It can be difficult to build a new habit. This is true even when the habit relates to something you really want to do like finish a creative project, become healthier or learn a new skill. That’s okay. We’re all human and we all struggle with self-improvement: especially when we have comfy sofas and tasty food and long Netflix queues.
My resolution for 2015 was to build the habit of writing creatively every day. My time is limited and in this season of my life I don’t have the time or space to sit down and dedicate hours and hours a week to work on my novel. I decided that I could, however, commit to twenty minutes per day.
I downloaded a chart to track my progress, printed it out and stuck it on the wall by my desk. (Here’s more about the chart I’m using). Then, I got stuck in.
The first couple of months went well. The idea of writing every day and recording my progress was a novelty, and I completed the ‘challenge’ on far more days than I didn’t. But by about March, that novelty was wearing off. I had a nasty cold. We went away for a long weekend. I just didn’t feel like it. My momentum was well and truly lost.
Happily, during the last four weeks I’ve got back on track. The main way I’ve done this is by being really strict about the exact time when I do my creative writing. For me it’s really helped to attach the habit to one I already have.
Here’s how it works: my daughter’s bedtime routine starts around seven. This routine happens every night because it’s a habit we’ve formed out of necessity. In order to maximise the chances of entrenching my new writing routine into my day, I’ve added it to the end of the bedtime routine. Once the little one is in bed and asleep, I go straight to my desk and fit in twenty minutes of writing time before dinner.
Of course, there are still days when I’m tired or busy or not in the mood. But it’s much harder to put off my writing time until an unspecified ‘later’ when I’ve carved out space in my daily routine for it. Plus, the fact that it takes place right after a task that I already do means that it’s much harder to lose track of time and forget about it.
This method is mentioned in lots of other posts about habit building around the web. You might like to read How to build a habit (with science not willpower), Happiness Experiment no.33: Do it after or The Beginner’s Habit Program.
*Header photo by Sam.