How to create your ideal morning routine

How to create your ideal morning routine

How to create your ideal morning routine

I am NOT a morning person.  I never have been…well, actually, that might not be entirely true…I do have vague memories of getting up before my mom to watch Transformers cartoons and steal marshmallows from the kitchen cabinet when I was about 6…  But I haven’t been a morning person since then. (Maybe marshmallows are the answer? Probably not…)

But, as I’m learning these days, mornings are much more important than I give them credit for!  And a morning routine is a crucial part of getting your day off to a positive start.

A good morning routine is so important because the way you spend the very first part of each day sets the tone for the rest of your day.  When was the last time you overslept and had to rush to get somewhere on time? I bet the rest of the day felt a little frantic, even if the rest of the day was fairly normal.

Instead of feeling frantic, a calm and reliable morning routine can leave you feeling relaxed and on top of your day.  It also has the added benefit of leaving you in a proactive mindset, instead of reactive. You’ll feel more organized and you’ll also feel like you have more time!  Because you know that your day has just started, but you already have X,Y, and Z accomplished and out of the way. And who couldn’t use a little more time in their day?


What should your morning routine include?

This is a tricky question because the answer will likely be different for everyone, due to differing work, families, and households.  But a good rule of thumb is that your morning routine should include whatever will make your day positive and productive.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:


Whether you just include some time to be grateful for the good in your life or you take 5 minutes to write down a few things, a focus on gratitude can change your mindset for the entire day ahead.

Meditation, mindfulness practice, or prayer

Along with a focus on gratitude, simply starting your day with a little bit of reflection can clear your mind and prepare you for your day.

Plan your day

Unless you’re new around here, you already know that I’m a BIG planner.  But even if you’re not quite as thrilled about planning as I am, writing out a quick agenda for your day first thing in the morning is beneficial.  You’ll start the day knowing what needs to happen, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll have everything listed out, so nothing important will slip through the cracks.


I can’t stress this one enough.  Mainly, because I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but I’ve noticed a big difference in the quality of my days when I do make a point of eating breakfast.  Mainly because when I settle into my workday, I’m not distracted by sudden hunger and clock watching until lunchtime. Instead, I get to use that time to be productive. Yay! 

Who knew, all those cereal commercials in the ‘80s were right about breakfast….

Get dressed

This should be a no brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning: Include getting dressed and ready for the day in your morning routine.  Why? Because it’s something you’re likely to do most mornings and it’s a chunk of time that needs to be accounted for in your day.  Having that time planned out will help get your day off on the right note.

Coffee or tea 

Drink your morning coffee or tea.  Mindfully.  Instead of rushing through it, and drinking it distractedly while you get ready or commute to work, dedicate a little time to enjoying it.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but take the opportunity to give your day a calm and mindful start, instead of beginning the morning multitasking. (Read this post to learn more about why multi-tasking doesn’t actually save you time.)

Move your body

Whether you run, hit the gym, or do a little yoga, moving your body first thing in the morning is a fantastic idea.  Not only will it help you wake up (especially if mornings are NOT your favorite time of day – Cheers to my fellow non-morning-people!) but it also checks one thing off your to-do list for later. You don’t have to worry about having the energy for exercise after work, because you’ve already done it!

These are just a few options – feel free to include them all, but more importantly, include what is important to YOU.

Creating your ideal morning routine

Now that you have a few ideas to include in your morning routine, it’s time to design your personal routine and put it into practice!  Here are 4 steps to get you there:


1. Decide what you’d like to include in your morning routine

Take the ideas above and add your own.  Make a little list of things that will be helpful to you, that you’d like to get out of the way early each day, that you’d like to add to your day but can’t find time for…  What will your morning routine consist of?

2. Decide when you need to wake up to make it work

Take the list you just made and write down how much time you’d LIKE to spend on each item.  Be realistic, but also focus on quality time. Just because you can drink your coffee in 5 minutes doesn’t mean that you have to.  The idea is to slow your mornings down and feel less rushed, not more, so give each item the ideal amount of time.

