Don’t Break the Chain

One of the most helpful ideas in habit creation is making and keeping streaks.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Start something, do it every day and you’ll see the benefits.

I’ve tried holding a number streaks and there are a few I’ve kept for a very long time. They’ve ended up becoming quite special because they literally happen every day. Here are some of my most significant streaks:

  1. Written at least 750 words every day for 561 days.
  2. Meditated for 303 days.

These streaks might look difficult to keep up but it becomes automatic and turns into a normal part of the day that doesn’t feel like a significant effort. How so?

For three reasons.

  1. They’re easy to start
  2. It’s done daily
  3. They’re important

I’ll discuss them separately.

They’re easy to start

Changing behaviour big steps at a time is difficult because comfort zones are really easy to stay in.

Right now, your bed is a comfort zone because it’s warm and …for lack of a better word, comfortable.  It’s even more comfortable when it’s cold and raining. The cold wind is meant to represent new behaviours like going to the gym or writing in a journal every day.

Hopefully you see what I’m going for here. In order to make leaving your bed easier, you need to start with a small step instead of jumping out and dancing in the rain.

Writing every day actually started with jotting a few sentences down in a paper journal. I later started writing on 750words which might have taken me 30 minutes to write. After a year, I now average over 1000 words a day.

Meditating every day started with 1 minute every day. Then 2. Then 3 and so on. It capped at around 20 but I’ve settled down to 5 to 10 minutes every day.

Some other examples:

If you want to start exercising, commit to running for one minute.

If you want to eat healthy, commit to buying apples instead of chocolate bars.

It you want to meditate, meditate for one minute.

You might think that these are too easy and they should be more significant. What’s the point in running for one minute? They’re meant to be easy to start and keep up. A big mistake is to overestimate what we can maintain over a few days and weeks. Lifestyle changes never happen overnight.

It’s done every day

A habit is essentially a behaviour that’s near enough automatic. Like brushing your teeth or checking Twitter in the morning.

Doing something every day is more likely to change an occasional action to a habit because you’re used to doing it and being a part of a positive feedback loop more often. If you choose to do something once a week and miss it, it’s very easy to dismiss it and say you’ll do it the next week. If you choose to do it every day, it’s always on the list of things to do and harder to ignore. If you do manage to miss it, to get back on the routine, you pick it up the next day. It stops you from losing track of your habits due to a simple mistake.

If you want to write, try to write a small amount every day instead of a big amount at the end of the week.

If you’re starting the gym, go every day instead of twice a week. [1]

If you want to wake up earlier, commit to it every day including the weekends.

It’s important

In the beginning stages of habit creation, we need reminders before they become more automatic and easier to do. This is why importance helps.

I’ve experimented with waking up at 6:30 every morning and realised I didn’t care about it. I didn’t do it so I could meditate for longer or write more. I tried to wake up at that time simply because I read that successful people did it. That justification ignored why it was done and the need to continue disappeared.

The value of the tasks will grow and change the longer you do them but the initial desire to start a new habit should be found through research rather than doing something without understanding the potential benefits. Meditating is important to me because it helps me find peace during my day and has made me more mindful. Waking up early just to wake up early (and spend the extra hours doing nothing at all) is a much more likely to end in failure and feel like a waste of time.

With this being said, feel free to experiment with different habits. If you don’t want to keep one up, don’t. Sometimes the benefit of the task takes a while to be realised but research helps with picking some habits you might want to start with. I can recommend reading for 10 minutes and meditating for 2 minutes a day.

Keeping streaks going is great. They’re an interesting test of dedication as you begin to make time for them rather than find time. All to continue a streak you created for yourself.

I’m a space bird and I’m going to graduate to a space monkey eventually.

If you have any streaks going, what are they? Is there anything you’d like to start?

***

If you found the post helpful/amazing/super amazing or any other adjective, use the links at the end to share it with the whole world (or a few friends. That’s cool too.)

Some stuff to read:

  1. One step at a time
  2. Stop doing so much
  3. 5 Reasons to start meditating
  4. A Very Short Guide to Meditation

[1] I mentioned going to the gym every day and can already hear the cries of ‘but rest days!!1!’

In the initial stages, going to the gym every day isn’t a bad thing. You don’t need to do an intense workout daily since it can vary from heavy weights one day to mobility work the next.

You can still measure streaks without making them daily. Count towards the streak on dedicated days (e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and if you miss those it’s broken. I advocate working on the habit every day because it makes it automatic quicker.

5 short lessons learned from 750 words

Over the past month I’ve been pretty busy with work and recovering from an operation. However, I’ve managed to keep a daily journal going for 30 days and I’d like to share a few things I think I’ve learned from it.

1. I have something to say

This might be an odd one but when I started writing I thought I’d never be able to reach 750 words or more without really struggling. As I continued, it didn’t feel like I was straining myself to write a lot. Even if a lot of what I wrote wasn’t great, it was still something that could be improved if I wanted to.

2. Writing daily is relaxing

In addition to daily meditation, just sitting down and writing about whatever I want is relaxing. It gives me the chance to slow down my day and just think about what’s happened throughout the day or work on an idea I have. It isn’t demanding and lets me spend time with myself and my thoughts.

3. It helps create ideas 

Since the 750 words are just a brief platform for me to write about anything, it gives me the chance to write about any ideas that I have written down or thought about. When I was writing essays, I would often just think about any arguments I could use and expand on them. Or I would think about general articles that I want to write. Writing my thoughts out makes them a bit clearer and much more likely to actually write about them in full!

4. We can make boring things interesting 

I’ve written about why slippers are interesting. They aren’t. But I made sure they were for my daily words.

5. I can create a habit

This is probably the most important. I managed to stick to something for 30 days and I feel like continuing. It wasn’t that difficult. I realised that I was probably just fearing a situation that didn’t exist. That being: ‘Writing daily would be really difficult and there’s no way I’d have time to keep it up.’

That wasn’t true in the slightest. When you get started, it doesn’t need to be extremely grand. Start small and you’ll find the process much easier.

I’d recommend starting a daily journal. It can be done on 750words but you can use the traditional pen and paper or just a word document. The word count isn’t the main focus. It’s the act of spending time with yourself and writing.

Plus, it’s pretty fun!

Do you keep a journal?