At the beginning of the year, I wrote about both my goal to read more in 2017 and about the importance of doing something every day to make a habit stick.
When I quit refined sugar two years ago, it was the daily practice of not eating sugar – a month-long challenge – that set me in my ways of getting rid of it from my diet forever. I wanted to try this similar approach to doing other things I wanted in my life.
For starters, I wanted to read more books this year. I identified 15 books I really wanted to read over the course of the next 12 months, planned out which books I’d read during which months, and committed myself to reading before bed every night. I didn’t prescribe a certain number of pages to read – just wanted to simply develop the habit of reading, whether it be a page or a few chapters. (You can follow me on Goodreads here).
For January, I also wanted to keep a gratitude journal – just a line or two a day recounting what I felt particularly grateful for. Gratitude is shown to increase happiness and contribute to an abundance mindset as opposed to one of scarcity. Once I started documenting moments or things I was grateful for, they were more front-and-centre in my mind throughout the day.
A month into my continuing personal experiment of sorts, and I’m pleased to say I’ve surpassed my reading goals and successfully kept my month-long gratitude journal!
(As a bonus, I also went all of January alcohol-free – a feat I did not plan to undertake but as the month went along and I continued not to indulge in a glass of wine here or there, figured I may as well keep it up for the whole month!)
These activities could take merely minutes out of the day (although my good choices in books meant some days I was flipping through page after page) and yet their returns were huge. I even watched a lot less TV, knowing I had a good book to snuggle up with.
To some, this approach to daily life may seem restrictive, but to me, it’s encouraging. I love crossing something off a list – the sheer satisfaction of ticking a box at the end of the day – but even better, I learned, was the overall progress I made and amount I learned.
What made them work:
- Planning ahead: I identified when I would do both these activities in my day (both at night, before bed, although I tended to jot down notes of gratitude when they came up throughout the day in the back of my planner – the tool I used as a journal). I also planned out all the books I was going to read for the year in advance.
- Making it easy: It’s all about convenience and making it easier for yourself to action. I bought the books I’d read for that month and placed them on my bedside table for easy access. I used the back part of my daily planner for my gratitude journal because I always have it with me.
- Sticking to it: Neither activity took up much time, but if I got into bed forgetting to do one of them, I forced myself to get up and cross it off the list. The more days that passed having been in this routine, the harder it was to let the habits slide.
Since I’ve had such success with this approach, I can’t wait to use it to tackle some other activities I want to do more of, like writing, mindfulness, and playing piano. I’m going to continue the reading into February (and likely all year) but swap out journaling in favour of doing planks and stretches.
As much as I’d love to keep adding to my daily list, at some point it would get overwhelming and a burden to get done, instead of a joy. Two activities at this point seems manageable and still exciting for me.
Have you tried this approach to tackling goals? How has it been and what have you learned?