Now add everything up to decide what time you need to wake up.  And, as much as I hate to say it, you may need to make some adjustments.  In fact, you probably will. If you have to be at work at 6am, you probably don’t want to create a morning routine that is 3 hours long.  (Unless, of course, you’re a natural morning person that likes waking up at 3am…)  Decide what your priorities are and leave anything else behind…for now.  

You can always begin to add to your routine once you have a good handle on it, but don’t overwhelm yourself from the start.  More than likely, that will just end with throwing the whole idea out the window.

3. Start the night before

But wait, aren’t we talking about morning routines here?  YES! But as I’ve been working on my own routine, I’ve learned that setting intentions for my morning the night before makes it exponentially more likely to happen!  Mainly, because my brain doesn’t wake up when my body does. So each evening, plan your routine for the next morning. Decide what time you need to wake up, set your alarm, and prepare anything that can be done ahead of time.  (Set the timer on the coffee maker, choose your clothes, anything that you can do to get a little head-start, do it!)

4. Keep it consistent

A morning routine is simply building a habit, so from the very beginning, try to keep it as consistent as you can.  Decide whether you will include weekends or do weekdays only. (Don’t wait until a weekend comes around to make the decision.)  Stick to your new routine as much as possible and give it a little time to become your new normal. After a while, your morning routine will become second nature!


What my morning routine looks like

I’ve been working on creating my ideal morning routine for a few months now and I think I have it nailed down.  If you’d like an example of someone’s personalized morning routine, here’s what mine looks like:

I start the night before by using this journal to write down my plans and help stay consistent.  (BTW, this little book is fantastic, especially if you’re not a natural morning person!  It has great tips and tricks to help you stay motivated, even through the first – and hardest – weeks.)

I set my alarm for the next day.  Lately, instead of using my phone alarm, I’ve been using the Alarmy Alarm Clock app.  I will hit snooze over and over (and over) again before dragging myself out of bed, but this app has the option of making you take a picture before it will turn off!  I used a picture of our coffee maker, so I not only have to get out of bed, but go all the way downstairs to the kitchen. It’s really helping to curb my snooze button habit!

Since I’m already down there, my next step is to make my coffee, feed the pets, and let our dog outside.  (If she’s awake…she’s old and lazy and usually stays in bed!)

Then I enjoy my coffee, write down a few things I’m grateful for and fill out my planner for the day.

Next is breakfast, and after that, I take about 15 minutes to check my email, social media, and banking app, just to stay on top of things.

30 minutes of yoga, followed by a quick shower and I’m ready for the day!


My morning routine does take about 3 hours total.  And that’s what works for me and it’s intentionally on the longer side for 2 reasons: 

  1. It takes a while before my body and brain adjust to the idea of being awake.  Taking that time makes me more productive when I start my workday, instead of battling through the morning brain fog for the first few hours of work.
  2. I have a pretty flexible schedule right now.  My main job runs on Pacific time and I live in Eastern time, so there’s no big rush for me to get started any earlier than I do.

Your routine will probably look a lot different than mine.  And that’s okay! Because creating your ideal morning routine is all about determining what is ideal for YOU!

What does your ideal morning routine include?

Journaling for beginners

Journaling for beginners

Journaling for beginners

When I was young, I always wanted one of those pretty little diaries with a lock on it.  You remember the ones, something to write down the deepest desires of your little 8-year-old heart, without fear of anyone reading it.  I don’t think I ever got that diary, but I did eventually start journaling in a little spiral-bound notebook. Sporadically, at least…I’d get so caught up in trying to write down every little detail of each day that it would take hours!  And if I missed a day, it would take even longer to catch up. Eventually, that little notebook would end up set aside and forgotten until something BIG and IMPORTANT happened that I just had to write down. And then I’d start the whole process over, usually with a brand new little notebook.

Fast-forward a few years (okay, more than a few years…) and I’ve learned that there are actually several different ways to keep a journal.  Ways that don’t always include writing down every single detail of each day. After some experimenting, I’ve finally found one that works for me. And guess what?  It’s not the diary-style journal I’d always envisioned keeping! In fact, I barely even register that I’m “journaling”, it’s just become a part of my day!

Why start journaling?

If you’re considering journaling, I have to say that I’d recommend it. Journaling is such a simple habit to develop and has so many benefits! There are no limitations on who can journal and no “right” or “wrong” ways to do it!

