How I Like to Slowly Begin a New Habit

raindrops on a lake

A gentle rain that begins slowly often lasts longer.

I Like to Begin a New Habit Slowly

At this time of year, it’s natural to become enthusiastic about starting new things. With a whole new year ahead, the mind gets excited about what it could do. But unfortunately, most of us bite off more than we can chew and end up dropping new plans within a few weeks.

Here’s how I like to begin new things (at any time of year).

Phase 1: Contemplating the Idea

Before I jump in with a new routine, I like to sit with the idea I’m considering for a while. I may take several weeks, or months, or even years considering adding something to my routine.

The reason I like to take my time is that my time is limited. That’s just reality.

There are only so many hours in a day and, when I do too much, I end up feeling stressed instead of excited. So, as I consider whether to add something to my routine, I’m considering it along with my other priorities.

Is it a higher priority than something I’m already doing?
How much time will it take?
Is there a niche in my day that would work for this?

As I sit in these questions, I consider all the options, and mentally experiment with it. Over time, it becomes clear what the priorities are and whether it is doable or not.

Some great ideas wait a long time before I add them to my routine. But I’d rather wait than overburden myself. And some great ideas get left behind. As I get in touch with my true priorities, these things sort themselves out.

Phase 2: Getting on the To Do List

Once I’ve decided that this new practice is something I really want to do, and that I really can fit it into my routine without overburdening myself, I start adding it to my to do list every day.

I have a flexible to do list. Every day of the week has a template of basic things I want to do that day. Each morning, I copy my template for the day to my active to do list and I prioritize it. I also add any special or unexpected jobs for that day. The most important things go to the top of the list, and less important things stay at the bottom.

I know that I will probably not get everything done on my to do list every day, and I’ve become very comfortable with that. Regardless of whether I finish everything that day, at the end of the day I cross out any of the recurring items at the bottom of the list that I never got to by the end of the day. Even though I didn’t do them, I am reminded that they are something I’m working towards doing.

Phase 3: Checking in for Just a Minute Daily

As I start seeing my new routine showing up on my to do list every day, I start looking for ways to actually do it. The first way, is simply to open up the project for a minute. I may do very little in that time, but at least I opened it up, even for just one minute. And I can check it off for the day.

I find, as I keep opening it every day, I want to spend a little more time doing it. So it starts to catch, and soon I’m spending 5 or 10 minutes, or more, every day on it. It’s amazing how much I can do with just 10 min a day.

Meanwhile, I’m still juggling my to do list and working through items in order of priority. In fact, after every item that I complete on my to do list, I revisit my list and rearrange things as priorities continue to shift during the day.

Phase 4: Booking Time in my Calendar

Time in my calendar is reserved for my highest priorities that I’m committed to giving regular time to. If I notice that I’m opening and working on one of my new practices every day consistently and it really has become a high priority for me, then I block out some time in my calendar for it. My very highest priorities tend to go at the beginning of the day.

This feels very nice to me. I can now count on time for this practice each day. And all of the other items on my to do list will have to fit around it.

Of course, if my priorities change again, I can always remove it from my calendar time and put it back on my regular to do list. The key for me, is continuing to listen to my ever-changing priorities. As they change, I adjust with them.

Guilt-Free Practice

I love this way of doing things for many reasons:

1. I am never pushing myself to do something.
2. I respect my priorities as they continue to change.
3. I remain realistic as I experiment with new practices.
4. It is not stressful.

My way may not be your way. This is just how my mind works, and I share it only for you to see it as an option. Your mind will find its own best way. if you have an idea you want to share with me, send me an email.

Here’s wishing you a happy 2019!

“The Work wakes us up to reality. When we take it on as a practice, it leaves us as flawless, innocent, a figment of pure imagination. Practicing inquiry takes us to the Buddha-mind, where everything, without exception, is realized as good. It leads to total freedom. Why would you want to experience a problem and pretend it isn’t there—to skip over it and find just some tiny place inside you that’s free? Don’t you want to find freedom with every breath? Nothing exists but the concept in the moment. Let’s meet that now with understanding.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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