We always have the best intentions to do the right things.
Especially the things we know we should be doing, but don’t.
For instance, knowing we really shouldn’t be eating a second dessert.
Or knowing we should be going to the gym a few times a week.
And knowing that you really should be eating a protein fuelled breakfast rather than a chocolate croissant.
Why then do we NOT do the things we know we should be doing?
Because ‘knowing’ something is not the same as actually doing it. To know is to only have the information.
To ‘do’ means to put that knowledge into action. And the action is where all the results (and success) lie.
We need to stop ‘shoulding’ all over ourselves and start DOING them instead. ( I think that’s a Tony Robbins quote?).
I tried on many failed occasions to implement good habits that I knew I should be doing. But for some reason or another, just could not actually do them.
I knew I was procrastinating and coming up with excuses. Most of us know what the solution to a problem is. But the trouble we face is in actioning the solution.
For example, you want to lose a few pounds of fat. Solution: eat well and go to the gym at least 3 times a week.
Instead, the action we take is: order take-aways and watch Netflix for two hours each night. And then we claim we don’t have the time (to cook) or energy (to exercise).
I wanted to change a lot of things in my life, one of them was to lose weight. I had let myself go and I was tired of feeling tired, looking miserable and not fitting into my clothes anymore.
I was also adamant I would not buy clothes above a certain size (call it ego). That’s when I started to go to the gym.
I forced myself to go every day during my lunch break.
And I hated it.
The first few times (or rather weeks) I was more concerned with the playlist on my phone and surfing the net whilst walking around the gym looking at the different machines.
I was just killing time. I felt like if I was at the gym then this in itself was like a workout (and it was, considering the amount of energy I had to expend to just put on my gym kit and trainers and get the hell outta the door before I changed my mind again).
But then after a few weeks, I started to go on the rowing machine. And I liked it.
I started off with just 10 minutes. Then the following week I increased this to 15 minutes.
Believe it or not, I started to enjoy it. And here was the secret. The more I did it, the easier it became and the more I started to enjoy my gym sessions.
I started with going to the gym during my lunch break. And I still stick to this routine as a full-time writer. I had successfully built a habit. How?
This is what I learnt about habit building and how you can apply it to your writing practice to create a writing habit.
What’s Your WHY?
What is your reason for wanting to include this habit in your life? This WHY has to be strong and powerful enough to compel you to take action.
It has to be strong enough to fight off excuses that will come your way to sabotage your habit.
My WHY to get healthier was because I started to suffer from health problems and didn’t want to take medication for the rest of my life. So I resolved to get fit.
What’s Your Trigger?
For you to successfully action your habit, it needs to be preceded by a trigger. This is something that happens to initiate the habit in the first place.
For me it was lunchtime. Because lunchtime became gym time. And I still have this as a trigger in my everyday life.
I know that if I want to eat lunch, I need to have been to the gym BEFORE I eat.
What’s Your Reward?
I know I will be hungry after my gym sessions. So I prepare a nutritious and delicious lunch in advance. Eating this lunch becomes my reward for having been to the gym.
What’s Your Constraint?
Deadlines have finally become my new best friends. Without them, I will procrastinate and let simple tasks expand in the time I give them.
What can take 15 mins takes me over 2 hours if I know there is no deadline.
Deadlines create healthy levels of urgency (as long as it’s a sensible deadline).
Knowing that I only schedule one hour for lunch, I need to fit my gym habit into this one hour.
This means I have one hour to:
- Walk to the gym
- Change into my gym kit
- Stretch / cool down
- Shower and change
- Walk back to the office
Timing every section of this habit (i.e putting in a time-constraint) helps me to complete all steps comfortably within 60 minutes.
So how can my gym workout teach you to create a daily writing habit?
What’s your WHY?
If you want to write daily, it’s because it’s somehow important to you. If you are an aspiring author entrepreneur, chances are that you know you need to be able to create good quality books, consistently.
This will undoubtedly mean you need to be able to write often and frequently. I know there are some writers out there who prefer to block off chunks of time every other day to write.
