A tool for building better habits

Published by Tony Quinlan on

My recent post on culture being more about habits than big moments prompted a couple of questions – namely what tools actually help to create better habits.

The one that works for me has evolved around what was called a “win list”.  It’s a diary – but one that gets filled in at the end of the day.  Depending on where you want to shift your focus to, it could be filled in with things to be grateful for or, as in this case, for things that I’ve actually done.  [I used to suffer – and still do on bad days – from an underlying sense of having done nothing of value in any given day.]

Even in this raw form, I’ve found it can be a powerful lever in shifting my perception of a day.

To help build habits, however, I’ve added a couple of things.  They play to my competitive instinct, so you may want to adapt them to fit.

  1. For habits that are new, but I want to make regular, I started adding a count of how many consecutive days I’d managed to do them.
  2. To add a challenge, in brackets I then added the current longest number of consecutive days I’d previously managed.

It’s not difficult, and it can feel slightly silly, but it’s proved very powerful for me.  What were occasional tasks have become regular, what were supposed to be regular tasks have become rock-solid parts of my day, while some habits have become so automatic I don’t even notice them.

It also means that, at the end of the day when putting the list together, I’ll go and do something simply to ensure that I don’t have to go back to counting from 1 again.

Most powerful example?  2227 days without a cigarette.


1 Comment

Tony Quinlan · 18 September 2007 at 10:01 pm

From David Tebbutt of http://www.teblog.typepad.com[apparently Typekey’s acting up]:
Come on Tony, spill the beans. Give us some examples of new habits you’ve formed and worthwhile things you’ve done that you didn’t realise were worthwhile.

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