In Part 1 we covered why we should pay attention to the daily decisions we make and how these minor adjustments to our routine can have a big impact. Part 2 will look at how you can make small adjustments to your daily habits that bring you more in-line with your goals.
Actions You Control
First, it helps to know what you are trying to achieve. Have an idea of the outcome you’d like or of the type of person you wish to grow into. Think about it in terms of what you can control, what actions or process oriented steps can you take to achieve the outcome you want. For example, if you want a new job, you can’t control what an interviewer decides but you can control your preparation effort. If you want to be healthier, you can’t control your weight directly but you can control what you eat and how often you train in the gym.
A simple way to translate outcome oriented goals to action steps is to look at the process. For some projects, it’s hard to predict how long it will take. For example, writing a book or closing a sale. You can’t control when those outcomes finish exactly. But you can translate those into process oriented steps which are achievable everyday. You can say ‘I will write 500 words each morning’ or ‘I will spend 5 minutes a day minimum working on my book’. In the case of sales, your process goal could be to make 100 calls per day.
Think about your goals and then find the actions you have control over that align with achieving that goal. These actions are what you want to turn into habits.
Set Tiny Daily Goals
Now that you have a few process oriented goals in mind which relate to your larger outcome goals, you can work on incorporating those actions into your daily routine. The best way to do that is to make doing these actions, the easy choice.
Big, ambitious projects need to be thought of as a series of small steps. How do you write a book? One word at a time. How do you run a marathon? One step at a time.
To build the consistency needed to complete a big project, it helps to have very small but action focused goals each day. There are going to be days when you don’t feel like working on it. By making the goal small, you lower the barrier to entry and increase the likelihood you’ll make progress that day.
For example, in the case of writing, set your goal to just be 5 minutes with your text editor open each day. Or write at least 50 words every morning. These sound too small to make a difference but over the course of a month, your much more likely to take action on ‘open my text editor for 5 minutes’ each day than something like write a chapter every week.
By making the goal tiny, it makes it easy to get started on. Getting started is often the most difficult part each day because it’s the decision to get started that leads to the action. If you make getting started the easy choice by setting the bar low, you’ll build consistency.
Often, you’ll find you vastly exceed the small threshold you set for yourself. But some days, maybe not. However, the consistency of the habit is what matters here. If you do miss a day for whatever reason, it’s OK. Just get back on track ASAP. The continual pattern of missing days is what causes problems. If you find yourself missing too many days in a row, try making that daily goal smaller.
Increase Your Chances of Success
Look to make small adjustments to your routine that improve your odds of success. Constantly be on the look out for what you can tweak to make it more likely you’ll follow through on your habits. Set up your environment for success to make taking action the default and easy choice.
For example, to eat a salad every day, you could prepare the ingredients at a set time every week. Then store the ingredients at eye level in a transparent container so you see it every time you open the fridge. You could also set a reminder on your phone 15 minutes before lunch time to prepare your salad.
These are three examples of small adjustments you can make to your daily routine to increase the likelihood you will follow through on your goal of having a salad everyday. These tweaks don’t need to be implemented at once. But over time, if you keep looking for little ways to improve your routine you can almost guarantee your success.
Check out the book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness for more ideas about how we can create an environment where the easy choice is the one aligned with our goals.
Do Less of What’s Not Working
Another way to think about building better habits that align with your goals is to do less of what isn’t helping. Look to limit the downside of any actions that negatively impact your progress. This can be easier to do because it’s an often overlooked part of improving your habits.
If you want to improve your health, rather than just thinking about exercise and vegetables, what are some unhealthy activities you engage in? How can you limit or remove those?
If you want to increase your savings, rather than looking at how you can make more money, what are some ways your are losing money each month? How can you avoid spending on things that aren’t worth it?
Think of this step as your own Hippocratic Oath where you vow to ‘do no harm’ to your progress by avoiding actions that can set you back.
In Part 1 we learned how small steps compound over time into major achievements. Anything significant is done one step at a time. Given the consistency required, it’s vital to focus on adjusting your habits to achieve what you want in life.
Here in Part 2 we looked at how we can tweak our daily routines to bring us in-line with our goals. Know where you want to go and then focus on achieving daily, process-oriented goals each day. Continually look for ways to increase your odds of success and stay consistent. Over time you will do amazing things.