30 Days To New Habits
By Richard G. Ensman, Jr.
A s the start of another new year is nigh, it's time once again to set new goals and discard old habits in the hope of living a more successful, productive life.
A s the start of another new year is nigh, it’s time once again to set new goals and discard old habits in the hope of living a more successful, productive life.
But old habits die hard and new goals don’t come easy. Psychologists say three to four weeks of concentrated effort is necessary before any new habit or change can become permanent.
So, to build new directions in your life — more efficient time management, daily exercise, more productive relationships with co-workers, a new diet, or whatever — set up a 30-day change plan.
A 30-day plan is not overkill. By paying careful attention to your new goals and habits for a full month, you’ll stand a better chance of making them a permanent part of your daily life.
• Day 1. Define your problem. Be sure you understand what you’re trying to change.
• Day 2. Visualize the problem. Think about how it makes you feel. Imagine how you’ll feel once it’s solved.
• Day 3. Check your ‘baseline’. Determine what your behaviour is like right now. If poor time management is a problem, for instance, try to track your present use of time.
• Day 4. Brainstorm. Identify as many solutions to the problem as possible. Think about the variety of goals and new habits you might pursue.
• Day 5. Write yourself a ‘prescription’ — steps you must take to make new habits or goals real.
• Day 6. Visualize the outcome. In concrete terms, imagine what your typical day will be like once you’ve acquired new habits or achieved new goals.
• Day 7. Visualize the benefits. List all the good things that can eventually happen to you as the result of the changes you make.
• Day 8. Make promises. Promise yourself that you’ll achieve what you’re thinking about.
• Day 9. Make it specific. Up to this point you’ve been thinking about a new goal or habit in general terms. Now, make it specific. And begin to actively work on your new goal.
• Day 10. Identify obstacles. Figure out what’s standing in the way of you achieving your new goal.
• Day 11. Focus on your environment. Decide what schedule or physical circumstances can best help you achieve your goal. If you’re trying to remedy a tendency to ignore important paperwork, for instance, you might determine that a larger work table and more comfortable furniture can help you get through paperwork faster.
• Day 12. Block time out. Schedule time each day to work on your goal or habit.
• Day 13. Divide your goal into action steps. If you want to walk or run for exercise 30 minutes a day, for instance, the first step might be to arrange your outdoor clothes in your closet. The next step might be to walk five minutes a day.
• Day 14. Figure out how to make it easy. Try to match some pleasurable activity with the work you’ll be doing to change your behaviour. If producing timely monthly reports is a goal for the coming year, perhaps you can couple it with relaxing music.
• Day 15. Schedule each step in your action plan. Write each step in your planning calendar or appointment book.
• Day 16. Decide how you’ll handle setbacks. Make no mistake about it: you’ll have them. Forgive yourself in advance for your failures, and resolve to pick up where you left off. Don’t resolve to double or triple your work activity should you miss a day or take the wrong step; this sort of excruciating effort makes your goal painful, and usually doesn’t work.
• Day 17. Incorporate your new routine into your daily life. Cut some other activity out if necessary, or ask for the understanding of people around you. This is especially important if your goal creates emotional pressure on you.
• Day 18. Give yourself some organizational tools. For example, if you want to brush your teeth on a more regular basis, put a new toothbrush holder next to your sink. If you want to pay closer attention to work priorities, buy a to-do list pad. If you’re trying to cut down on the time you spend in meetings, buy and carry a stopwatch.
• Day 19. Read the stories of others. Make a trip to your public library’s biography section and check out a book or two about other people who have achieved goals or changed habits. You’ll be inspired by their achievements.
• Day 20. Figure out how you’ll reward yourself. Rewards help you pursue your new goal and motivate you to keep up your new behaviour. Rewards might be as simple as a walk in the park, a few hours off, a movie or a nice dinner. Plan to reward yourself as you achieve milestones.
• Day 21. Schedule reminders. Place brief messages in your appointment calendar or tickler file, or signs around your home reminding you of activities you’ve got to pursue.
• Day 22. Tape record messages to yourself. Each message should concentrate on the value of your new goal. Play the tape whenever you feel you may falter in your pursuit.
• Day 23. Increase effort by doses. Increase the amount of time or effort you spend on your goal — gradually.
• Day 24. Look for reinforcement. Tell the people around you what you’re trying to do. Ask for their support. When you hear a compliment, congratulate yourself!
• Day 25. Listen to advice. Do you have any friends or acquaintances pursuing a similar goal or habit? If so, offer and seek mutual support. If you don’t know anyone else working on the same goal, go back to the library and check out an inspiring audio tape on goal-setting or personal change.
• Day 26. Ask for comments. Ask your spouse or a close friend, for instance, to tell you how well you’re achieving your goal or improving yourself.
• Day 27. Find a mentor. If your goal is big enough, find somebody who can guide you on your path. But even if your goal is a small one, you can still ask a trusted co-worker for help.
• Day 28. Listen and evaluate. Decide how you’re doing. If your efforts don’t pass muster, resolve to continue anyway.
• Day 29. Set your next goal. Whether it’s an entirely new goal or a variation of what you’re already working on, give yourself the opportunity to aim a little higher.
• Day 30. Celebrate. You’ve earned it. When you get to this point, you’re well on the way to making your new goal or habit part of your everyday life — a life coming under your control in greater measure than ever before.
Richard G. Ensman, Jr., is a regular contributor to Machinery & Equipment MRO.