Habit formation

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the importance of goals and habits: about how to ingrain habits so that they become natural parts of one’s daily routine.

A few years ago, at the urging of FlyLady, I started making my bed every day. Not waiting for Z to make it. Not crawling into an unmade bed. Just doing it as soon as I could each morning. This was not a habit that I had established as a child, teen or young-ish adult. I had never done it consistently. Now, I do it without thinking. If I’m in my room and the bed is not made, I take the 20 seconds and do it on auto-pilot.

There are some other things that I need to get into my auto-pilot. I’m most of the way there with the dog-walking. I am an early riser, usually the first one up (unless Z has insomnia) and so I throw on my exercise clothes and take Wilson out for a 20 minute power-walk around our neighborhood. He’s a yapper and very territorial, so I have no security worries. But it gets me going in the morning and, when I return, I still have time for my first cup of coffee and the newspaper before the hordes awaken.

I have a couple of other habits that I am still trying to get going. I joined Curves a couple of weeks ago and I need to make sure that I get there at least 3 times per week. I have also been toying with the habit touted by Bob Greene and Oprah of not eating 3 hours before bedtime, which for me is about 8 pm. I have done this in the past for short bursts, and know that anything I eat after 8 is typically not required and loaded with fat and/or sugar.

A helpful (and free) web app to help with habit formation is Joe’s Goals. It lets you enter goals or habits, assign point values, and then track your progress over time. I’ve entered my three goals (dog-walking, Curves, eating after 8), with the first two expressed as positive goals, and third as a negative goal. I am giving myself two points every time I go to Curves, and one point (plus or minus) for the other two. I’m posting my little graph on my sidebar (over to the right) as a visual reminder and accountability technique!

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