Some of the benefits of journaling include:

Reduced anxiety 

One big cause of anxiety is those constantly swirling thoughts.  They may be thoughts of things you need to do, that you need to remember, or possibly events from the day that still need to be processed.  Journaling gives you a safe place to write them all down and organize them, on paper, where you can easily see them, instead of keeping them looping in your head…and making you anxious!

Improved communication skills 

Reading and writing are both great ways to improve your communication skills, but writing, in particular, can help you become more aware of the ways that you personally communicate.  You might notice patterns or gaps, and those can help you become a better communicator in your daily life.

Increased self-awareness

Journaling is a great way to make yourself aware of growth, changes, and patterns in your life.  You may not even notice them until you see them on paper.  

For example, last year, I had a pretty solid pattern of writing that I needed to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I wrote that same thing several times a week.  If I’m writing it down that often, it’s probably time to do something about it!

Increased gratitude and happiness

A journal is a fantastic place to record all the things that you’re grateful for and notice good things in your life that you may have otherwise overlooked.  By putting a little extra focus on the positives, you will also feel more positive!


Journaling can reinforce your mindfulness practice. It’s a chance to pause and just be aware of your thoughts, your emotions, and your surroundings. (Check out this post to learn more about mindfulness

Better mental health

Journaling is a positive way to vent emotions, without taking your frustrations out on those around you.  Instead of bottling those emotions up, put them on paper. When they’re on paper, they tend to be less “forward” in your mind.

Personal growth

If you’re trying to reach some goals, journaling can help you get there! Writing about experiences you want to have and goals you’d like to achieve makes them much more likely to happen.  Taking the time to write them down kind of cements them in place and keeps them front of mind, so you’re more likely to reach those goals!

You can also use your journal as a habit tracker to record your progress in creating new habits and see patterns that prevent you from making those habits stick. 

Journaling can help you organize your thoughts, which in turn, will help you organize your life!


Once you have a journaling practice in place, you may or may not choose to go back and re-read your entries.  I don’t reread often, but occasionally, it’s interesting to see where I was mentally last month, last year, or even a few years ago.  And that’s a great way to gain perspective on things that may have felt like a big deal at the time but worked out in the end.

How to begin journaling

Is it time to give journaling a try for yourself? One of the first steps to journaling is to decide what style of journal will work best for you.  And there are lots of choices! Here are a few of my favorites:

Diary style journals

There is a good chance that this is the first type of journal that comes to mind. A diary-style journal a daily journal where you record the events of the day.  It’s a great way to start as a beginner and a classic journaling type. It wasn’t the best option for me, but it’s still a very good place to start.

Planner style journals 

Planner style journals are typically part planner, part journal.  A place to keep track of your tasks, as well as a place to write down your thoughts.  This type of journaling is perfect for my fellow organizational nerds out there. Since I fit solidly into that category, this is a type of journal that I use regularly.

The one below is my current favorite! I’ve used several, but I keep coming back to this little journal.

Bullet journals 

If you’re a creative person, you will love this one!  A bullet journal (or BuJo) can literally be anything you want…daily diary, habit tracker, calendar, planner, a place to record goals and progress.  It’s also a fantastic way to incorporate mindfulness into your day because bullet journals leave a lot of room for creativity.  Think colored pencils or markers and lots of doodling. 

It CAN require more time than other journal types, though, especially if you tend to be very detailed or artistic, so if time is an issue for you, this one may not be your best option.

But if it is, there are TONS of resources available to help you get started, like this one:

Gratitude journals 

Gratitude journals focus less on daily events and more on recording things in your life that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small they happen to be. A daily gratitude journal can help to shift your attitude to a more positive setting and focusing on the good things will make your life feel more full.

Guided journals 

Guided journals are journals that ask you questions or suggest topics to think over and write about each day.  These journals are perfect for beginners who aren’t quite sure how to start or what to write about, as well as those of you who just prefer a little more structure.

(You can also check out Pinterest for journal prompts to help you get started, if you’d prefer to use a blank notebook.)

