One of the most common questions I get asked is How do you do it all? How do you manage to be so productive and achieve the things you set out to do, while still having time for hobbies and being present for your family?
For the longest time, I would look at people who asked me this, shrug my shoulders and say: I don’t know, I just do.
Then I saw this line from Gretchen Rubin in her wonderful habits book Better Than Before:
Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life
And that’s when I realised what it was that allowed me to tick all the boxes I do. Every single thing that’s important to me, I’ve built a habit around it:
- Family time
Why are habits so effective?
Because they remove the need for willpower. They eliminate all those Should I? Shouldn’t I? Maybe tomorrow conversations we have with ourselves when it comes to doing things that might be a little hard at the time, but ultimately make us happy. Essentially, habits allow ‘current you’ to do the things that ‘future you’ really appreciates.
Habits also remove the need to search for magic bullets (because we know those don’t exist, right?).
How most of us try to create positive change
As a rule – we tend to wait until things are dire. And it’s only when we reach a point of complete overwhelm or have a health scare that we decide Ok, enough’s enough. Things are going to CHANGE around here!
And that’s the point where we try to change All. The. Things. (Yes, I’ve done this too. More times than I care to admit.)
It doesn’t work.
How to make changes that actually stick
You have to commit to making change slowly.
Changes that stick best are the ones where you create a lifelong habit. This is why diets don’t work. For anyone who goes on a diet, there is a finish line. They reach their weight goal by doing something unsustainable (like restricting daily calories), high-five themselves, and then go back to eating ‘normally’ at which point they regain all the weight. It’s a frustrating and soul-destroying cycle.
Introducing Better than Yesterday
I’ve long been a believer in the power of tiny changes, made daily. Tiny changes don’t require huge amounts of willpower or mental energy. They don’t require a big time commitment. What they do is lay down a great foundation on which future, bigger changes can be made.
And that’s the underlying principle of Better than Yesterday, a series of challenges I will be running over the course of 2017.
And really, ‘challenge’ is a misnomer because I won’t be looking over anyone’s shoulder asking them to report in about whether they’ve done the ‘thing’ or not. Nor is there any hard-core goal setting involved. Each ‘challenge’ will involve nothing more than setting an intention each day.
Because research has shown the simple act of setting an intention, and stating how you’re going to make something happen greatly enhances your ability to actually make that thing happen.
For example, the first challenge was about sleep. Each day, each person answered three simple questions:
- How many hours of sleep do I need to be my best self?
- How many hours of sleep did I get last night?
- What time do I need to go to bed tonight to get the sleep I need?
I didn’t track people’s results or demand to know why they ‘failed’ to get the intended amount of sleep each night. I simply asked them to be aware of what they needed. Here’s what generally happens after a week of setting intentions like the above: people naturally start adjusting their behaviour.
There’s no sense of deprivation.
There’s no resentment.
There’s no Oh, I’ve signed up for this bloody challenge so I’d better go to sleep early.
It’s more like: I know I need seven hours of sleep a night and I know I have to go to bed at 10.30pm to get that, so I won’t check my emails before bed like I usually do. I’ll check them in the morning instead.
The power of keystone habits
The first three Better than Yesterday challenges will be around building the sound keystone habits of:
What are keystone habits? They’re habits that trigger a positive chain reaction in your life and make it easier to lay down other good habits. For example, sleeping well allows us to manage our weight better (because lack of sleep can disrupt hormones which then disrupt hunger signals in our body). Exercising each day boosts our energy levels and allows us to be more productive at work. Good nutrition does the same.
Keen to join in?
Hopefully the above gives a better overview of what I’m hoping to achieve with Better than Yesterday. (A few keen readers have told me I haven’t been particularly clear about it all … and I can see they’re right!)
As mentioned above, the current schedule of challenges is as follows:
I’ve also set up a Facebook group for those doing the challenges where you can ask me any questions you like about setting lifelong habits. You’ll receive a link to that group when you sign up.
I hope to see you in there soon!
P.S: You can join in with the above challenges at any point – even if they’re started already. Why? Because the best time to start laying down tiny habits is ‘tomorrow’. I’ve structured these challenges in way that, while it’s optimal if you’re there from the start, it’s absolutely not essential.