Towards the end of last summer I realised that I was drifting through my days and wanted to change that. I was waiting for other people to do things first, before I did what I wanted to do. Which meant I didn’t get to do them. So I had a rethink of my daily routine and worked out a few things that I wanted to change. New habits that I wanted to start that would help me be more productive.
As I know that our habits are what make or break us achieving our goals. They either provide the bedrock for building on, or sabotage us. To change your behaviour you need to first change your habits. What small things can you add to, or change about, your daily routine that will help you? I thought hard about what changes I wanted to make, and also how I would track doing them. I found that my daily goals fell into different types – some goals needed to be done at a specific time of the day (ie when I got up), some with specific people, & some can be fitted in more flexibly at almost anytime of the day. And as with all goals they work better when they’re SMART then you can be certain that you’ve met them.
Keeping a record of how I’m doing, even if it was only for myself, helps me actually succeed once the initial motivation to change has waned. To enable me to do that I found a daily goals app to use on my phone. There are a huge number of different apps that can do this, so you can choose whichever you feel suits you. I choose one because I liked it’s choice of graphs for how you’re meeting your goals, and the fact that it was free. Free is always a winner for me! It doesn’t have a paid option and there are no annoying ads they just want you to pay to get rid of. It’s fairly simple and that’s why it works. There are many apps available that do the same thing, so the choice of which you use isn’t what matters. The fact of using one, and so thinking about the changes you want to make, is the important thing. Looking now for a daily goals app there are far more than there were six months ago, when I started tracking a list of things every day. So the basic idea of tracking habits every day is key, and I will try to keep my discussion general rather than about the app I’m using specifically. They all work on the same basic principle, so it’s a question of choosing which one you like the look of.
The first thing you need to do is to choose things you want to do every day. Eight or less works well, as you don’t want too many. You can set them for every day, or only some days a week, i.e. not weekends. Then the app tells you how many you still have to do today as a number on the corner of the app icon on your home screen. I find this a really useful feature. As every time I look at my phone (which is far too often!) I am reminded of how many I still need to do that day. You can also set an alarm for each goal, if you want a specific reminder at a certain time.
Then the statistics side can tell you how well you are doing in achieving your daily goals. On the app I have it tells you your total percentage completion each day, and you can also look at completion for each goal separately. And there’s a calendar view too, as shown in the picture. I like numbers and stats, and this gives you an idea of how well you’re doing with each new habit. From my quick view of the different apps available the statistics is an area with more differences between the different apps.
One idea that’s really grown on me in the last year is the one of small habits. The idea that you change little things, and they build up incrementally over time. And that you should celebrate achieving it. Do a happy dance. Fistpump. Or whatever feels right to you. And for me ticking things of an electronic checklist is a good way to have a mini celebration that I’ve achieved that thing. I’m not sure who first came up with the idea of small habits, or mini habits, or tiny habits, but the premise of starting small makes completely changing your life more achievable. This means that you are eating the elephant one bite at a time. The smaller the habit is that you want to start, the easier it is to integrate it into what you already do every day. A good place to start finding out more about this idea is with BJ Fogg’s TEDxFremont talk.
Then once you feel that the habits are ingrained, or aren’t working out, you can rethink and change what you have in the app and add some new ones.