Habit List app

The app Habit List with the tag line “Build a better you” is an exellent assistant when you want to create new habits or maintain existing habits.

In Strides, Habits and Goals I wrote about my test of the app Strides: Goals & Habits Tracker that I used for a while. The Strides app does more than I need so I returned to using Habit List.

Here’s a list of the habits that I track using Habit List, in no specific order. I limit it to ten habits simply because that’s the maximum I can see at the same time on my phone. For some of the habits I have added time. That time is a goal – it matters more that I at least spend some time on the habit each day.

  • Create 1 hour – write, draw or whatever, something creative
  • Reflect – what works, what doesn’t work, changes needed?
  • Meditation
  • Read books 1 hour
  • Study 1 hour – Udemy and any other courses
  • Gratitude – it’s important (at least to me) to be grateful for what I have and can do
  • Interact & connect – online or offline, it’s important to interact with family, friends etc.
  • Walk daily
  • Exercise daily – gym or my own practice at home
  • Yoga & stretch daily

Those ten habits covers what’s important to me. I revise them now and then, I just replaced two of them.

Habit List is only available for iPhone, similar apps can be found for Android.

Strides, Habits and Goals

Keys to creating and maintaining habits is to be accountable and to be persistent. There are apps that help us be accountable, persistence is up to us.

I have used Habit List for more than two years in order to keep track of my habits and it works really well. Now I want an app that helps me keep track of both goals and habits. I found Strides: Goals & Habits Tracker which seems to match what I want. It has several options (Target, Average, Milestones & Habit) that makes it easy to define what we want to track. I love the dashboard and its graphic overview, it’s very easy to see current status.

What do I track?

As an example, here are the goals and habits I have at present in Strides.

  • Plank (exercise), once a day or more.
  • Pushups (exercise), 25 or more a day.
  • Squats (exercise), 50 or more a day.
  • Situps (exercise), 75 or more a day.
  • Walk at least 30 minutes, daily.
  • Yoga, daily.
  • Meditation, daily.
  • Enjoy and gratitude (mindset), daily.
  • Interact and connect, daily.
  • Eat healthier (health and mindset), daily.
  • Write, an average of 200 words a day.

It’s the goals (how many a day) that made me decide to test out Strides. For my exercises it fairly simple, I want at least a certain number each day. My writing will vary a lot from day to day, that’s why I go for an average instead of a fix number of words per day.

Are you really motivated to change?

We have all been there. Something need to be changed or added in order to improve our life. All that’s needed is to get that done. That’s where the hard part starts. Just like in sales, our worst competitor is status quo. Doing what we already do is so much easier than making a decision to change and then act on that decision.

Action speaks louder than words

What’s needed?

There are a few things needed in order to actually make the changes we want.

  • A goal, what do you want to achieve.
  • A reason, what motivates you to actually change?
  • A plan, when during the day can you do it? Where does it fit in without complicating life too much.
  • Action and perseverance.

Change requires a goal

We need a goal, a colourful attractive goal that works like a lighthouse and shows us where to go. What do you want to achieve? Ignore what others want, changes are all about you and your own motivation.
Write down your goal in just a few words, put it somewhere you can easily see it and be reminded of it.

If needed, break down your goal into sub-goals and steps before planning.

Change requires a strong reason

Change requires action, perseverance, grit and above all a solid to us attractive reason. What’s the reason for us to get up and start doing something? Our reason shall keep us on track and actually do what’s needed. A weak reason makes us try a few times and then it all fades away.

We need a reason so strong that it kills all the excuses we can come up with to get off the hook and do nothing.

Change requires action

Action speaks louder than words. Change requires action. The decision to make a change and thinking about doing it amounts to nothing without action.

Change requires perseverance

Change is like learning to ride a bike. For most of us it takes more than one try. You fall, get up, dust yourself off and get back on the bike. It will work better this time. Changes work the same way. Sometimes we forget or it goes wrong. The key here is to try again, next time will be better.

Make the decision

Making the decision is the easy part. The decision in itself requires no action. Our brain is lazy. It’s pleased by making the decision and doesn’t care much about actually carrying it out. The brain makes us feel pleased and satisfied with making the decision. Once we have made the decision our brain wants to move on to other things. “We’ve made the decision, now let us move on.”

Start small!

When it’s time to actually change our brain gets very creative with excuses to avoid it. “There’s no time today. Let us wait until tomorrow.” “I’ll do it later.” If our goal seems too big we never will get started. It’s too scary, too much effort is required and it will turn into a someday project. “I’ll do it someday.”

The trick is to start small. Our intention is to create a lasting habit. Once that’s done we can expand on it. Start small, your resistance is low and excuses are hard to make up. Instead of saying I want to walk an hour a day, aim for five minutes. Once you’re out it might be more. Instead of saying I want to get 30 minutes of intense exercise each day (starting with none at all), start small with five minutes light exercise to create the habit to exercise each day.

Examples

My morning yoga

Many say you need to do yoga for at least an hour or it will have no real effect. That’s placing the bar high, how many can squeeze an hour of yoga into already busy days? Five minutes of daily yoga practice is far better than no yoga at all. What actually gets done makes more difference than tons of good intentions.

Ten years ago I asked my yoga teacher for a five minute program I could do at home. It’s hard to honestly claim that five minutes of time is impossible to find in a day. I started doing it in the morning, day after day. It turned into a habit and later into a craving, I need it to get a good morning. Over time it has expanded and is now 15-20 minutes each morning. The program has changed over the years. The reason I continue is still the same, I want an agile body.

My daily exercise

Exercise for me has nothing to do with looking or feeling younger. My goal is to exercise daily, my reason is that I want an agile and stronger body as I grow older. The exercises I pick shall require nothing but my body and be able to do anywhere. Knowing it takes time to create lasting habits I added one exercise at a time. By starting small I have over time created a great morning routine.

Nine months ago I started doing squats in the morning. I started with few squats in order to create the habit. By now I do 50 each morning.

Eight months ago I started doing situps every morning. My goal was to create the habit, not setting any records. I started with few situps, the important thing was doing them at all. It has grown over time, now I do 50 situps each morning. That’s something I thought was far out of reach when I started. If my goal had been to do 50 situps I would have given up early, it was too much for me when I started.

Many of you have probably seen the 30 day plank challenge. You start with 10 seconds and then add until you do 3 minutes a day. That kind of challenge does not work for me. A month ago I started doing the plank in the morning. I had the benefits of doing situps for a longer time so once I got started with the plank it was easy to continue.

It’s about you!

What can you do to make your changes easier? To make them at all and then stick to them.

How to ensure that you are the best possible version of yourself

Jonathan Mead is one of my favourite bloggers. He had a guest post at Zen Habits about “7 Essentials For Living Your Fullest Potential”.

As a coach I use the tag line Unlocking your potential. It is your life, make the most of it!. Jonathan’s post is highly relevant, potential is a fussy term. Jonathan writes that:

Even though we may not ever be able to measure our potential, we can develop habits to help us grow. Here are 7 essentials I’ve found to ensure that you are the best possible version of yourself.

The seven essentials are:
1. Have an open mind.
2. Seek out new perspectives and contexts.
3. Ask for what you want.
4. Help other people succeed.
5. Think different.
6. Work smart, not hard.
7. Change your auto-response.

This is a great list and each is point is explained in the post.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.