In about two weeks a new year will begin, and with it comes a fresh opportunity to move yourself forward in whatever life path you desire. In my last article, “Five Steps to Achieving Your Goals and Getting Back on Track,” I explained the best way to meet a goal was to set an attainable one, and to break down the steps to meeting it into daily actions. What I did not talk about was why I think it’s better to establish new habits—instead of frequently setting new goals.
Goals have an end point – a finish line that we cross. The problem is what happens after we come down from the ‘high’ of accomplishment, when we regress and shrink back to our old ways. How many people do you know who have lost weight and then celebrated their accomplishment only to gain the weight right back? Unlike goals, there is no end point to a habit; it’s just something you do.
Habits become ingrained into daily life. We don’t think very hard about spending two minutes brushing our teeth in the morning – it’s something that we have always done and will continue to do. There is always time for it because it’s a priority. That’s the thing about habits: they’re such a part of our daily routine they become easier to complete. We don’t overthink or stress about making the time to complete a habit because we don’t need to. We also derive a sense of satisfaction in a life well lived, with daily routines and habits that make us feel good about ourselves. The trick is to establish positive habits that will drive change and lead you to success. Implement the following six steps, and you’ll soon find yourself leaving lofty goals behind and establishing habits that will lead you to success.
Be Part of the 20%
Every day, you should devote a total of 90 minutes, or 20 percent of an eight-hour day, to focus on something you can change. Break the 90 minutes at your disposal into 15-minute segments and utilize each segment to focus on a singular task. These tasks can range from sending out follow-up emails, to pitching potential new clients, to reading up on the latest industry news.
Go Heavy on High Value Activities (HVAs)
A High Value Activity, or an HVA as I like to call them, is any activity that brings a high value to your life. Exercising—daily if possible—is a HVA. Making sure you stay hydrated and well-fed are HVAs. Writing down what you want to accomplish and the steps you need to get there are most certainly HVAs. The same is true when providing counsel to a coworker or client in need and participating fully in teamwork activities.
Take a Nap (Yes, Really)
The human mind is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs rest. Twenty minute “power naps” are the perfect way to reset your mind and prepare to face new challenges and hurdles. Letting your mind rest for 20 minutes, through sleep or meditation, will bring untold value and balance to your life. You’d be surprised how calming and relaxing a 20-minute pause can be.
Avoid Productivity Killers
It’s no surprise that there are endless ways to “waste” your time, even under the guise of productivity. While the internet is a necessary tool for most activities, it is also far too easy to waste your day scrolling through social media or following sources cited in online research materials. Remind yourself that while distractions are fun and interesting, they make your life harder in the long run by impeding productivity and killing focus. When faced with an important task, it is vital that we put distractions aside.
Seek out the Sun
With infinite responsibilities taking up every minute of your day, it can be easy to go the entire day without getting any fresh air and sunshine, especially now that it gets dark so early. It is vitally important to your mental and physical well-being to spend a little time every day in the sun. Take a part of your lunch break to be outside, or walk around your block first thing in the morning before you leave for work. Not only will the fresh air revitalize you from a night in bed or several hours in the office, but the exercise will help your brain wake up and restart. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty around you as the seasons change. You’ll be amazed at what you start to observe and appreciate. Just like a habit, a daily excursion outside is a small step that will lead us to happier, more fruitful days.
Organization is key to staying focused, so this is one of the most important habits to establish. Many people go their whole lives without understanding the importance of organizing and prioritizing their time. They don’t realize that they should be writing lists or keeping a calendar. They are likely to be very bad at time management. Without being organized, it is impossible to devote the needed 20 percent to something you want to change or improve. Organization is vital to participating in High Value Activities and ensuring you take care of your health, from exercising and meal planning to completing projects at work. Focusing on a task and how it helps you complete the big picture requires organization.
When you follow these six steps, you will find that establishing habits allows you to overshoot any short-term goal. No longer will you be relying on endless variables outside your control to meet a goal that is always out of reach. Instead, you can spend time establishing a habit that will lead to a lifetime of milestone achievements. Habits allow us to shift our behavior in small incremental steps that through daily attention lead to monumental achievements.