I don’t really have to do something all the time if I want to make it a habit, right??
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but yes. Yes you do. As painful as it is for me to acknowledge.
I am the queen of excusing myself from little things that would help me form beneficial habits. So no judgment here.
By definition a habit is practiced regularly, therefore you cannot form a habit without doing the action consistently. More consistency leads to faster habit formation and stronger habits.
So then how do I (sometimes) successfully convince myself to do something every time?
1. Habits require less brain power.
A big issue I run into time after time is that I spend too much time analyzing whether I should do something now or later. Or even at all.
“Are the kitchen counters actually dirty enough to warrant wiping them down?”
“Will making my bed before I go to work truly improve my day?”
Creating a habit by doing it every single time removes the need for active thinking about whether or not to do it this particular time. I simply choose to do it all the time.
“I always wipe the counters after I cook something.”
“I make my bed every morning.”
I do these things because I know deep down these habits will make me happier in the long run.
2. It lessens the temptation of making excuses.
If you do it every time then there is no room for excuses because there is no decision to make.
In the moment, excuses can make you feel good because you get immediate satisfaction. However, over time I find I fail at attaining any of my habit goals and failing does not feel good. I don’t want to spend my whole life allowing myself momentary satisfaction at the expense of my larger life goals.
Gretchen Rubin has a long list of the various loopholes that people like to use when they are looking for a way out of something. Or just feeling lazy. I can personally relate to many of them.
How many times have you thought: “I can skip today because I’ll be good tomorrow” (Tomorrow Loophole), “In the grand scheme of things not doing it this one time won’t make a difference” (One Coin Loophole), or “I’ve been good so I deserve this” (Moral Licensing Loophole)? Which loopholes do you find yourself using most often?
Excuses are a slippery slope and once you make one, it becomes difficult to see why that same excuse wouldn’t apply to many other situations.
3. Do a little bit every day and work won’t pile up.
This statement can be viewed in the tangible way related to chores and cleaning but can also be interpreted as doing a little bit of work on your habits every day to avoid a pile of internal work to do in order to build those habits. Here, though, I will focus on the concrete example related to creating habits related to cleanliness and organization.
I’m not a fan of having to set aside time to clean. I can usually avoid this task by doing a little bit every day and making tidying a part of my daily routine. For example, when I regularly clean the stove after cooking, it takes only a few seconds and saves me quite a bit of intense scrubbing later in the week.
This makes certain that the mess will never escalate to an overwhelming level.
Another way to achieve this is to always take a few extra seconds to put an item back where it belongs when you are done using it. You probably don’t want to walk downstairs one day to find that half of your bedroom has magically found its way to the living room and realize you’ll have to add “declutter living room” and “reorganize bedroom” to your to-do list.
When I don’t feel like putting something back right away, I take a second to think about how long it will actually take me to walk to another room in my tiny apartment. The answer is always less than a minute.
Do I have a minute to spare now to save me at least 10 minutes of major clean-up later?
99% of the time the answer is yes.
If you have a goal to make a new habit, try your very best to practice that habit all the time. You will succeed more quickly and be happier in the long run.