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  • Writer's pictureAnita Vandyke

#JustDoItJanuary - Reflections on forming new habits

The monthly Instagram challenge this month was #JustDoItJanuary. It was based on picking three new year's resolutions and sticking to them for the whole month. This is how it went for me...

I wanted this year to be the best year yet and I started 2018 off by doing a challenge that embraces productivity, courage and change! So for the month of January, I wanted to stick to three resolutions and do them for the whole month!

My three resolutions:

1. Do yoga for every day this month 2. Become a girl boss and launch my website 3. Increase my productivity and finalise my book I shared tips and tricks on how to be more effective and creative throughout the whole month and it was a fun challenge to increase my productivity and spark creativity. Here is the honest truth of what happened...

Do yoga every day

This was a spectacular fail. I'll be honest, I love yoga, but for the life of me, I could not do it every day. Let's break it down and understand what went wrong, and what I could have done to better stick to that habit.

I had three main things that went wrong:

1. I didn't do yoga at the same time every day

I scheduled yoga into my life whenever I can, but this was at odd hours, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the morning or sometimes I just didn't get round to it. I realised if I don't do it the same time every day, I just won't do it. When I first started meditating, the only thing that helped reinforce the habit was doing it first thing every morning. I created a morning routine that ensured I meditated every day before I did anything else. The consistency of time allowed me to form it into a new habit.

What could I have done better?

I should have just added yoga to my morning routine and consistently done yoga at the same time every day.

2. Yoga for 30 minutes sometimes seemed too much

Let's be honest, sometimes, when you're not feeling well, or when you are forming a new habit, doing something for 30 whole minutes can seem daunting. I had committed myself to doing the Yoga With Adriene challenge and most of her sessions were 30 minutes. When starting a new habit, I shouldn't have bitten off more than I can chew.

What could I have done better?

I should have started slow and easy and just committed to 10 minutes of yoga a day.

3. There was no reward

The problem with competitive A-type personalities such as myself is that we need a reward for doing something. In the book the 'Power of Habit' by Charles Duhigg, he breaks down how successful habits form. One thing that seemed essential was to associate a reward with the habit. Whilst I always felt better after doing yoga, this little dopamine hit wasn't enough to entice me to do yoga consistently for 30 days. I needed a bigger reward or incentive.

What could I have done better?

Given myself a reward for doing yoga, something that could have linked a positive effect with doing yoga. This could have been only having my first cup of tea for day after yoga or allowing myself to buy some secondhand yoga gear at the end of the month.

The other two goals:

Become a girl boss and launch my website

Increase my productivity and finalise my book

Both of these were a spectacular SUCCESS! I completed both of these tasks and I worked towards them every day. Here's a breakdown of why I think these habits stuck, and it goes back to the 'Power of Habit' book.

Habits work in 3-step loops: cue, routine, reward

1. Cue

The cue is what triggers you to do the habit. Working on my book and website was triggered by me sitting at my desk every day. The cue was sitting at my desk, as soon as I sat down I knew I was in work mode. I had to get work done!

2. Routine

This is the behaviour you automatically engage in to complete the work required. Most of us do this on 'autopilot', the key to changing habits is to change the 'routine' part of the loop. The routine for me was just to sit down and do the work. I gave myself a set time period (often it was in 1 hour blocks) and then just typed away without distraction. This meant no music, no Youtube videos in the background, no social media - just sitting down and doing the work. It was critical for me to have no distractions. The best work came from concentrating at the task at hand i.e. single-tasking instead of multi-tasking.

3. Reward

The reward is something simple and positive for completing the routine. The reward for me was knowing that if I did the work in the morning, I had free time in the afternoon. This gave me the kick up the bum that I needed to get the work done in the morning so I could do other things in the afternoon.

So, in summary, this month's challenge required me to reassess any new habits by understanding the cue-routine-reward loop. It also required me to understand small and consistent steps were needed to form any new habit. I guess I should have applied the same mentality to forming new habits as I do to my zero waste life; small consistent steps make a big cumulative difference.

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