Want To Build A Habit? Build A List First.
A few months ago I wrote a post about the daily to-do list I created for myself. These activities include meditation, reading educational materials, and working out. I've added and removed a few items over the past year, but everything on this list is meant to help me in some way or another.
In that post, I talked mostly about the benefits of sticking with something for the long haul. It was all about 'why' setting daily goals is important. I didn't go into much detail about the 'how'.
While I'm no 'expert' in building up habits, there's a few things I've learned that are critical to adding new ones to your daily routine.
You Need To Write A Physical List
If you want to do something every day, you need to write it down. There's no way around this, and luckily it's easy to do. You need to write down a list because once you've created it it can't be mis-remembered or forgotten. Standing alone, your memory isn't nearly as accurate.
It's common sense to write up a grocery list before heading to the store. If you need to get 15 specific ingredients, you'd never trust your memory!
You need to write a physical list for your daily habits as well. If you don't, you're likely to forget to take action a few days out of the first week and totally forget the task there on out. Your brain doesn't have an automatic 'don't forget your tasks' switch that turns on 30 minutes before you go to sleep, but a list can be that switch.
The List Must Be In Your Face
I keep my list on my desktop. It's a big 'sticky note' on the left side of my screen. Every time I open my computer it's the first thing I see. I need it that way, because not looking at my list is just as bad as not having one.
If you write down what you want to do on a list, then the only thing you need to remember to do is to look at the list. Surprisingly, it's easy to forget to do even this one step! By putting your list in a place where you can't miss it, you make the mental burden insignificant.
If You Don't Have A List And Look At It Daily...
I've had this 'official' list of daily to-do's for about 9 months. I've taken a few parts out and added a few others, but overall it's stayed the same. I still look at it multiple times every day.
You'd think that by now I'd have memorized this list. I would have guessed it would run on autopilot at this point. But, it's not...
There's been a handful of times when I've been exhausted. Too lazy to check my actual list and confident in my crystal clear memory, I ran over the parts I remember in my head super-quickly. Check, Check, Check... Ok, good to go. Goodnight!
Usually I woke up the next morning, check desktop like I was supposed to the night before, and realized that I missed 1-2 items! Even though I'd been using this list for months I still needed to physically check it to make sure I was on track.
Imagine me when I was starting out... if I didn't have a physical list, my new habits would be toast.