Are you tired of constantly starting and stopping new habits? Find out 17 ways to develop good habits in daily life and maintain them!
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You have so many ideas of habits you want to start and you do it once or twice and the excitement fizzles out and you’re back to real life.
Starting a new habit is easy, but maintaining that habit is a bit more tricky.
We’re going to talk about how to maintain those habits that you’re so excited to start.
What are habits?
Habits are rituals or behaviors that you perform on autopilot.
You’re completing tasks or actions without even thinking about it.
And that’s the good thing about habits because they don’t take up any of your brain power. You already know what to do and how to do it.
Something as simple as waking up and brushing your teeth, you don’t have to think about it. You’re not debating about it. You just get up and do it.
According to Duke University, about 45% of our day is us performing habits.
So whether you know it or not, you have a lot of habits that you do on autopilot.
What creates a habit?
Performing a certain behavior in the same environment repeatedly is what creates a habit.
Once a habit is instilled, you being in a specific environment can trigger a habit.
Let me give you an example of what that means.
I have a habit of curling up on the couch under my fuzzy blanket and watching Netflix.
The trigger for this habit was my blanket being on the couch. So anytime I walked into the living room and seen my blanket I would immediately want to lay down.
If I want to get anything done I know that I need to eliminate that blanket from my environment.
That way I’m not so tempted to lay down and chill all day.
The Habit Loop
So now let’s talk about this thing called the Habit Loop. This is a concept by James clear who wrote atomic habits.
This is how habits work.
So first you have a cue. The cue is the trigger for the behavior. So a habit starts with a cue.
What your cue does is signals that a reward is available. Our brains are constantly looking for rewards.
Who doesn’t like a reward, right?
Whenever you see a cue, your brain is like, “Ooh, there’s something good there let’s do it!”
An example of this would be walking past your refrigerator. You know it’s full of yummy food and that’s your reward.
So the cue is the refrigerator.
The second part of the Habit Loop is the craving. A cue is immediately followed by a craving for the reward.
You see the refrigerator and you’re like, “oh man, I went to the store and I got all of these yummy snacks and I can’t wait to eat them.”
You’re craving the food that’s in the refrigerator.
You don’t crave the act of opening the refrigerator. You crave how good the food is going to taste once you eat it.
Another quick example, you don’t crave the act of opening your phone. You crave the act of seeing how many likes your post has.
So your cue is immediately followed by a craving.
The third part of the Habit Loop is your response. The response is the physical or mental action that occurs after the craving.
This is when you’re performing the actual habit.
An example of this would be opening the refrigerator or unlocking your phone.
If performing the response is too hard, the behavior won’t happen.
This is especially true for habits like working out. So let’s go through this cycle with working out.
- Cue: You’re on YouTube and you see a workout video.
- Craving: Thinking how in shape you could be if you would actually work out.
- Response: Do a 30-minute workout
Your response is the habit which in this example would be working out.
The fourth part of the Habit Loop is the reward. The reward is your state of change that you were craving in the first place.
Why were you doing the habit in the first place?
The reward for you working out would be that you’re getting in shape or you have more energy.
Whenever a reward is satisfying, you begin to get rewards with particular cues and start creating that habit loop.
The stickler here though, is that if any piece of this four step process in the Habit Loop is missing, your habit will not form.
That’s why it’s so important to choose one habit you’d like to change, stick with that habit, and keep putting it through the Habit Loop to form this habit.
That’s what I want you to do. Figure out one habit you’d like to change and put it through the Habit Loop.
This will help you identify your cue and your reward.
The 3 R’s of habit change
The 3 R’s of habit change would be your…
An example of this would be if you’re trying to start eating a healthy breakfast in the morning.
Your old routine would be…
- Reminder: Waking up and your stomach is growling.
- Routine: Cook an unhealthy breakfast that makes you feel sluggish
- Reward: Eating a large breakfast and being full
Your new routine…
- Reminder: Waking up and your stomach is growling.
- Routine: Cook an healthy breakfast that gives you more sustainable energy
- Reward: Eating a healthy breakfast and being full
In this example the process is the same, you’re just switching out your routine.
Those are your 3 R’s of habit change.
If you have something you want to change, take a second and write down the reminder, the routine, and the reward.
From there you can figure out which parts you need to switch.
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17 life-changing ways to maintain habits
These simple strategies will help you stick to your habits even when life gets chaotic and unpredictable.
1. Start small
Focus on one habit. Choose this habit by changing something that’s making you feel overwhelmed.
Whenever life feels overwhelming we usually try to start over from scratch with our routines and start a lot of new habits at once.
That’s not a good idea.
Trying to change too much at one time will also make you feel overwhelmed so it’s not solving your problem, it’s just creating a new one.