If this works for you then hey, keep at it. But I also believe that the more you write, the better you will get.
I have not yet come across a bad writer who writes daily.
So why are you writing?
Why is it important to you?
Are you serious about making a long-term career as an author-entrepreneur?
Do you want to leave the 9-5 corporate grind?
My WHY is that I want to do work I love (which is to write).
This is what makes me sprint to my laptop every morning to pound out 500 words.
For every day spent writing means I get to stay away from the corporate grind for another day.
That for me is a big motivating factor to push through this hard work and turn up daily to put in my words.
Create your Trigger
When you wake up in the morning what do you do? Perhaps stretch and brush your teeth? Then perhaps make a coffee (or tea in my case).
But for me to make a tea, means I had brushed my teeth first.
Which means I had woken up before that.
I won’t make a tea until I have brushed my teeth. Brushing my teeth is a trigger to make that cup of tea.
Likewise eating breakfast for me is a trigger to start my morning writing session.
I will only write after I have had my breakfast (i can’t write on an empty stomach or without a cup of English Breakfast tea!).
Then once I have written my daily word count (currently 500 words) I reward myself.
Here is my ‘’Trigger Trail’’
- Waking up triggers me to …..
- Brush my teeth…
- Which triggers me to….
- Meditate for 30 minutes….
- Which triggers me to …..
- Journal for 20 mins….
- Which triggers me to …
- Prepare and eat breakfast / tea…
- Which triggers me to start my daily writing session (500 words)…
- Which results in my reward.
Decide Your Reward
My reward is to have a little stretch break and cup of tea once I have pounded the laptop. I’m a big tea drinker. I love my cups of tea during the day, but I will only have them once I have written my words. That’s the only catch.
Pick a little something to reward yourself for turning up and putting in the words. Here are a few more ideas:
- Surf the internet for 10 minutes
- Watch TV for 10 minutes
- Do some light stretching
- Spend 15 minutes with your friends / family
- Allow yourself to check social media for 10 minutes
Determine Your Time-Constraints
Working with constraints is more productive. It forces you to focus on what needs to be done, knowing you have a limited time. This makes you more efficient.
My constraints are to either write 500 words or write for 30 minutes. Whichever comes first.
Knowing there is a ‘finish’ line makes it easier to cross. This is also how you can track and measure your progress.
When I started this writing routine, I was struggling to hit 500 words in 30 minutes. In the first few days, I was only able to write 100-150 words. I struggled.
But this was simply because my writing muscle was cranky and had not been used for many years.
Now (after practising daily for six months) I am producing an average of 1200 per 30 minutes. And it’s not so much of a struggle to do.
By measuring my output I can see that I have increased my word count from 100 words to 1200 words in 30 minutes. I have more than tripled my progress! But I can only see this when I measure my activity.
I know it sounds like basic advice but the only way to start a daily writing habit is to write every day.
You write when you know you have to
You write when you know you don’t have to
And you write when you don’t feel like writing
You just write
And yes your first attempts of writing may be painful. You may be staring at that darn blank page with daggers in your eyes.
You may be gripping your pen in your hand until it hurts.
You may just have multiple urges to screw up that page in your notebook and toss it in the bin. But there is no getting away from it.
You need to face the fear and inner Resilience and write.
But here is the great news. You just need to start with one word. Start small.
Then write a few more words.
And do this daily and consistently. It’s amazing how much can be achieved with small daily consistent action.
I hated going to the gym at the start of my ‘get fit’ journey. I saw little results in the first few months.
But a year later and I have lost over 20 pounds of body fat, dropped 3 dress sizes and am in the best shape I have ever been.
And all I did was take an hour out of my day to go to the gym. And to put it into perspective, an hour of your day is just 4% of your day.
Even if you spend just 1% of your day on writing (i.e 15 minutes) you will become a better writer.
If you start writing just 500 words a day, a year from today you will have 182,500! That is more than enough for a full-length novel. Or a couple of novellas!
Think small (it’s just 500 words), act fast (do it now).
Have you successfully created a writing habit? What helped you to create this? Please share your tips in the comments below!