Track your daily habits and link them to those longer-term, more meaningful goals
Change is hardly ever easy, is it? But do we have to make it so hard?
If you read my last blog “6 Points of Reflection Before You Plan Forward”, you may be wondering how you now ‘plan forward’. (You can read the last blog here.)
This blog is about Change and making it easier. Let’s break it down into three stages:
- Begin with the end in mind
- Commit to the change
- Keep track to see it through
1. Begin with the end in mind
You might recognise the phrase ‘Begin with the end in mind’. It is Habit #2 from Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Your habits are mostly unconscious patterns that dictate your level of effectiveness. And when it comes to the subject of change or improvement, the best habit I know of is, to Begin with the end in mind.
As a very quick exercise, pick a bad habit you’d like to change. Something within your control.
It might be how you start your day, how you speak to someone or a lifestyle habit. Mine is the number of times I let my phone distract me.
- Name the bad habit.
- How would you feel if you were free of the habit? (Describe the feelings. Don’t settle for “good”, delve a little deeper. What emotions would you feel?)
- What could you do with the extra money, fitness, time or headspace?
- Who in your life (who is important to you) would also gain?
If you’ve answered those questions, you’re now more aware of a choice that you can make. Simple. You can choose to continue or change as you see fit. But the choice is yours.
That’s all that matters for now. You have the power to choose whether to change or not.
If you choose to change, to make the decision stick, you have to commit.
2. Commit to the change
If you want to improve results in a certain area of your life or career, understand why first:
- What is important to you about it?
- Where will the change take you?
- Will it accelerate you towards the person you want to become?
If not, ditch it.
If it is a worthwhile pursuit, COMMIT TO IT.
Here are a few simple steps to help you commit to a certain course of action:
Decide the Pace
Look for evidence from your past as to what works best for you. Do you launch yourself in? Or build up to success one step at a time? What fits best in this situation?
Set Up to Succeed
I used to check my phone first thing in the morning. Emails flooded my brain, other people’s agendas. I lacked focus around my priorities. I now charge the phone downstairs and leave it on airplane mode until absolutely necessary.
Make your commitment public somehow. To your clients, colleagues or children.
Whether for support or competition, consider using a performance partner where possible.
3. Keep track to see it through
Seeing that commitment through isn’t easy, is it? How many times have you promised yourself something and caved in?
“I won’t drink any alcohol this week”
“I’m going to get up half an hour earlier for the next month”
“I’ll exercise 5 days a week”
Consistency really is essential for performance improvement. It’s not very sexy. It’s not very exciting.
However, taking a stop-start approach when changing something significant is a waste of time.
Think of yourself as a space shuttle. Apparently, a space shuttle uses 90% of the energy and fuel required for the average launch during the initial take off. Taking a stop-start approach is like abandoning launch. However, if you sustain your commitment beyond a certain critical point, you’ll soon be travelling greater distances, in less time, with minimal effort.
I’m not talking about minor change. I’m talking about change that stretches you outside of your comfort zone, demanding new behaviours, leading to new results.
So how do you achieve consistency?
You track your actions and habits as disciplines on a daily basis:
- Make a scorecard in a spreadsheet or draw it out on a page, with a cell for each day of the week.
- Every day that you manage to follow through on your committed action, tick it off.
- For each productive habit/action, have a target score for the week.
- You’ll become addicted to the ticks. You won’t want to miss one.
I’ve used this tactic for everything from daily meditation for greater focus and productivity, to conditioning drills that helped me engineer a new running style to avoid injury.
When a productive effort becomes habitual it frees up your mind to progress to the next level sooner.
Which leads nicely to one final and critical point. Only track the things that are going to help you achieve your meaningful goals.
When you’ve got a common thread linking what you do on a daily basis to your meaningful mid-long term goals, you’re aligning yourself to success. On your terms. That’s a great place to be. That’s you giving yourself evidence of improvement on a daily basis. It’s productive, fulfilling and rewarding all in one.
- Know ‘why’ change is important to you
- Commit and externalise that commitment somehow
- Track your daily actions
- Make sure you’re clear on the common thread that links your daily actions through to your longer-term, meaningful goals.
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