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Anchoring habits

New Year Day can bring with it a sense of excitement and opportunity – a whole new year! During this time I often get reflective and check in to see if what I’m doing is what I really want to be doing. Whilst I’ve never been great at making and keeping New Years Resolutions, I am doing ok at setting new habits for myself and sticking to them. In the lead up to January 1st, 2015, I reread a lot of the sources I’d read when I was initially trying to learn more about habit setting. My original post actually covers most of them off well.

One thing I had under appreciated, though, was the importance of anchoring the tiny habits you pursue to an existing habit you already maintain. I never really did this before. I’d set up a habit calendar and then set about checking that off each day. The problem was that I when I abandoned the habit calendar, thinking the things I was doing were habits by now, I fell off the metaphorical horse. I’m guessing this happened because the habit calendar was actually serving as a reminder, rather than a way to reset my behaviour.

The idea with anchoring your habits is to find something you do in your day, everyday, and then anchor one of your new habits to that. In this great video, BJ Fogg talks about how he started doing push-ups after going to the toilet, as an example.

So,this year, I have three habits I’m trying to include in my daily life. Waking early, Blogging and Journalling.

Waking early

This one is tough, because it itself is an anchor. At some point each day, I wake up. This great post from Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has helped me think through this one. I’m going to try to build a habit of making a coffee and enjoying that each morning when I wake up. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll aim to get up at 7am to establish a baseline. Luckily, Edith tends to wake me up around that time anyway, but I’ll use making a coffee as a reward for being up and to keep me from going back to bed. I’ll then try to ratchet down the time I awaken every few weeks by a tiny amount.

I don’t have a target time just yet, but something earlier than 6am would be pretty amazing. I want to be one of those people that enjoy the early morning stillness. I love it, when I’m actually awake. This is also a powerful new anchor I can attach things to in time. Early morning Yoga, or meditation, is hard to do if you never see the early morning.

Blogging

Blogging again ranks highly on the motivation axis curve of BJ Fogg Behaviour Model. It takes effort and energy to do. It’s not tiny. But I’m going to try and anchor it to lunch. I will eat lunch most days, and it’s often something I have a little time afterwards due to most things being scheduled between 8-11am and 2-5pm by most people. So I’m going to give that a bash. I shared yesterday what I’ll focus on blogging about, which is also going to help me here.

Journalling

I’ve never kept a journal. But after reading this great paper on conscious leadership that Ron shared with me a while ago and chatting more about it I realised I really needed a private outlet to express a lot of my thoughts and feelings. I’ve actually already started this one and have been writing a journal, by hand, each night before bed. It’s very visual and I mostly just recount the moments of each day that stand out to me. This one is so easy, I believe, because the anchor is so good. Journalling before bed is easy, takes about one minute, and just happens because the journal is kept on my bedside table.

I’ll keep exploring the anchoring of my new habits throughout the year and share my progress with you. I think there will be a couple of other tiny habits I add to this list in time, but for now these are three pretty big ones. We’ll see how I go.