Even if you are no longer in school, fall is a great time to start a new habit. If your focus is on starting a new project, program or learning opportunity, the sense of hitting the books is a particularly natural fit.
That said, setting a habit is easy…sticking to one can be more challenging. So if you’re starting a new habit this fall, read on for some helpful tips to keep your commitment strong!
1. Keep it Simple
The best habits are those that are both easy to state and accomplish. “Improve every aspect of my fitness by doing these fifteen things a day” will never work for most people. A hew habit of “Sleep eight hours a day,” however, is better. Not only is it easy to understand, it’s a fantastic habit to cultivate! Other examples of simple habits include:
- Eat less than 1500 calories a day
- Eat six times a day—without snacking between meals
- Run 2 miles, 3x a week
- Work out thirty minutes a day
- Read for thirty minutes a day
These very clear, short statements are straightforward and easy to remember. Don’t fall into the habit of choosing too many habits, however! Keep your list of new habits as short and sweet as the habit descriptions themselves.
2. Choose your timeframe
Even if you want to adopt a new habit for life, don’t start out thinking that way. Choose a set period of time to “try out” your new habit. It can be as little as four days or as long as three weeks, but make it a chunk of time that doesn’t stress you out. During that timeframe, you’ll be doing a bit more than just executing your new habit, you’ll be ingraining it as a new routine. So choose your timeframe wisely—long enough to give you time to really decide if this new habit is right for you, but short enough that it’s not overwhelming.
3. Be consistent
One of the benefits of choosing an easy-to-understand habit and a defined timeframe is that it helps you be consistent with the execution of your new habit. The best habits are those that you can execute every single day, because human beings are creatures of, well, habit. Think of how many things you do routinely, without thinking about it: brushing your teeth, making coffee in the morning, driving the same way to work every day. If you can make your new habit so familiar that you stop thinking about it, you’re your likelihood for success becomes exponentially greater. The best way to achieve that level of familiarity? Complete your new habit every day—or break it down into actions that can be achieved daily. For example, instead of committing to running three days a week, commit to one half-hour devoted to fitness every day. Some days that half-hour could involve running, some days it can simply involve stretching or meditating. But because you are completing the habit every day, it will be easier to make it part of your routine.
4. Track your new habit every day (or every week)
Tracking is the number one key to success with a new habit. If you have a compelling scorecard, and you can see your progress every day, studies have proven that you are far more likely to continue with the new habit.
Tracking doesn’t have to be a slog, either. If your habit is related to fitness or nutrition, apps like MyFitnessPal or FitBit are absolutely fantastic to help you quickly and easily record your daily efforts. Many fitness watches like the Apple Watch also have built trackers that record your steps, calories burned and exercise results with just a few clicks from you to get them started, making tracking pain-free. If you’re tracking your progress on paper, make it fun! Set up a calendar with colorful stickers and add a sticker every day or week you complete your specific habit. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you decide that you want to keep your success streak going.
Another reason to choose a short timeframe is because you will reach your goal that much more quickly. When you do, take the time to celebrate your success. We very often forget the need to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come, and that often undermines the likelihood that we will take new risks in in the future. Successfully completing a habit for three weeks is a huge accomplishment, so celebrate with something that makes you smile…and then it’s onto the next habit to conquer, either continuing the one you’ve just made part of your life, or trying something new!