a day, enjoying the challenge and pleasure of seeing order emerge.
I use the same method to get back into gardening when I have “lapsed.” Slowly, time appears.
* * *
Waking early works best slow. 15 minutes every 4 days has worked for me, and I am waking at 6.10 a.m. though my goal is 5 a.m.
Writing. If you have gotten out of the habit of working on your work in progress, or don’t seem to have the time to, let me tell you how I get back into my work in progress when I have “no time” to do so.
You’ve probably guessed it by now. Yup, I do just five minutes on day 1; 10 minutes on day 2; 15 on day 3; working up to 120 minutes over 24 days. I set a timer, and the anticipation and frustration of it going off, makes me focus intensely, and also long for the next day’s session. My schedule slowly adjusts to the new necessity. I guess I spend less time surfing the net or on social media, and wake earlier
Be realistic. Start small. Start where you are. Walk before you run, run before you fly, and you will be setting yourself up for success and joy, instead of failure and frustration.
What are your best strategies for developing new habits?