Start New Year Well: Keystone Habits

Rather than grandiose goals for a new year, we should be focusing on small habits that we can build upon. These new year habits continue giving, because they become automatic. So we can gain their benefit without expending much energy to do so.

A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

Almost involuntary. Automatic. We should work to make several key behaviors automatic rather than requiring will and decision. To just get out of bed without thinking about it instead of debating and arguing internally. To always keep water nearby to sip. To get things onto our lists and calendars right away instead of “later,” which never comes.

Whether habits are planned and created conscientiously, or allowed to be haphazardly filled in by chance, they are habits all the same. Habit rules ninety-nine percent of everything we do. – Charlotte Mason

Rather than grandiose goals for a new year, we should be focusing on small habits that we can build upon.

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Start with Habits

A Habit is a Practice

And practice makes perfect. Practice means you’re working toward becoming good at this thing. It means you don’t expect yourself to get it right the first time or every time. Deliberate practice is work, but it bestows excellence after consistent, persistent application.

But a habit is formed by exercising the will; it calls for a decision, repeated over and over again, and begins one step at a time.

And deliberate practice grows our own capacity, as well.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier — not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do it has increased. — Emerson

Creating a habit requires effort, but in the end it will save you much more effort than it took to form.

Everything is difficult before it is easy. — Goethe

It takes time and attention and effort to wear a groove down into the path you want to follow. The longer you wear that same groove down, the easier it is to stay in it and not wander off.

Some habits are better foundations than others. These are keystone habits. They are small actions that make it easier to make other good choices. Keystone habits, according to Charles Duhigg in Power of Habit, are habits that give “small wins [that] fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

We can all use some more small wins to help us move forward, don’t you think?

Keystone habits that have been identified by researchers are

•   exercise 
•   eating dinner as a family
•   making your bed
•   food journaling

Building these habits might have the side effects of improving your patience, productivity, and even your spending.

My top tip for building a new habit.

Tie your habit to something secure.

Attach your new habits to a trigger. You already have habits. Hook your new habits to current habits to help you remember them and to help them become your default more readily and smoothly. Don’t try to completely remake your life from scratch. Rather, add few small changes to your current routine.

Drink a glass of water before each meal (the meal is the trigger to drink water).

Sort your mail as soon as you bring it in (getting the mail is the trigger to dealing with it).

Take your vitamins when you give your children theirs (getting out the vitamins triggers your own vitamin reminder).

Check your calendar and to do list while you eat breakfast (eating breakfast is the trigger to look over your day).

Whatever new habit you want to establish, pin it to something that already happens routinely every day.

5 Things You Need to Start the Year Well

  1. Brain Dump
  2. Interval Plan
  3. Home Routines
  4. Keystone Habits
  5. Task Management
Learn to love what must be done

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