incorporating habits effectively


New year’s approaching and it calls for new year resolutions to be made! Be it starting a new exercise routine or a healthier diet, it involves transitioning. But have you ever realized that every time we try to start on something new, we tend to lose motivation halfway or just somehow fail to fall through?

Four Tendencies

To successfully incorporate a new habit, I find that it's helpful to know which of the four tendencies you are under Gretchen Rubin's "Four Tendencies" Framework. Gretchen Rubrin devised the framework to help us understand how we respond to both inner and outer expectations, which closely affects our habits.

Take the quiz here!

Basically, there are four tendencies:

Upholders — respond readily to both outer and inner expectations

Questioners — question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation only if they think it makes sense

Oblidgers — meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

Rebels — resist all expectations, both outer and inner

Understanding which tendency you fall under allows you to formulate ways that allow you to stick to your habits better. You can find some helpful habit strategies as well as some words of advice for each of the tendencies here.

I, myself, fall in the category of a questioner. I do a lot of research beforehand and only start on something when I have justified that it is worth doing or that it's truly beneficial for me. And indeed, monitoring and scheduling (through my bullet journal/planner) helps me to keep up with my habits better.

It might seem daunting to begin inserting a new routine into your lifestyle, but it is definitely do-able if you are determined! That being said, below are 11 tips that I found helped me the most when I was trying to incorporate a new habit into my lifestyle at the beginning stage.

1. You have to be convinced

It is only when you have truly convinced yourself that incorporating this certain habit is beneficial for you that you will consistently keep up with it. If somebody else is pressuring you to do it, you wouldn't do it. If you're doing it simply because someone else is doing it, it's easy to quit when you slipped up and it wouldn't work it in the long run as well. Therefore it is important to know what you want and why you want to do it.

2. Set a definite start date

You're never going to start on it unless you give it a specific start date, trust me, I've been there before. With a specific start date, it's harder to put it off. Tell yourself it's time to start, otherwise you're never going to do it. After all, it doesn't have to be perfect. Once you've started, you can still take steps to sort out the nooks and crannies.

3. Make it easy to follow

If you are trying to incorporate a new habit into your routine, it's important to simplify it so that it's easy enough to keep up. If it's too difficult, you'll find yourself losing the motivation to bring yourself to make it happen.

For example, if you want to start incorporating exercise into your routine, instead of planning a whole list of different exercises to incorporate, you could start with simple exercises like sit-ups or 15 minute runs. When you feel that you're ready to move to the next stage, you can then add another type of exercise into your routine or simply extend the timing of the exercise.

4. Start slow and work your way up

When starting a new routine, be it introducing a new supplement or starting a new diet, it is important to know that you may or may not experience changes in the body as your body adapts to the new routine. This is why you should always start slow and slowly incorporate the changes a little at a time. This allows you to be able to monitor the effects of introducing that new routine, and be sure that it is directly attributed to introducing that new routine alone. If you start incorporating a whole list of changes at a go and experience reactions from those changes, you wouldn't know which one of them is responsible for the reaction you're experiencing.

For example, if you're trying to eat healthier, instead of doing a 180 degree revamp and change from a diet of processed foods to eating salads and drinking juices, you could start slow by first cutting out fast food from your diet and observing how you feel. When you feel ready, you can then start to incorporate other changes step by step. It is important to only start incorporating the next change once you're comfortable, there is no rush and you should always do things at your own pace. Remember, change always takes time.

5. Do it at the same time everyday

Try to implement your habits such that you do them at the same time everyday, this helps you to transform it into a routine and it makes it easier to keep up.

For example, I've been so used to meditating before bed that I feel like I'm missing something when I don't.

6. Plan for failure

It's said to be easier to stick to habits if you plan for failure. You could do so using the "if-then" plan to formulate action plans for specific scenarios.

For example, if you are trying to exercise every alternate day, you could formulate action plans for scenarios which will prevent you from doing so.

"If it rains, then I will do sit-ups at home instead.”

"If I end work late today, then I will make an effort to exercise the next day after work."

7. Take it easy on yourself

It's important to take if easy on yourself and not to give yourself too much pressure. Remember the 80/20 rule, we are not perfect and it's alright if you slip up for a day, don't let it affect your motivation. As long as you're consistent and you have set yourself a specific time that you're going to get back on track (use the if-then plan!), it wouldn't affect your long run progress. It would also be helpful to take note why you slipped up, so you can prevent the situation from happening again.

For example, if you fell sick and missed a day of exercise, you shouldn't beat yourself up about it. As long as you set your mind to start again when you feel better, it is alright. You could use the if-then plan to formulate an action plan to keep yourself on track — "if I fall sick, then I will exercise when I recover."

8. But don't take it too easy

While you should take it easy on yourself, but it's important to stay disciplined as well. It's easy to lose momentum when you miss a day so you should be disciplined enough to pull yourself to get back on track.

9. Find a part of your daily routine which the new habit can fit in

It's easier to keep up with a new habit if you anchor it to an existing habit that is already in your daily routine.

For example, if you're trying to journal daily, you could anchor it to your existing habit of eating breakfast — "after breakfast I will sit down and take out 15 minutes to journal". If you're trying to meditate daily, you could anchor it to your existing habit of going to bed — "before bed I will meditate for 15 minutes".

10. Reflect when it's not working out

If find yourself starting to slip out of the habit, sit down and reflect to see why it may not be working out and see if it can be rectified.

For example, it became too much of a hassle for me to take my vitamins because it was in the cupboard upstairs. Solution? — move the vitamins downstairs so it's easier to be reached. (Step 1 — make it easy to follow!)

11. Keep a journal

Using a bullet journal to help keep track of my new habits has made me more inclined to keep up with them, simply because I'm doing journaling on a daily basis in the morning and it serves as a daily reminder that I should be doing so and so otherwise I won't be able to check it off my list and that makes me feel uncomfortable.

I hope these tips help to make your transition into a healthy lifestyle easier and more manageable.

Vinita Tang