Build any Habit or System with these 5 Tricks

In my previous article on Goal Getting, I wrote about Goals and Systems. Goal is the “what” and the System is the “how”. System or habit is the repeatable process that you setup to achieve a goal, because there is no such thing as “overnight success”!

In today’s article, I will share with you 5 tricks that work when you are trying to build a system or habit.

Trick #1 Start Small

Change is always difficult. So when you introduce a new system, always start small. Years ago, when I first decided to do a 5k run, I was sooo lazy! My popular excuse was I am too tired to go out. Then one day my friend gave me the seemingly weirdest advice – Wake up, get dressed, put on my running shoes and watch Golden Girls (one of my favourite shows at the time) for 7 days. Believe it or not, I did it for 7 days straight. Then it became 5 TV days and 2 jogging days. And before I knew it, I was running 4 days a week at 6 in the morning. The moral of that anecdote is

Change is hard. Make tiny changes and you won’t even notice.

Sometimes you need to trick your body and mind to think it is too small or simple to not do it. Once the simple system becomes a routine, you can introduce the next small habit and go from there.

Trick #2 Create Habit Chains

When you start out with a new system, challenge yourself to do it for 30 days.

I personally do not believe in a magic number to build a habit. The time you will take to embed a new system into your life will depend on the system/habit you are trying to build, your circumstances and your personality. So once you have completed the first 30 days, go for another 30 days. And one day you will noticed that the system or habit is on autopilot.

If your habit is to do something a few times a week, I will still say make it daily if possible or at least every weekday. This daily consistency will help you build the habit into your lifestyle and routine. You can easily do this by creating placeholder habits.

This year I committed to spend 30 mins 3 days a week to create content for my website. I was on track in Jan. Then Feb came, and I lost my consistency. 3 days became 2, then 1 and finally none. So when I decided to set out on this goal again, I decided to change my system. Now every single day I work for 30 mins on my website. And this is my 11th successful week. I still do my actual content creation only 3-4 days. But I use my remaining 4 days to do other website related activities. The key aspiration here is to carve out 30 mins every single day and build it into my routine. What seemed like a cumbersome thing in February is now something I look forward to everyday… because I don’t want to break my 76-day chain now! 😉

I also use an application on my mobile to track this just for my satisfaction. There are plenty of them, but the one that worked for me is Habit Bull, with its colourful interface and powerful reminders, there is no way I can avoid it even if I wanted to.

Trick #3 Create a Trigger

When you set forth to create a system, setup something that will trigger you to start an activity. The most common thing is to setup an “appointment with yourself” to work on the system. In my case, sometimes this just doesn’t work. I need more than an “elbow nudge” on my mobile to sometimes help me get into it. I found two strategies that helped.

The first is to stack up habits. For example, if you decide to go running every week. Create the habit of changing into your jogging clothes as soon as you return from work. This will help you 5 out of 7 days. If you are a housewife considering a creative pursuit, setup a system of doing something creative every time you load the washing machine. Find out things you do routinely without a reminder and add this new system right after that.

Next tip is to create a visual aid. This works for me immensely. I use the Chrome browser and I found this Chrome extension called Momentum. So when I open my browser it shows me a beautiful picture of some place I really want to go some day and then asks me a question – What is your main focus for today? Once I have entered my habit, it stays on as a visual reminder. So every time I pickup my laptop to while away my time on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or one of those 100 other websites, this dashboard prods me to take action on my focus. I highly recommend this extension, if you use your laptop/desktop extensively and if your system requires you to use your laptop or desktop.

But you can have simpler visual aids too. If your goal is a healthy lifestyle, then one of your systems will be to consume at least 2 litres of water a day. Get yourself those big 2 litre bottles, place them everywhere – in your work place, bedroom, dining table. They are hard to avoid and always at your side reminding you about drinking water. Works for me… my husband and colleagues can vouch!

Trick #4 Stay Positive

When you setup a system look for something that gives you positive results. This is what will give you an instant gratification from doing it every single day! This is sometimes easily said than done. Few ways you can do this:

  1. Find a partner to work with (I know a friend who makes coffee dates with her sister, so they can spend time writing. She has already got 3 books published and the 4th one in line.)
  2. Reward yourself (I love rewarding myself. Who doesn’t!)
  3. Use a wall calendar to mark your good days. It acts as a visual reminder to your successful days!
  4. If you are working on improving your health then get on a system like Pact that pays you to exercise or go to gym.

Trick #5 Go Public

Make it harder wimp out by going on record. Commit your goals publicly or at least to your friends and family who will keep you accountable.

My loving husband is too forgiving. So he is not always the best person who will hold me accountable for my goals. But my two girlfriends will wage war if I go off track. I also joined a couple of forums related to my goals where I find like-minded people who provide me with the encouragement and guidance I need.

I already told you about this goal about my website. And my progress (or lack of) on this goal is not easy to hide from you all. So when you start seeing less than 6 articles on my website every fortnight, you know you can give a nudge.

How do you set up systems for your goals? How do you make habits stick? Let me know in the comments below. I will be back with more helping you (and me) become Goal Getters! So stay tuned.


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