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6 practical ways to build positive habits

Do you have a hobby or skill you would like to learn but have never got around to? You’re not alone!

Whether you want to learn a new language, get fit, or improve your productivity, it can be difficult to finally take the plunge. But, there is no better time to start than now. Rather than resign yourself to defeat, read on for six simple tips to start building great new habits.

1. Just start

If you have a hobby or habit you want to make a part of your life, the first big step you need to take is to actually start.

If you catch yourself procrastinating on starting that project or hobby, ask yourself: “Will it really be any easier to begin in the future?” Chances are it won’t.

Don’t say things like “I’ll start next week” or “Work is busy at the moment I’ll wait until this project is finished and I’ll have more time”.

Start now and don’t overthink it. If you wait for the perfect time to begin you may never get around to it, whereas if you commit you can learn to take control of your busy schedule.

2. Small efforts go a long way

The more drastic a lifestyle change is, the less likely you are to maintain it.

Let’s say you work long hours in a busy job with a hefty commute and you decide to learn a language. Trying to force yourself to learn for an hour each night is unrealistic and you likely won’t adhere to it for more than a week.

However, by implementing small changes, such as giving yourself five to ten minutes of language learning a night rather than an hour, or committing to go to the gym for 20 minutes instead of two hours, you can create a habit that is so easy you can’t neglect it.

From there you can build on it and increase the time you dedicate to your habit as it becomes ingrained.

3. Use your habits to build a routine

A good way to ensure consistency is to make your habit part of your daily routine.

How do you distinguish between a habit and a routine? A routine is something you do as a result of conscious effort, which acts to structure your day.

For example, you may set your alarm at a specific time or spend 10 minutes before work each day sending emails so you don’t have to deal with them later in the day.

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, habits are characterised as the result of unconscious thought, and they can be positive or negative.

Habits are formed by your behaviours and the associations you make as a result. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed at work, you might alleviate those feelings by checking social media. As a result, an association is formed between feelings of stress and spending time on social media.

If you can build a routine which includes the positive habits you are trying to maintain you can create a structure to follow and increase the likelihood of maintaining your habit in the long term. For example, you might go to the gym after work every Tuesday evening.

By allocating time in your daily routine and creating associations between activities you give your habit the structure you need to maintain progress.

4. Create a solid foundation

Rather than think of your new habit in isolation, a more holistic approach could be more effective.

Take this as an opportunity to evaluate other aspects of your life and your routine.

For example, look at your sleep quality. Are you currently getting enough good sleep? The NHS recommends that adults get around 7-9 hours of sleep a night, so ask yourself if there are any steps you can take to improve your sleep quality.

How does your diet look? Are you eating enough and are you eating well? If you can make improvements in these areas, you will likely feel better, perform better at work, and give yourself a greater chance of success in maintaining your new habit.

Building a strong foundation is not only good for maintaining your habits. It also transcends into other areas of your life, and the discipline you learn from maintaining a healthy lifestyle means that you are far more likely to stick to habits in the long run.

5. Track your progress

What gets measured gets improved.

By finding a way to track your progress, you’re more likely to continue. Depending on your habit this could vary.

If you are trying to get fitter it could be the length of time you can run or the weight you can lift in the gym.

We often think of motivation as the thing which gets us to practise our habit in the first place. The reality is that motivation comes from results which come from effort, not the other way around.

When we are juggling our work and life commitments, practising a new habit is often the last thing we want to do but, if you want to improve in some way, you need to make the effort in the first place.

Seeing the progress you have made makes it far easier to continue on those evenings when you have had a busy day at work, and you want to collapse on the sofa and do nothing.

One easy way to keep your progress visible and to hold yourself accountable is to use a productivity app. You can find apps which perform a range of functions.

I personally like to use an app which creates a “streak” for you to maintain. If you skip a day your streak resets and you go back to day one. The longer you’re able to maintain a streak the less likely you will be to miss a day and your progress builds on your past efforts.

6. Give yourself a reward

If you are struggling with productivity in maintaining a new habit, you can try what is known as “temptation bundling”.

Temptation bundling involves combining something difficult with something you enjoy. For example, if you’re struggling to stick with going to the gym you could try listening to podcasts, audiobooks or music while you are there.

When implementing a new habit, you should try and make it as easy as possible for yourself. Taking steps to make your new habit enjoyable can help avoid that daunting feeling that impedes progress and also helps forge associations between something fun and something difficult.

Starting something like learning a musical instrument or becoming a better cook may seem like a small thing, but in doing so you may notice improvements in other areas of your life.

Consistently spending five minutes every day on your habit can lead you to consider other areas of your life such as your time management, daily routine structure, and sleep quality.

In turn, you may see improvements in your professional and personal life as you ensure you finish your work tasks on time so you can get to the gym, or you feel more productive because you did a language lesson before work. Habits create opportunities to achieve goals every day and build momentum that you carry into other areas.

Get in touch

If you want more time and energy to devote to new habits, Yardstick can take some items off your to-do list. We offer content, branding, social media and more. Get in touch at or call 0115 8965 300.

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