Wreck journals

Wreck journals are somewhat new to the journaling scene and a lot of fun!  If you’re a recovering perfectionist or have a tendency to get hung up on details, this might be a style to look into.  Instead of trying to keep a beautiful, perfect journal, wreck journals encourage you to get a little messy and even destroy them as you go along!  Tear them up, doodle, bend the pages, and leave “perfect” behind.


Once you’ve decided on the style of journal you’d like to try, get some supplies to make it feel like a special event in your day. I use the journal I mentioned above and some colored pens, but the idea is to go with whatever will make you most excited to get started.

Then, schedule it in.  Add journaling to your daily routine.  For me, it works best first thing in the morning, while I’m drinking my coffee and planning my day.  Journaling can take as much or as little time as you’re willing to spend, but even 5-10 minutes a day can be enough – if you have more time, and would like to spend it journaling, feel free!

Also, think for a little bit about why you’ve decided to start journaling and what you hope to get out of it.  Ask yourself:

Why are you keeping a journal?
Will anyone else see your journal or will it be completely private?
What would you like the result of journaling to be?
What would you like to write about?

And then, just write!  Don’t worry about misspellings or editing yourself.  This journal is for you, no one will be grading it with a red pen later, the act of writing itself is the important part. So feel free to write anything that comes to mind – misspellings, bad grammar, and all!


Do you keep a journal?  What style works best for you?

Balancing Productivity & Self-care

Balancing Productivity & Self-care

Balancing productivity & self-care

Be more productive!  Make time for self-care!  If you’ve spent any time on social media or reading magazines lately, you’ve probably had both of those phrases drilled into your head.  But…how can you find the time to do both? We’re going to answer that question, as well as setting up some realistic expectations for how balancing productivity & self-care really looks.


You’ve probably felt it before.  That neverending push-pull of knowing you need to get things done and also knowing that you need to take care of yourself.  It’s hard to balance…how do you decide when you’ve been productive enough, even if there is still more to do?  How do you decide if you’re taking care of yourself or just avoiding things that need to happen? Which is more important, being productive or taking care of yourself? How do you make those decisions?

This is something that I’ve personally struggled with, oh, my entire life or so.  Being productive has usually won, in the past. Getting stuff done comes first, and taking care of myself is an after-thought…if there is time.  But that mindset is something I’ve been actively working on and I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned along the way.

How to balance productivity & self-care

1. Schedule in time for YOU

If you tend to be a slave to your to-do list, actively scheduling time for fun and self-care is the best way to actually make it happen.  You already schedule in time for the tasks that HAVE to be done, so try also scheduling in time for the things you NEED to do. Time for doing things that are good for YOU, like exercise, eating well, and hobbies that soothe and recharge.  Give self-care time importance in your day, instead of fitting it in only after everything else is finished.

2. Don’t overschedule

I have a tendency to waaay underestimate how long things will take.  So, I’ve pulled back…like, a lot. Instead of trying to get 47 things done every single day, pick out the 3 most important.  Make sure those get done! Then let the rest fall into place.

Fair warning: If you have a habit of overscheduling, It. Will. Feel. Strange.  And a little wrong. Especially at first. But when that happens, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Did the most important things get done?  Can the rest wait? If the answer is yes (and it probably is), remind yourself that everything is fine and you’re just breaking an established habit of being overly busy.

3. Self-care = productivity

Taking time for yourself…it feels like a slow down.  Like you’re not making progress. But by making the time to take care of yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally, you will actually become MORE productive.  Giving yourself room to breathe and recharge will make the time you spend getting things done so much more effective. You’ll be focused, energized, and ready to tackle what needs to be done, instead of slogging your way through.  Try it!

4. Reframe how you think of productivity

For the longest time, in my mind, being truly productive meant getting more and more (and more) done each day.  If I wasn’t doing something productive, I was just wasting time. But it’s really about quality over quantity.  Just getting things done doesn’t mean that you’re doing them effectively. And being productive does not mean working until you have nothing left to do.  Aim for quality productive time instead of trying to fit more and more in.  Getting fewer things done, but done well, will save you so much time in the long run!

5. Stop giving in to “productivity guilt”

Just because you’re not doing something productive every minute of each day, that doesn’t mean you’re being lazy or avoiding responsibilities. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the “shoulds”. Take the pressure off yourself and remember that just because you have the time and energy to be doing something “productive”, it doesn’t always mean that it’s the best way to spend your time.  Accept that it is absolutely okay to take time out, just for you!

