Why you should create your new habit in phases

One part of creating the productivity and results you want in your business (and life) is creating habits that support you.

When someone is creating a new habit I often see them jump right into it.

Then they get frustrated when it doesn’t get easier after a few days or it might even get harder.

Then the new habit is abandoned.

Think of it this way, if you wanted to start lifting weights and decided the place to start was curling a 50-pound weight, you’d probably fail.

You need to build your muscles to do that (and potentially talk with an expert to find out if that’s a reasonable goal for you).

The point is, you’re probably not going to be curling that 50-pound weight on the first day of you lift weights.

Yet, this is how most of us approach creating habits. 

We think the way to create a new habit is to start it immediately, and if we do keep doing it, the practice will stick.

Then we get frustrated because it’s hard to keep up.

Let’s look at the habit of waking up at 6 am every day.

To create it, you set the alarm for 6 am every day.

A couple of days in, and it feels like there’s not enough coffee in the world to keep you focused all day.

One of the rules for creating a new habit is to make it easy.

How might you make getting up at 6 am every day easier for you? By going to bed at 10 pm every night. This way, you get 8 hours of sleep, and it makes getting up at 6 am easier.

How do you make going to bed at 10 pm easier? By starting your bedtime routine at 9:30.

If you’re like me, you start creating this whole new routine that includes around getting ready for bed at 9:30, going to bed at 10 pm, and setting the alarm for 6 am.

And you still might be frustrated because at 10 pm you’re NOT tired and so you lay in bed tossing and turning for an hour or more before you fall asleep and when the alarm goes off you’re still exhausted.

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he talks about habit shaping, part of it is creating a new habit in phases.

If the habit is getting up at 6 am, you could start with just getting ready for bed at 9:30. Once you’ve mastered that (which might take a week or a month), you move on to the next step.

Phase 1: Get ready for bed at 9:30
Phase 2: Get in bed at 10 pm and read, chat with your partner, or play on your phone.
Phase 3: Get in bed at 10 pm and put the phone away.
Phase 4: Go to bed at 10 pm.
Phase 5: Set your alarm for 6 am.

You’ll notice I added a couple of steps between getting ready for bed and going to bed. It goes back to asking yourself what will make the next step easier.

What habits have you tried to create in the past that are still on your mind?

How might you create that habit in phases?

Keep asking yourself what will make this step easier?

I’d love to know what the phases of your new habit are! Share in the comments below.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #128

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