When I was a small kid my parents used to tell me to develop the habit of reading. I don't think at that age I really understood what a habit is! But I was surely getting this vibe, that reading something everyday is a good thing to do. Later on I also read some essays in my academic text book about "Good habits", why it is important to develop good habits and how it will make me successful in life. So throughout my life I had this feeling that good habits are important factors in shaping my life. I understood that If we are able to develop good habits in our day to day life, we will become more productive and achieve more success. But if we develop bad habits, we will end up having a bad unsuccessful life. I guess there is no need to prove this statement, right! We all know the importance of habit, but I doubt how many of us really put an effort to develop good habits following a process or a system.
Good habits are not something that will get developed in yourself naturally. You have to take actions to convert your good actions into good habits. Some good habits you already might have developed unconsciously, but it doesn’t mean that all the other good habits will also get developed without much thinking. If you try to analyze how you have developed those good habits, you will find out somehow you were exposed to those good actions and you started doing it repeatedly. Maybe the environment you were brought up in has an impact or maybe your family members or school have pushed you to do something which you continued to do for a long time and it became your habit. It might have happened unconsciously that time, but doesn’t mean it will always happen. Even if it happens somehow it might be too late for you to utilize it in full potential.
So identifying what habits you have, whether it's good or bad is important. Trust me! If you try to analyze your habits just observing a day or two you will come to know some unknown facts about you. You will see that you have some habits which could be harmful for your future and some habits are good that need more attention in your life. So identifying your habit is very important if you really want to shine in your life.
There could be habits that will grow yourself as a good person in general, there could be other habits that will help you to become more successful in your career. You need to adjust your habits whichever area you are most in need. So, first identifying your habits is an important task. Once you have identified your habits, it's time to think, what habits you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. Now how to develop good habits or how to get rid of bad habits is a very big topic and it's not possible for me to explain all the possible ways and systems we can use. I would recommend reading books on “habit” to find out all the mysteries and ways of developing good habits.
In this post, we are just going to discuss one tool or system that can be used to develop good habits. It’s called "Habit Tracking". It's actually a simple process but very effective for building habits. In this process what you will do is track one or more habits that you want to develop. I prefer by starting one or may be two habits at a time so that this process doesn't get overwhelmed. Once you will get habituated by this "habit tracking" system you can increase the number! I know, it’s a bit funny that "Habit tracking" is also kind of a habit, but it will be easy if you have an easy tracking system.
Anyways, so yes, pick a habit that you want to develop and start tracking that habit everyday. Don't track just in your mind! Because your mind will fool you and you will start losing track eventually. Better to use a mobile app unless you really carry a paper notebook with you all the time. There are many apps available for iPhone and Android phones. Spend some time and choose a simple one. You don't want to make this habit tracking process too complicated for you as this shouldn't put any pressure on your brain. What you want is just a simple app that you will open once or twice a day just to update your status. If you want you can also use your calendar app or a simple todo list app. Just keep it simple.
At first try to set the goal as small as possible, don't think about the end result. In this process we don't worry if we will end up developing the habit or not, what we care about is to do what we have set for everyday. If you are thinking about your ultimate goal behind developing this habit all the time, you will get frustrated very soon as habits don't form so easily.The results will take time to show up. So don't stress yourself, by setting an unrealistic goal. Set the minimal goal that is possible.
For example, you want to develop a habit of reading books. For that the ultimate vision of having this goal is surely to learn more continuously and improve your life accordingly. But this is a long process and there are no shortcuts for it. So what you need to do is read books everyday and make this reading an automatic process in your life. So starting small and getting happy when you have achieved your daily goal is good enough. You can set a daily goal of reading a book for 10 or 15 mins per day. It's not just reading a book for the sake of reading, but also to understand what you are reading and to grasp the information that you have read. The minimum time of reading shouldn't be such that it won't be valuable in your life. For example, reading a book for 2 minutes! I don't think the number of paragraphs you will read in 2 mins will give you enough insight that you can get benefited from. So at least try to choose a reasonably small amount that will be helpful and set as a daily goal.
Once you have set a goal, use some easy tool to keep track of the habit. You can use an app in your mobile, you can just put a mark in your physical/virtual calendar, you can cross out a bar in your notebook or whatever works for you to keep track. The point is you have some system which you will update once you have completed your that day's goal. First week or two might seem a bit difficult to follow or continue doing the action and keep track. But after a week or so, when you will see the progress, it will motivate you to continue and not break the streak. You will have that satisfaction putting your complete mark in the tracker. And by time you will enjoy the process of doing that task everyday and eventually that action will turn into your habit. Yes, there is no time frame that you should stick to declare that an action has become your habit! But slowly slowly you will see that doing that particular task is not feeling unnatural to you anymore and there is no friction while you do it. When a task becomes automatic and feels natural, that is considered a habit.
I have tried this “habit tracking” process and got benefit from it. If you really want to develop a good habit, you can try this as well. All the best!
** Photo by Blaz Photo at Unsplash