According to the research cited in “The One Thing”, it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit. I realize that there is some variance (the complete range was 18 to 254 days depending on the person and difficulty of the new habit), but that 66 days seems like a good goal to shoot for. Using that benchmark I decided to try and form new habits by doing them every day for 66 days. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised.
I’ve gone for a run every morning for the last 34 days and it is starting to feel like a habit. Most days I don’t even register that I put on my running shoes. There are certainly tough days, particularly the two days I was hungover and the couple of days it was raining, but I’ve found Instagram and Snapchat help with that. I little bit of bragging on social media helps get me moving. The runs weren’t always record setting, sometimes it was only 1-2 miles, but most days I was in the 3-4 mile range and even hit six miles a couple times. So far, this is my biggest success with habit forming.
My morning run leads naturally into my next habit, taking cold baths or showers. For the last 20 days, I have had either a bath or a shower with only the cold water turned on. It is still kind of miserable in the beginning, but my body is getting acclimated to it and I find myself getting bored before getting too uncomfortable.
I have also blogged every day for the last 19 days. This certainly doesn’t feel like a habit yet, but my mornings have a feeling of incompleteness when I don’t write. Writing is also getting easier as well, the floodgates of my mind are opening up and I’m coming up with ideas as I consume more.
Which brings me to the next habit I’m working on: reading. I’ve read every morning for the last two weeks or so. I shoot for a simple 10-20 pages while enjoying my morning coffee, but sometimes I get a lot more than that in and sometimes it is less. The important thing seems to be that I sit down and open a book.
This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but there are two planning issues that help me complete my habits. The first is preparation ahead of time. Before going to bed I set my running shoes and books next to my reading chair, make the coffee and put it in the refrigerator, put a fresh towel in the bathroom with my work clothes, set out my running clothes next to the bed, and prep my desk area by closing all documents on my computer except for WordPress and clearing my desk completely off to eliminate distractions or busywork. Taking care of the prep ahead of time allows me to mindlessly go about my routine in the morning.
The second planning issue is to have all my habits fit together like puzzle pieces that form the routine. I wake in the morning and pour a cup of coffee. I sit in my reading chair where my books are waiting for me and drink the coffee. After I finish drinking coffee I put on my running shoes (which are conveniently next to my chair) and go for a run. After the, run I am in desparate need of a shower so I take my cold bath or shower. Then I get dressed in my work clothes and sit down at my desk to write.
There are a couple of other things I’m working on as well, including my meditation practice and learning Spanish, but I am not holding those to the “66 Day Standard” yet. I don’t want to overload myself and it is nice to have a few things that I can miss over a rough weekend or a busy day and not feel too guilty about it. I also have a shit-ton of other things that I want to build into habits but haven’t really started yet, but those will come later when these habits are securely in place or need to be replaced.
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