Daniel Norton

an experiment in occasional usefulness

Forming New Habits

habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up.

what are my habits?

Like lots of you, I have bad habits (almost too many to count.) These bad habit have bad consequences: lack of focus, reduced productivity, stress — even health and relationship problems. And these habits are really entrenched. I realized that what I need to do is replace my existing bad habits with new good ones. However, I wasn’t exactly sure how to get started.

Then I read this Lifehacker article and decided to begin developing some new habits.

I started by making a list of the habits that I want to develop.

  1. do something thoughtful for my wife
  2. be a better communicator/organizer
  3. get enough sleep
  4. read for at least 30 minutes a day
  5. write something at least once a day
  6. work on personal development

Then I attempted to identify a couple of keystone habits I could develop.

First for the last week, I take a few minutes in the morning to put review my calendar and put together a “Game Plan” – just a single Google Doc that has a list of things that I need to keep in mind today and what’s upcoming. The goal is to get away from my usual routine of not having a clue and just coasting through each day. If I start the day with a little organization and planning, I’m more focused and less stressed (seriously.)

Second, I ask myself if there is anything I can do for my wife. I draw a blank more often than not, but sometimes I’ll get an idea for a simple thing I can do: buy her a lemonade at lunch and deliver it to her office, call someone in her family just to say hi – because she really appreciates when I do that, or just do some chores without being asked. These are things that I tend to overlook, and over years, the little bits of my inattentiveness accumulates. My hope is that making a daily effort to actively think about my wife will reverse that trend.

Third, I take time to write something. This is usually at the end of the day, and it can be anything: a document for a side project or a new blog post. It can also be something as small as a new note about something that I’m learning.

I have my list of habits. I have my keystone habits that I’m focusing on. I think it’s a good start.

By the way, if you like the article, Charles Duhigg wrote a book The Power of Habit that I’ve also bought.