Focus on one new habit until you’re able to consistently implement it.
And consistency doesn’t mean you’re doing it every day. It just means you’re doing it consistently on a schedule that works for you.
That could be consistently on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or it could be consistently on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Consistent means whatever type of schedule you have for yourself to do that action.
2. Use a timer
So a lot of us have an all or nothing approach to so many things.
For example, It’s either we have time to clean the entire kitchen or we don’t clean any of it.
In reality, if we had 10 spare minutes we could have started putting the dishes in the dishwasher.
That would’ve been a huge relief.
But instead of doing that, we feel like we need to clean the entire kitchen. So we did nothing.
Instead of approaching things with an all or nothing approach, I find it’s best to use timers.
This helps with perfectionism because you know that whenever your timer goes off that it’s not going to be perfect and that’s okay.
But five minutes of cleaning is better than zero minutes of cleaning.
3. 2-minute tasks
These are simple, quick tasks you can do in under 2 minutes. The point of the task is not to accomplish what you’re trying to do, it’s to get you in the habit of showing up for yourself.
If you want to start working out on a consistent basis, a 2-minute task could be putting on your gym shoes.
Even if you don’t make it to work out, you still showed up for yourself and you’re getting in the habit of doing this task like you’re going to work out.
You don’t have to do the full process the way you think it should be done. Simplify your task and make it less than two minutes so you can show up for yourself and do the task.
4. Let go of the unnecessary
“If everything is important, nothing is important.”
You have to decide what requires your attention right now and what can wait until later.
It’s okay if something isn’t a priority right now, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. It just means that it’s not as important as something else right now.
An example of this would be wanting to deep clean my house. It’s taking me so long to clean because I have so much clutter everywhere.
What I’ve realized is that before I can start this deep cleaning process I need to declutter first.
That’s not saying that deep cleaning my house isn’t important because of course having a clean home is important, but decluttering is the priority right now.
Just because something isn’t as important as something else right now, doesn’t mean that it’s any less important.
5. Make time for your habit
This is where a lot of people struggle with maintaining their habits because they say they wanna work out every morning, but they don’t make time to work out every morning.
That’s a problem.
Start by writing down what you want to get done that day.
This is part of my time blocking approach you’ll learn in the Time Blocking Blueprint.
Don’t try to keep it all in your head because whenever you’re trying to keep everything in your head it’s easy to forget or start questioning what’s important.
If you write it all down you’ll be able to see everything that you want to get done that day and prioritize your time.
This eliminates decision fatigue because you’re deciding ahead of time what’s worth your energy and what can wait until later.
6. Prepare ahead of time
When you make decisions ahead of time you’ll have less decision fatigue and it’ll be easier for you to maintain habits.
Prepare as much in advance as possible.
- Pick out your clothes
- Get supplies ready for the activities you want to do
- Get lunch boxes ready
- Pack their backpacks the night before
Prepare as much in advance as possible so you won’t feel overwhelmed and not stick to your new habit.
7. Pay attention to your energy levels
Don’t schedule your habit at a time when you don’t have much energy.
One habit I wanted to start was to clean the kitchen before bed.
I would wait until right before bed and be too tired to clean so the habit didn’t work.
Instead of giving up, I started cleaning right after dinner while I was still moving around. This was more effective.
Figure out how your energy ebbs and flows so if something isn’t working out you can try to do it at a different time.
If it doesn’t work once don’t give up, just keep trying until it works.
Repetition is key.
8. If, then Technique
This is a strategy that helps you prepare for the unexpected.
If something unexpected happens then <blank>. So if blank then blank.
For example, if my daughter doesn’t take a nap today, then I’ll work out in the evening.
If I’m planning to work out in the morning or afternoon and she decides to not take a nap, then I would work out in the evening.
Use the If-Then Technique so you’ll have a backup plan and it’ll be less frustrating because you’ve built buffer time into your day.
9. Visual cues
This could be sitting out your gym clothes so you’ll remember to go to the gym or putting your vitamins on the counter so you’ll remember to take them.
Visual cues can also trigger bad habits if they’re a cue for something you want to stop doing.
My visual cue for me to lay down and relax was a throw blanket on the couch so I had to remove that visual cue to break a bad habit.
Using visual cues goes a long way with habit formation, whether the habit is good or bad.
You want to automate as much as possible so you won’t have to exude so much self-control.
An automation could be using smaller plates if you want to eat smaller portions.
So instead of eating off of a big dinner plate, eat off of a smaller saucer plate.
That way you can’t fill it with as much food as you would the big dinner plate.
If you got rid of all of your big dinner plates you would have no choice but to eat off of smaller plates.