6. It’s okay to just stop, even if everything isn’t done

This is where scheduling comes in. And I STRUGGLE with this. Not getting everything done DOES NOT mean that you failed.  More than likely, it means that you’ve overscheduled. Unless it’s absolutely imperative that something gets done right now, it’s okay to decide that you’re done for the day and just stop. For a little more help with this, check out this post.

7. Identify your peak hours

We all have times of the day that we’re naturally more productive.  And times that we’re consistently less productive. Identify when those peak productive hours are in your day and use them to your advantage!  

For example, my peak productive hours are between 1-5 pm.  I am not a morning person and trying to get quality work done first things feels like trying to run through deep mud. During the afternoon, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders, so I use that time to get the important tasks done.  

Once you’ve identified when your personal best hours are, use them for the important, tedious, or most energy-consuming tasks!  Save the mindless tasks for your less productive hours…or use that time for some good, solid self-care!

8. Shake up your routine

If each day leaves you feeling out of balance, try revamping your daily routines.  What can you move around? Try out a new routine for a few days or weeks and see if a different schedule works better.  It may take a few tries, but it won’t take long before you find a routine that works for you!

9. Understand that you may have to let a few things go

It’s pretty likely that you’re going to have to give a few things up.  Most of us have gotten into the habit of packing our days so full that we simply have no time left.  

At one point in my life, I wrote down all the things that I would like to get done each day…work, household chores, etc.  I put down a realistic time that each task would take and added them up. The result? 14.5 hours a day! And that didn’t even include time for eating, showering, or relaxing.  No wonder I was feeling rushed, frustrated, and behind schedule all the time! So I picked a few things to let go of. Delegated a few others. And have a much calmer life because of it!

I bet there are a few things on your schedule that you can easily give up.  Some things may be harder. And some are non-negotiable. If you need a little help with this process, check How to Prioritize Your Day in 6 Steps

10. Create distinct “spaces” for productive time and self-care time

Find some ways to signal to yourself that this is productive time and that is self-care time by setting up specific locations or signals for each. 

For example, if you work from home, try to pick one area to work in. When you are in that area, you know that it’s time to be productive.  If you tend to relax in the living room, don’t fold your laundry on the couch.  

Even if you have a small space, you can use signals like changing the lighting or burning candles when it’s time to shift from productive to self-care time. 

By doing this, it will be easier to remind yourself which mode you’re in at the moment.


And one final note on balancing productivity and self-care: 

Being balanced doesn’t mean that every single day of your life will feel balanced.  Each day may not (and probably won’t) be balanced evenly between productivity and self-care. Balance happens on a much larger scale.  Some days will be busy. Some days will be easy. So instead of trying to force each day to be the perfect mix of getting things done and taking time to relax, aim for an overall balance in your life.  Know that you’ll have busy days and accept them.  But also even those days out by making time during other days to take care of YOU!


How do you balance productivity and self care?

How to create lasting habits

How to create lasting habits

How to create lasting habits

Self-improvement is all about creating good habits.  But how do you make those new habits really stick? Read on to learn some of the best ways to create lasting habits.


I’m writing this at the very beginning of a brand new year.  For the last few weeks (and probably for the next few weeks), my social feed has been taken over with everyone’s new year’s resolutions and goals.  That’s not a bad thing! It’s inspiring to see so many people determined to make positive changes! But those resolutions always seem to have an undercurrent of “I’m going to change my entire life, all at once!”

Not a bad concept…who wouldn’t want a nice, quick “life makeover”.  But it may not be the most practical way to make lasting changes.  And it definitely doesn’t have to happen at the beginning of the year!

So how can we start to create long-lasting habits, outside of the big “New Year, New Me” moment that happens on January 1st?


Why habits are important

Before we get to that, we need to talk a little about what makes something a “habit” and why that’s important.   A habit is a task or routine that you do, regularly, at the same time or on the same day. It’s something that you no longer have to really think about or even put that much effort into because it’s just a part of your routine.  Once a habit is established, it’s just what you do, almost on auto-pilot. And that’s why it’s so important to intentionally create GOOD habits.  

