Today I’ve learned the importance of keeping a new ritual going every day if you’re trying to form a new habit, however simple it may seem. Views differ on how long it takes to form a habit, but most people seem to agree that a month should do it.
After being inspired recently by a superb TEDx talk from Mel Robbins (see my previous post) I’ve been getting out of bed each morning (except on Sundays) as soon as my alarm went off at 6am.
Yesterday, after making the excuse to myself that I’d had a late night the night before, I decided to stay in bed until 6.30am. That wasn’t so bad – I still managed to get a fair bit of sorting done before 9am – but later that morning I resisted the urge to get back to work and spent far longer in the local village coffee shop than I normally do.
This morning I decided to lie in until 7am – then my wife offered to make coffee and bring it up for me whilst I read; then after that she brought me breakfast. I eventually got up at 8.45am.
This morning I ate into the time I really wanted to use to get on with my internet marketing work, by catching up on emails (which I’d cleared down completely earlier in the week but had started to let mount up again) and procrastinating over a job I didn’t want to do, and still haven’t yet done, even though I know it will probably take me less than an hour. It’s now approaching lunchtime and I haven’t got the job done or started any internet marketing work (with the exception of this all important blog post to share my findings with you and ensure I get back on track this afternoon).
I’ve now realised just how powerful the whole ‘getting up when the 6am alarm goes’ ritual really is – and more importantly, why.
Have you noticed that if someone drops a piece of litter in a litter-free area, or dumps something down out of place in the house, one of two things happen; either someone else sees it as such a blot on an otherwise perfect landscape that they feel compelled to pick it up and deal with it – or they see it as an invitation to dump more stuff down. So either the situation gets dealt with straight away, or it becomes part of a downward spiral, leading to a lot of extra time and effort down the line to sort it out.
Learning to jump out of bed at 6am is not just about getting up early and having 3 hours to deal with stuff before 9am, which could otherwise distract me from what I really want to focus on – it’s about forming the habit of overcoming resistance. And guess what? On the days I’ve overcome the resistance of getting up in the morning, it’s been easier to overcome the resistance of doing other tasks I didn’t want to be doing – and I’ve been able to chip away at those before 9am, feel really great for having made that progress and then have a full day to get on with the stuff I really want to be doing.
The moral for me is clear – never underestimate the cumulative power of a simple task; and if it’s working for you, make sure you stick with it every single day until it becomes automatic (ie turns into an empowering habit, which will literally pull you towards a better life).