Back on day eight, I mentioned that by getting that far through NaNoWriMo, you’d already gotten past two of the primary “I quit” days in the month: Days 3 and 7.
Today, we’re past day 21. If you’ve gotten this far, and you’re still here, I think you’re going to do okay. In fact, I think you’ve probably picked up an unexpected benefit from this month; a habit.
(And no, I don’t mean the caffeine or chocolate addition. Can’t help you with those: sorry.)
A number of the classes I teach at my day job have to do with modifying your own behavior (time management, verbal communication, how to not be a pain in the ass for everyone who reads your email or anything else you write, et cetera), so when I talk about what needs to change, I also talk about how to change that habit or, more to the point, how to make the change stick.
Changing a habit is always the hard part, after all, and it’s why people fail at things like ‘keeping the house clean’ or ‘saving money’ or ‘maintaining a healthy weight.’
Usually, this failure stems from one simple thing: none of those goals involve changing just one habit; they require changing a lot of habits and frankly people aren’t very good at changing a lot of habits at the same time. In order to make progress, you need to pick one habit out of the whole mess, and focus on that.
There are, in fact, steps.
- 1. Commitment. Commit yourself to a habit change, big time. Make your commitment as public as possible.
- 2. Practice. Changing habits is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice. Most people suggest challenging yourself to a 30-day Challenge and try to do your new habit every single day for 30 days.
- 3. Tracking. It’s best if you log your progress every day. This will make a successful habit change much more likely.
- 4. Rewards. Reward yourself. Do so often, early on — every day for a week or so, then every three days, then the end of every week, and then at the end.
- 5. Focus. It’s hard to do more than one or two habits at a time — you can’t maintain focus — so just pick one.
Does… any of this sound familiar?
I want to congratulate you. Not on winning NaNoWriMo – that’ll come – but on something much more valuable: on building a writing habit.
It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?