That’s also why it’s so hard to break bad habits. But every habit, good or bad, starts as a choice.  You make the choice to do this instead of that. You make the choice to create a habit, either by intention or by lack of intention. 

So when you decide it’s time to create a new habit, why is it so hard to make it a lasting habit?

Why new habits fail

There are a few reasons why new habits don’t always stick. The hardest part of forming a new habit is the “new” part.  It’s quite literally not a habit yet, so you have to be intentional about it. Until it actually becomes a habit, you have to make the conscious decision, each time, to do this instead of that.  And, I’m not going to lie, that takes a lot of effort, especially at first. It’s all too easy to say “Eh, I’ll just start tomorrow instead.”

Also, forming a new habit almost always goes hand in hand with changing an old habit or routine.  And change is hard. It’s easy to slide right back into the old routine instead of focusing on the new habit you’re trying to create. Creating a new habit?  It sucks at first. Because you’re rewiring your brain and your normal routine. 

Another reason new habits fail is simply that we try to do too much at once.  Or try to get them “perfect” right from the start. It’s all or nothing. We go in with the idea that we either do all parts of this “new lifestyle” correctly from day 1 or we give up entirely. (Fellow perfectionists, check out this post for more on why the “all or nothing” approach does more harm than good.)

Any of these sound familiar?  Probably. I’m willing to bet that every single person who has tried to create a new habit has dealt with at least one of those reasons.  So let’s talk about a few ways to stop that cycle!

How long does it take to create a new habit? 

First, let’s talk about some realistic expectations. Exactly how long does it take before a new habit becomes just a habit?  A routine that sticks, that you don’t have to think that much about, and you will pretty much just do on autopilot?

The answers to that question vary…a lot.  21 days, or 3 weeks, seems to be a common answer.  Some recent studies even say that 66 days is the “magic number” until something truly becomes a habit.  

But I don’t think there is a “magic number”.  I think it depends entirely on the person AND the habit itself.  Especially if the new habit you’re creating is tied to breaking a bad habit that’s already an established pattern in your life.  

The amount of time that it takes you to go from putting extra effort into making sure it happens, until a habit actually becomes part of your routine, might be different for every habit you establish.  But just to have a time frame to go on, I usually use a month as a good rule of thumb. Aim to make that change consistently for an entire month. By the end of that month, even if it’s not at the autopilot stage, a new habit will be well on its way to becoming your new normal. Even if it’s still a struggle at the end of the month, look back and remember how much harder it was on day 1.  Habit creation is definitely a case of progress over perfection!

How to create lasting habits

So how do we make these new, little baby habits stick?  How do we get past the “new” part and get to the “habit” part?  Here are 10 ways to create lasting habits:

1. Use a habit tracker

One of the hardest parts of creating a new habit is not seeing immediate results.  You can’t eat one salad and expect to be in amazing shape. (Wouldn’t that be great though?) You can’t wake up early for one day and expect not to want to hit the snooze button the next morning.  

This is where a habit tracker comes in.  Before you can see tangible results in your life to keep yourself motivated, use a tracker as visual motivation to keep going.  Seeing those little boxes checked off is so satisfying!

There are lots of different ways to track your habits, such as marking them on a calendar, using an app like HabitBull, or tracking them in your daily journal or planner.  Pick whatever works best for you, but track your progress!


2. Write down your “why” and read it. Often.

When you’re trying to create a new habit, a good, solid understanding of WHY you want to create this particular habit is so important.  The reason we want to change our habits is that we have a vision of how life can be different or better, but exactly HOW will this habit make your life different or better?

Take a few minutes to write down why you want to make this particular task a habit in your life, and really break it down.  Why will this habit help you? What will the ultimate outcome be, once it’s established in your life? What will your life look like AFTER  a newly created habit becomes routine?  

When you’re writing your “why”, go as deeply into it as you possibly can – don’t be vague.  For example, instead of saying that you’re going to start running to get into shape, get specific.  You’d like to start running so your clothes will fit better in 6 months, or so you’ll be able to run a half marathon by next fall…because you’d like to boost your mood with those endorphins that come along with running regularly, or because you’ve been feeling tired and want to boost your energy levels.  Whatever the habit and whatever YOUR reason, write it down and really dial in on it

And then re-read it. Often. Daily. Weekly. When you feel like skipping it, just for today.  When you’re feeling motivated. When you’re feeling unmotivated. Re-read that “why”!  


