On Building Successful Habits

I think I finally understand all the productivity YouTubers that talk about building habits. They make it sound so easy.

“It’s simple. Just get started. Just keep going. Then you’ll build the habit.”

No matter how many times I’ve heard it, I could never really act on it. Now that I have, I have nothing new to say! They’re right. In the words of Sister Creep, “One step, and then the next gets you where you’re going.”

So what changed?

Start Small

This isn’t new either, but I think it was the most beneficial for me. In January of this year, I (like many others) decided I was going to get serious about working out again. I was letting beer wreck me and I had really started to slack on climbing regularly. So I decided to start the 60-day workout challenge from the YouTuber BullyJuice. That number seemed manageable. I told myself “60 days, more is good, but the goal is 60 days”.

I put a checklist on my bedroom wall. Laid out like that, it seemed like nothing. With every checkmark, I could see the progress. There’s probably more to say on tangible output of habits. The challenge is set up to be done 7 days a week, but I made it an even smaller task by deciding I’d only do it on weekdays. As I checked those boxes, Monday through Friday, 5 days became 20, 20 became 40, and 40 became 60.

Show Up

This one is almost synonymous with having a habit, but I want to bring it up because of how it ties into keeping things manageable. There were days during the challenge that I absolutely did not want to work out. It sounded like the worst thing I could possibly do. Looking at that checklist though, I wanted to mark it off. So I found a middle ground, and instead of doing the next set of videos in the challenge, I’d pick one from the list that would get me something like… a 15 or 20-minute workout instead of 30-60.

At first, it almost felt like giving up. Then I’d remind myself “Hey, at least I worked out. At least I did something”. I think that mindset was a huge driver in building the habit. No, I didn’t follow the challenge to the letter every single day. However, I never ended a day with nothing.

Keep Going

Just keep going, duh. It’s the same advice, “just do it”, but something was different. I wasn’t working with a nebulous undefined goal and no end in sight. No, instead I was someone who had finished a workout challenge. So if I can do some challenge, surely working out “normally” would be no problem.

So, 60 days became 80, 80 became 100, and so on. To this day, I have not missed a weekday workout. The mindset has changed: I’m not working out because I have to, I’m working out because it feels weird if I don’t.

Applying Advice

So, I’ve just parroted every productivity personality out there. And you know as well as I that there are so many other things to say (maybe in another post). You’ve read nothing new, learned nothing new. So I’ll leave you with the most important bit of repeated advice out there: You have to act on what you learn. If you don’t act on it, if you don’t apply it to your life, it will never have a foundation. Take what you know and apply it.

Suddenly, building habits is as easy as they make it sound.

Post-Script: Expanding the Habit-sphere

Naturally, after successfully building one habit, I would like to make more. In a way, building a habit was its own challenge, and now I’m “someone who builds habits”. Another area I’ve found myself falling apart in is in my personal projects (such as this blog). The gritty details about my feelings regarding my projects will stay between me and my therapist, but I want to share with you the avenue I’m taking for getting back on the horse: community. Because what’s better than building a habit yourself? Doing it with others.

I could look to climbing as a shining example of that. The social aspect is one of the greatest motivators to get back in the gym. However, for this, I’m going to talk about 2023 Challenges again, which I spoke of in my previous post. Seeing others complete their work has been highly motivating, but I found myself still struggling to put in the effort every day. So I’ve decided to make a channel in our Discord, a place only for work. You hop in, maybe someone else is hanging out in there, and you just work. It kinda of builds on the idea of a library, where if you’re present in this working space and not working, something feels off. I’ll tell you more about it in the future, we’ll see if it ends up being effective.

In the meantime, I can apply some of the things I’ve learned from my ONE (1) successful habit:

  1. Start small - I’m not writing the Odyssey, I can make something tiny, just to get the ball rolling.
  2. Show up - 15 minutes a day is better than nothing. I’ve been writing this post for about 45 now.
  3. Keep going - It doesn’t have to stop with 2023.