More on Habits

My wife and I had a good discussion this evening about habits, after she read my post from yesterday. I realized that my habits are both effective and important because most of the things on my list of daily habits fall into the category of being important (in the long run), but not terribly urgent. Working out is a perfect example; I consider exercise to be very important in the macro sense, but it’s not urgent that I do it right now, because the effects won’t be tangibly felt or seen for a long time. Without my daily habits, things like blogging, journaling, working out, etc. just wouldn’t get done that often, because they’d be drowned out by urgent tasks (both important and unimportant) that are vying for my attention right now. Habits are a check to ensure that the really important stuff gets done over the long run.

I only have two tips for habits, and I may have shared them both on this blog, so bear with me if you’ve heard this already:

1. Read The Greatest Secret In The World by Og Mandino, which is a kick-in-the-ass crash course in building habits. It was originally written for salespeople, and it’s cheesy in places, but if you can follow its prescription, you’ll reap enormous changes in your levels of self-discipline.

2. Use the Seinfeld method of habit tracking and building. Get a calendar and a red marker, and every day you do your habit, you put a big X on the day. After a few days, you have a chain going, and all you have to do is ensure you don’t break the chain. When I first started this, I had a bunch of different habits (twelve, actually), which was completely overwhelming and I struggled for several months, never really getting into the rhythm of it. I eventually pared it down to just seven habits, and over time I’ve revised those and added more, and I’m actually back up to twelve right now, and I’m closing in on one year without missing a single habit for a single day (I do them Monday through Friday and take weekends off). Now the fact that I’ve been going for so long compels me to ensure that I get them done no matter what. This method is easy to start but remarkably powerful. Try a test habit for just 30 days and see what happens.

Do you have any tips or techniques for building good habits?