Getting into the (daily) swing of things

Photo by StarbuckGuy

There’s nothing quite like a strong, positive habit. Over the last few years, I’ve made a it major priority to build good habits, and in the words of Og Mandino, “become their slave”. I’ve always struggled with being too impulsive and not disciplined enough, and I think habits are absolutely vital to being productive if you don’t have naturally have a personality that lends itself to being self-disciplined.

I’ve learned a lot about habits over the last two years, but probably nothing more key than this: daily habits are incredibly effective, as compared with those done more occasionally, like weekly or monthly.

I never miss my daily habits, but my weekly and monthly habits are still a struggle. Sometimes I forget but mostly it’s just that I haven’t worked them into my life and my day-to-day thought process like I have with my daily habits. As a result, they lack that inevitability that my daily habits have taken on.

Obviously, since you do them much more frequently, daily habits will usually yield more results, but their power goes deeper. Because of their frequency, daily habits are much easier to build. There’s a rhythm and cadence that you find with daily habits that it’s just much harder to get as the frequency decreases. I find that I often grow to look forward to my daily habits in a way that I never do with my weekly or monthly habits.

In Getting Things Done , David Allen describes the psychological effect of having a strong personal organization method, and he tells of a word that rowers use to describe the state of flow on the water where everything just moves forward with grace and beauty:

Swing: The elusive, hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing performance and speed. The rower feels almost weightless.

Swing. That’s a perfect word to describe how it feels when things align with my goals and daily habits, and I find myself propelled forward with a sense of purpose and clarity that’s hard to define. Weightless.

If you have a change that you’d like to make in your life, see if there’s some way to break it down into a daily habit. I know that I’m better off doing something for shorter periods each day than for a longer period twice a week. Paradoxically, the frequency actually makes it easier. (Though try taking the weekends off, which I’ve found to really help keep it sustainable.)

Tomorrow I’ll talk about a few things I’ve learned about weekly and monthly habits and how to keep them on track. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with habits (both good and bad), and the impact they’ve had on your life. Post in the comments below.