I wouldn’t say I’m exactly a picture of positive habits. I bite my nails and buy $5 americanos. I’m clumsy and forgetful, and regularly skip breakfast in favor of rushing to work at 7 a.m.
To make things worse, 2019 was the year I planned my wedding and moved into and renovated a house. I felt overwhelmed at work more days than not and, quite honestly, I was a bit of a mess.
It was also a year of small, yet positive improvements in my daily routine. Over the course of 2019, I’ve learned how to keep up with cleaning our new house. I’ve developed strategies to improve my work-life balance. And, for the first time in more than three years, I’m writing an article again.
I believe people in progress can be more helpful than those who have it figured out.
I believe people in progress can be more helpful than those who have it figured out. And while I am nowhere near perfect, the below strategies helped me slowly build positive habits in the face of chaos. If you start now, you’ll begin 2020 on the right track.
Start and end the day with a win.
Forgive me for sounding like my mother, but make your bed and clean up after dinner! A friend recently told me a clean kitchen is the best gift you can give yourself each morning, and while that extra ten minutes can feel like one big chore at the end of a long day, stepping out of bed into a clean space will set the stage for better habits all day long.
Seek out imperfection.
You don’t need fifteen mindfulness apps or fifty self-help books to create better habits. Honestly, I find people who claim to have it all figured out to be quite insufferable, and I truly believe their goal in life is to make others feel bad about themselves. Unfollow “perfect” people on social media. Donate unread books—seeing them on the shelf is just going to make you feel bad for not having read them. And invest in things that actually help you on a daily basis. Everything else has no reason to stay in your life.
Vote for yourself.
I loved a recent episode of the podcast Beyond the To Do List, where James Clear encourages forgoing huge life changes in favor of individual actions—or small routines—you can complete throughout the day.
By viewing daily actions as ”small votes” for the person you want to become, you can slowly change your habits in a relatively painless manner. . . . After you’ve voted for yourself so many times in a row, it is a habit rather than a chore.
By viewing daily actions as ”small votes” for the person you want to become, you can slowly change your habits in a relatively painless manner. If you want to be a person who makes your bed every day, each time you complete that task, you create a vote in favor of that reality. After you’ve voted for yourself so many times in a row, it is a habit rather than a chore. And guess what, I’m now a person that makes their bed.
Grab coffee with someone who inspires you.
I like to think a lot of habits come from inspiration. When you see people who have a job you would like, or someone who has seemingly figured out that one problem you just can’t seem to fix, why not ask them how they got there? I’m always surprised how willing people are to share their stories, and simply meeting more people is on my to-do list for next year.
And it doesn’t need to be in person. Podcasts like Second Life or Vanessa Wants to Know offer up incredible interviews with influential women who share their strategies and failures. Catch one on the way to work, or on your next flight. I promise you’ll learn a thing or two.
Keep yourself accountable.
Accountability is something I really struggle with. The second I get busy at work, there goes my evening spin class. My big plans after work regularly turn into reruns of “The Office.” But earlier this year, I wanted to add a little creativity to my life and I signed up for a community ed class with a friend. A small fee and regularly scheduled classes with someone I care about kept me accountable.
But accountability can also be free. We’re often scared to share the plans we have for ourselves because we fear failure. But sometimes, asking for a little help can go a long way. Tell your friends and family what your goals are and ask them to check in. Saying things out loud is the first step to making them happen. And what’s the worst outcome? Even if you fail, you made an honest effort. Best case scenario, you change your life.
Put your phone away for two hours a day.
When I get home from work, I try to spend at least two hours away from email. As a certified workaholic, that two hours can be a game-changer if I’m able to stick to it. During those 120 minutes, I can cook dinner and clean up, while also making extra lunches for the week. There are three positive habits I’ve got finished in one fell swoop while doing something I enjoy. Not a big chef? Use that time to clean out a closet or go through your clothes. Hell, read a book! Your email will be there when you get back.
And most importantly, know your “Why?”
Why do you want to change this about yourself? Write it down, and remind yourself when you’re about to stray. It won’t work every time. In fact, it probably won’t work most of the time. But tell yourself enough, and something will stick. And that’s moving in a positive direction.