So you’ve automated eating smaller portion sizes and you would have to make an intentional decision to eat more.
Another type of automation is setting alarms and reminders on your phone.
If you want to eat at certain intervals you can set alarms so you’ll know when your eating window is.
Simple automations can help you maximize your time and stick to your habits as much as possible.
The goal is to simplify the habit formation process.
11. Simplify your environment
When you simplify your environment you’re eliminating as many triggers or cues as possible.
Back to the example of me and my throw blanket, I eliminated that trigger.
I took the throw blanket off the couch and put it in a closet so I don’t even see it.
Now I have to intentionally go get the blanket out of the closet to use it. So I simplified my environment by removing that cue.
12. Support group
Another way to help you maintain new habits is to have a support group, which is why we have the Smart Productive Mom Facebook community.
You can have built-in support from moms who are trying to simplify and improve their time management and productivity.
A support group will help you stay consistent with these new habits.
13. Change your mindset
Your mindset is huge. Whatever you perceive is what you consider to be true.
Be aware of those immediate thoughts that you think, because that’s your perception.
An example of this is if you want to start waking up at 7:00 AM and you accidentally sleep until 8:30 AM. If you wake up and tell yourself, “oh my gosh, today is going to be so crazy and chaotic, I really needed to get up early so I could get ahead of the game.”
For the rest of the day your brain is going to be looking for ways to prove you right.
So that means if your toddler has a tantrum your day is crazy and chaotic…
If the TV randomly stops working your day is crazy and chaotic…
If you can’t find your shoe your day is crazy and chaotic.
Every little thing that happens your brain is going to try to prove you right so you can be correct when you say your day is crazy and chaotic.
Pay attention to what you’re thinking because your thoughts create your reality.
If you say, “I woke up late but today will still be a great day.”
That means if you lose your shoe it’s okay you’ll find another pair.
You’re able to blow off the little things that don’t go as planned because you’ve set yourself up to have a great day.
Be more vigilant about the way you’re thinking about things.
14. Limit overwhelm
Overwhelm is thinking about things that need to be done instead of taking action on what needs to be done.
The best way to overcome overwhelm is to take action on whatever is making you feel overwhelmed.
Simplify your tasks as much as possible.
15. Avoid perfectionism
Perfectionism is a mindset. There’s no solution because it’s unrealistic and impossible.
We’re always striving for better or more, and thinking we always need to be doing more.
There’s no end in sight.
That’s why perfectionism can hold you back. It causes you to feel like you’re constantly failing.
And then you procrastinate even more because you feel like you won’t do whatever you’re trying to do properly.
It’s very important to recognize that overwhelm and perfectionism are emotions and they’re in your head, although they’re valid emotions.
You have to take action to overcome perfectionism.
Practical over perfection.
It’s not perfect if it doesn’t work for you. So you may organize your pantry exactly like the image on Pinterest, but if it’s not practical for your family, then none of that matters.
Throw out the rule book and find ways to make your home work for you.
16. Focus on the journey, not the destination
One reason so many people feel overwhelmed is because we’re always thinking about the end goal.
And then we get overwhelmed thinking about all of the little steps that it’s going to take us to get to the end goal.
Focus on the journey. Appreciate the journey.
Learn to appreciate all of the ups and downs that come with it because that’s making you a better person. And you’re learning what works for you.
Life is all about learning.
17. Stop comparing yourself or journey
So many people feel behind and it’s because most of the time they’re comparing themselves to someone else.
If you’re comparing yourself to the Instagram mom who has the beautiful white kitchen that always looks clean, you have no idea how much cleaning she did before she took that picture.
Don’t compare your reality to unrealistic images.
Appreciate your journey.
Take the time to create your systems and processes that work for you. Don’t be afraid to do things outside of the box.
If something isn’t working for you the way you’re told it’s supposed to be done, then do it a different way.
Try something else.
Figure out a way that works for you and don’t give up.
So those are 17 brilliant ways to maintain your new habits.
Maintaining habits has a lot to do with the way you’re thinking because your brain is so powerful and your thoughts are what create your reality.
A quick way to remember how to maintain new habits is by using the D.I.V.A.S approach.
- Decide: make decisions ahead of time as much as possible
- If, then technique: because we’re moms and a lot of stuff comes up that’s out of our control
- Visual cues: make as much as possible visual for you to remember
- Automate: use alarms and reminders
- Simplify: remove triggers or cues
We’re always, always, always trying to simplify.
Life doesn’t need to be difficult. If something is easy, let it be easy.
That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Appreciate something in your life being easy.
If you want more support to maintain your new habits come join the Smart Productive Mom Facebook group. We’d love to cheer you on during your journey.