I’m in Week 8 of a Working Out Loud Circle. This week is about building new habits. One of the ways suggested to build new habits is to chart your progress. Exercise 3 in this weeks Guide is to create your own progress chart.
I’ve used progress charts to support habit-building in the past. With mixed results. Actually, there is a pattern to my results. I tend to struggle to embed new habits. I was reluctant to create another progress chart only to struggle to stick to the habits listed on it. However, I’d committed to do the exercises in the Circle Guides so pressed on.
Rather than create a new template I hunted through the files on my computer in search of one I could re-use. I found one that sounded promising – ‘Resolution Chart.xlsx.’ I opened it. Wow! Here’s a clue as to why I have struggled to embed new habits. I was confronted with a list of habits broken into 6 categories:
- Health – 10 daily habits and 1 weekly habit
- Money – 2 daily habits and 1 weekly habit
- Career – 4 daily habits, 11 weekly habits and 2 monthly habits
- Personal Development – 2 daily habits and 1 weekly habit
- Planning and Administration – 2 weekly habits and 1 monthly habit
- Friends and Family – 1 daily habit, 2 weekly habits and 4 monthly habits
A whopping total of 44 habits to track (19 daily, 18 weekly and 7 monthly). My goal at the time was to complete 80% of these each month. It’s tempting to calculate the number of data points per month to track this, but I don’t think it’s necessary to make the point. Perhaps I should have added another one – to track my habits. Seriously … I see now how this was setting myself up for failure.
This list is clearly unachievable and gave me a lot of reasons to beat myself up. However, there is a bigger problem with creating overwhelming lists of habits, routines and goals. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. I was not discerning enough about which of these habits would make the most difference in my life.
In his book ‘The Power of Habit‘ Charles Duhigg allocates a whole chapter to ‘keystone habits.’ “The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.” Duhigg characterises keystone habits as “small wins.” Based on research on small wins he notes that they “fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.” Duhigg also concludes that keystone habits encourage change “by creating structures that help other habits to flourish.” They create can atmosphere in which other behaviours emerge.
I set up my Working Out Loud habit progress tracker. The complete list – just 4 daily habits – is shown below.
My Daily Dispatch post (such as this post!) does take around 30 minutes a day, so is not really a ‘small’ win. However, if I pick my topics wisely each post can be used as part of the Reflection Challenge (#reflectchall) I’m doing this month at no additional effort. This leaves checking my Twitter relationship list for my current WOL Circle goal, and responding to two posts that others have made online. This could take as little as five minutes per day. Not overambitious (for a change).
I’ll give this progress chart a go and report back at the end of month in a Dispatch.