3. Don’t try to create too many new habits at once

As I mentioned, one of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions tend to fail is because we try to change too many things at once.  “This year, I’m going to work out every day, eat veggies at every meal, and change my entire life starting January 1st!” That ambition is great, but practically speaking, it’s just too many drastic changes all at once.  It’s setting yourself up to fail from the beginning. And instead of conquering everything, you’re much more likely to end up giving up on everything!

Instead, focus on creating new habits one at a time.  When you have one established, so it truly is a HABIT, then focus on adding another new habit.


4. Start with something small and add to it

If you’re new to creating habits in your life, (and even if you’re not), start small.  That can mean either smaller habits or smaller goals. Why? Because smaller habits are easier to establish.  And those small wins will motivate you for the bigger things later! It’s easier to make changes gradually, so instead of saying “I’m going to go to the gym for an hour every day!” start with “I’m going to go to the gym once a week.”  When that becomes a habit, it will be so much easier to add a second day (then a third, then a fourth) because it has already become part of your routine, in a small way.

Little wins while establishing habits are incredible motivation.  You know you can do THAT because you’ve already done THIS. Take the motivation from those little wins and funnel it into bigger habits!


5. Exchange a bad habit for a good habit

This principle applies to both CREATING good habits and breaking bad habits.  When you’re trying to establish a new habit, 9 times out of 10, you’re also replacing an existing habit.  You already have a pattern, so you’ll just be swapping one for the other.  

For example, instead of checking your social feeds first thing in the morning, swap that for drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning.  When you wake up and want to reach for your phone, reach for your water glass instead. Before you know it, you’ll be cutting back on screen time AND drinking more water!  Win win, right?


6. Leave yourself visual reminders

Sometimes, starting a new habit is hard because we just flat out forget!  So leave yourself some “clues” as a reminder. If you want to start taking vitamins regularly, leave them on the counter instead of in the cabinet until it becomes a habit.  If you want to start working out in the morning, leave your gym clothes out the night before, so you see them as soon as you wake up. Even just leaving yourself a post-it note on the bathroom mirror can help!  Figure out what kind of visual reminders will keep that new habit in your sights…literally!


7. Adjust, if you need to

Be flexible!  Sometimes, we start a habit with the best of intentions but soon realize that our original plan just isn’t going to work.  Instead of ditching the entire thing, figure out a way that you can adjust, so you can still create a lasting habit. It may not be exactly the way you originally imagined, but if it’s still moving you toward your goals, it’s worth it!


8. Incentivize it

One of the hardest parts of trying to establish a new habit is the fact that you probably won’t see immediate results.  And that makes it hard to stay motivated to keep going. So, look for other ways to motivate yourself to keep a new habit going until it becomes an established routine, by incentivizing it!  Decide that if you do this for X number of days, then you will get a reward. Work toward a smaller goal that helps you reach your larger goal.

In fact, there is a whole genre of apps now that you can use for exactly this purpose.  The app StickK even lets you bet money on yourself, motivating you to stick with it!  (I haven’t tried this one yet, but if anyone has, I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below!)


9. Don’t get caught in the “all or nothing” trap

Creating new habits is hard.  That’s right, I said it.  And you’re going to mess it up.  Especially at the beginning. You’ll forget, life will get in the way, you’ll just not feel it.  But when (and I do mean when) that happens, give yourself a little grace.  And then get RIGHT BACK TO IT.  Don’t wait until next Monday or the 1st of next month.  By waiting to restart, you’re much more likely to just scrap the whole thing. So start again right away.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.


10. Aim for progress, not perfection

This tip applies to so many different areas of life, but creating lasting habits is definitely one of those areas.  Instead of trying to do it perfectly, focus on making progress.  If you set out with a goal of completing a new habit 7 days a week and you only manage 4 days, guess what?  That’s still 4 days better than last week. Try for 5 next time.  


Want to go more in depth?

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What tips do you use for creating lasting habits in your life?