Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #128 / Why you should create your new habit in phases

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

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #122 / Two common to-do list mistakes and what to do about them

Two common to-do list mistakes and what to do about them

How effective is your to-do list?

I’ve found that most people have one in one form or another.

And sometimes we assume that everyone puts together a to-do list the way we do.

I’ve found that people are generally making one or two mistakes with their to-do lists and we’re going to talk about that today.

Mistake 1

Your to-do list is on whatever piece of paper or notebook that happened to be near you when you needed to write somethings down.

A side effect of this to-do list method is you keep thinking about all the things you have to do. Your mind is a constant stream of things to do.

This is because your brain is super smart (really it is) and it knows that you might not find that piece of paper or notebook when you’re at your desk ready to do that work.

What to do instead

Have ONE place you write your to-do lists.

You’re not creating your WHOLE planning and tracking system here, you’re starting with ONE small tweak that will help you develop a habit that supports your future planning/tracking system.

You might start with a smaller notebook that will easily fit in your purse or an app on your phone.

I’d suggest starting with a notebook and seeing how that goes for a bit.

Mistake 2

Your to-do list is in ONE place, but it’s a list of EVERYTHING that you need to do.

This is actually a good problem to have because it means that you’re writing things down (physically or digitally) and you know what needs to be done. 

What to do instead

Create a list of only what needs to be completed today or this week. The other things can be done in the coming weeks.

This allows you to set your priorities once a week and then you won’t have to decide on a daily or moment-to-moment basis what your priorities are.

Ideally, these things tie to your goals for the month, but again, it’s about doing one small tweak so that you start creating the habits that support your future habits and systems.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m not suggesting that you start with creating a planning/tracking system right off the bat.

My question for you is: have you tried jumping right into a planning system or goal tracking system before? Yes? How did that go?

What I find with my clients is they have a list of things they’ve tried (and planners in the closet with maybe a month filled out) and then something popped up, they got busy, or there was some other disruption.

The new system took a lot of time and effort to keep up with because the habits around it hadn’t developed yet. So, it all fell apart.

Instead, look at the small steps you can take or one habit you can develop that will make a difference. When that step is completed or that habit developed, then you can add something else.

If you want to know what a couple of small tweaks that will make a big difference for you, reach out to schedule a complimentary session with me. You can do that by commenting or filling out the Contact Me form on my website here:


Did the holidays change your morning routine?

The last couple weeks I think I’ve done a pretty good job of being kind to myself and honoring my desire to slow down.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about you can read last week’s note by clicking here.

This week the tide is turning.

My inner voice is telling me it’s time to start moving out of my cozy cocoon a bit and move closer to the groove that I had in early December.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m not taking care of my self or jumping into DO-ALL-THE-THINGS mode. I know myself well enough to know that’s NOT going to work for me.

This will be a slower process. And my new groove might look different than it did last year.

One of the things that fell by the wayside the last few weeks was my morning routine.

It wasn’t perfect, but it did mostly work for me. I say mostly because toward the end of the year I was thinking about how to tweak it to support me more.

Since that morning routine has mostly disappeared, this is a great time for me to think about what I want my new routine to look like, implement it, and tweak it as much as necessary.

Did the holidays change your morning routine?

Maybe January came and something you were doing EVERY morning fell by the wayside or was replaced by something else?

Or maybe you had some resolutions and changed A BUNCH of things at once and ALL those changes aren’t sticking (according to some studies right about now is when most people are abandoning their New Year Resolutions, although some studies put it at the second week of February).

If you’re trying to make a lot of other changes in your life or business right now, maybe pick one thing to add or remove from your morning routine.

If your morning routine has devolved into something that’s just not working at all (mine worked very well for taking it easy, but it’s not working so well for getting into my office when I want to in the morning), then it might be time for an overhaul.

This is a great time to take a step back and look at how your morning routine is working for you and decide what, if anything, needs to change with it.

And if you want a second pair of eyes or someone to help you with what changes you might want to make, reach out (add a comment below) and we can get something on the calendar.

Were you scrambling too?

Last week I did a Q&A in my Facebook group. You can find that here. You’ll only be able to see it if you’re IN the group. So, it’s the perfect time to join us!
One of the questions that was asked was this:

How do you keep up with bookkeeping when EVERY tax season you promise you’ll do better next year and next year comes and you’res till scrambling to update the bookkeeping?

And I’ll admit it, this was a problem for me this year too!

In the Q&A I shared a strategy I learned from the book Profit First by Mike Michalowixz that I’m implementing this month. And last week I challenged the Productivity for Women Entrepreneurs group to implement it.

The book suggests you only do your bookkeeping twice a month (and not whenever you have time).

Staying on top of your bookkeeping is one of those things that you can do now, or you can take a really long time to do later. Believe me, experience has taught me that staying on top if it is worth my time. AND saves me time (and sanity) later.

So, join me for Wednesday LIVE with Evie at 1pm CDT tomorrow for things that will save you time later.

I’ll share a bit more about why Profit First suggests doing your bookkeeping only twice a month and other tasks that will save you time (and sanity) later.

What are things you do that save you time later?
Or what is taking you forever that you wish you could save time on?
Comment below and tell me.

Excuses, excuses, excuses (and habits!)

There’s one activity that’s been on my mind a lot recently. My legs and soul ache for it.

What is this activity?

Walking outside.

I LOVE nature. And I happen to live about 10 minutes away from about 3 different forest preserves and walking paths.

But I haven’t made it part of my routine.


Well, I have lots of excuses:

  • Getting up early to walk before I head into my office means I have to go to bed earlier which means less time with Nate in the evening (and some evenings he’s not home until almost 10pm). I highly value evening time with Nate.
  • If I walk around lunch time it’s about an hour out of the middle of my day. That sounds frustrating.
  • I’m in a nice groove with my current weekly routine and I don’t want to upset it!

I’ll stop there. I have many, many more excuses. And that’s really what they are, excuses and not reasons.

Basically, they’re all some version of: I don’t have time and I’m not willing to make time for it.

Yet, it’s still a habit I want to create and find time for, but I don’t.

Do you have anything like that?

A habit that you want to create that you have lots of excuses to avoid. And yet it stays on your radar because it really is something you want to do?

Or maybe for you, it’s something that you know will grow your business, but it’s outside your comfort zone and a little (or a lot!) scary?

Well, over in the Productivity for Women Entrepreneurs private Facebook group, I asked the ladies what habit they want to add this week and commitments have been made! And I added my commitment to walking each day (now I HAVE to do it! 😉 ).

If you want to add your new habit (or what habit you’re trying out for the week), you can find the post here.

And if you can’t see the post because you’re not a member, request to join and I’ll add you!

If you haven’t already guessed it, this week’s Wednesday Live with Evie is about habits.

I’ll talk about how to create them, change them, look at those pesky excuses/reasons and answer any questions you have!

Wednesday Live with Evie is Wednesday at 1pm CST from my Facebook page here.