Habits are pretty hard. Forming them is hard. Maintaining them is hard. The only thing easy about habits is breaking them.
There’s tonnes to be read about habits. I think one of the better books I’ve read on the topic is Atomic Habits by James Clear. I’ve taken a lot from this book about how I try to form healthy, foundational habits in my life. I think the concept of habit stacking is probably the biggest takeaway I had from this book.
(The tl;dr of habit stacking that instead of treating each habit as an individual unit, try to stack them together, such that one habit flows into the other. For instance, instead of “washing the dishes” and “wiping down the counters” being two separate habits, just say “after I’m done washing the dishes, since everything is wet, I have to wipe down the counters.” Stack the habits.)
Recently I’ve come up with something for myself that I’ve been using for a few weeks now and it seems to be working. I can’t necessarily say I invented it, but haven’t seen it talked about elsewhere.
I’m calling it the Habit Wheel.
Basically, I have several things I want to get done every morning. I want to meditate. I want to journal. I want to work out. However, I have a hard time waking up in the morning, and I don’t always get the same amount of time each morning, so I can’t get everything done. On top of that, I live in an area that is under shelter in place orders, and grocery shopping is quite difficult, so I try to get to stores when they open on a weekday, to minimize that stress. On those mornings, I can’t get my morning habits done at all.
For awhile I was trying a specific order every morning. But all that resulted in was the first habits on the list being consistently managed, and the latter habits on the list being dropped altogether. This felt like failure, and it discouraged me from even maintaining the habits I was able to keep up with.
So I decided to change it up and think of it as a wheel of habits. Whatever habit I “left off” on in the previous morning would become the first thing for the next morning. So if yesterday, I managed meditation and journaling and nothing else, then today I’d work out first, then go for meditation. And if I didn’t manage journaling, then tomorrow’s first habit would be journaling.
While doing it this way didn’t ensure I’d be doing every habit every day, it ensured I was consistently doing healthy habits throughout the week. This put me in a mental space of succeeding rather than falling short, and doing these habits semi-daily means still I get their benefit, because mostly is better than not at all.
The Habit Wheel is a great tool for me. The work is to figure out what habits go in the habit wheel. So far I’ve liked the habits I’ve put in there. I’ll be continuing to fine-tune them and work towards that well-lived life I’m seeking.