Creating any lasting change starts with habits. Creating new ones, breaking old ones. We've all seen the challenges, studies and literature on habit building.
"It takes 21 days to build a habit!"
"No, actually it takes 30 days!"
If you've read the book 'Atomic Habits', you're off to a great start. James Clear backs his book by science and says "on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances."
Now, that last sentence is super important because if it's 66 days into your journey and you're still having trouble sticking to something, don't worry about it!
And since this article is meant for the busy woman who's working 40+ hours a week, the reality is that it's probably going to take you even longer to make a habit turn into something you can do for the rest of your life.
But that's okay. More than okay.
What we're going to break down in this article is the best way to approach habit building while you have a million other things on your plate.
First, prioritize it
Everything that you have going on in your life is demanding your attention. And it's all living rent free in your head while you go through each day addressing every single thought and planning out how you're going to get it all done. The things that get done are the things you prioritize.
Maybe they've become a priority because your boss made them a priority - like prepping for Monday morning meetings, or maybe they're a priority because you care a lot - like taking your Mother to lunch the first Sunday of every month.
The actions a habits that you currently have are ones that you might see some immediate reward from. You like your job and you like being prepared. You also love seeing your family. And so when it comes to building new habits, we might find it difficult to do it because we don't see the value in it right away. Or, we feel like we don't really need it.
You don't know you're eating unhealthy until you learn how to really eat healthy.
You don't realize you have brain fog until you have a clear mind.
You don't realize you have an intolerance to dairy until after you cut out dairy.
You don't know what you don't know.
And because of that, building new habits can be difficult. So we'll tend to push them to the side after a short burst in effort and not seeing immediate results.
Here's a couple things that help me prioritize new habits.
1 - Write it in your agenda ahead of time. Take some time on Sunday morning to plan out your week.
2 - Set an alarm as a reminder
3 - Block out time in your calendar to complete your habit
4 - Let your co-workers and family know what you're working on. Putting it out into the world helps!
Second, do less than you think
BODZii has been running 28 day challenges for over 5 years, and every single challenge, we get our participants to work on habits that we know are going to help them in their health, fitness and weight loss journey.
Here are 5 habits that we focus on building:
- Getting 10k steps in
- Drinking 2.2-3L of water a day
- Sleeping 7-8 hours a night
- Eating veggies at most meals
- Eating a diet rich in protein
These are already pretty basic habits. And each one of these contributes to the foundation of living a healthy, productive lifestyle. However, how do you tackle these if you're just starting out?
As someone working 40 hours a week, I can't just tell you to get 10k steps in if you're sitting most of the day and can barely get 2 thousand. You may get a couple days in, but you'll soon get overwhelmed and discouraged.
The best thing you can do for yourself with habit building is bite off just enough that will warrant some effort, but not too much that will create overwhelm. You need to start building trust in yourself and your actions before you build on each small habit.
Someone who has hours each day on their hands might be able to start getting 10 thousand steps in consistently each day. Right now, you do not. You have to create that time for yourself, and creating that time comes from prioritizing! As discussed in the section above.
Another example would be sleep. If you're in the market for higher quality sleep schedule, then chances are you aren't currently hitting the 7-8 hours you need. Maybe you're a solid 3 hours away.
You're not going to be heading to be 3 hours earlier tonight or waking up 3 hours later starting tomorrow. Not with the schedule you have. And right now it might seem like you can never make that happen because your schedule is so packed to the hour.
I have two things to say to that:
1 - your productivity and work quality sky rockets as your quality and quantity of sleep increases. You might not believe me yet, but the work that usually takes you 2 hours to complete might take half that time on a proper nights sleep. All of a sudden you have an extra hour!
2 - We work within our means. When I moved from a 600 square foot apartment into my current house, I thought it was a massive space! Now, 6 months later, I'm using up every square inch and am looking to upsize.
The same applies to the hours in your day. As a high achiever, you're using up every minute you have. But if it's eating up your sleep, you're doing yourself a disservice.
So instead of going to bed 3 hours earlier, lets try 30 minutes. Thats 30 minutes less time to be productive. Give yourself a couple weeks to adapt to that before adding on another 30 minutes of sleep.
Again, we're biting off just enough that we can chew.
Be kind to yourself
Habit building and habit breaking is hard. It's not going to happen over night. And it's actually going to take longer for you to build some habits since we're taking small steps to get there.
If you mess up a couple days here and there, that's okay.
One thing that I like to tell all our clients is that it's about effort. If you focus on the effort you put into building habits just like you put effort into your job, business or relationships, it will happen. Stay consistent!