“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.” – Barbara Jordan

Today is Saturday and I love it. Out of the 7-day week, Saturday is my day to do whatever. I sleep in. I get a lot of reading done. I listen to a few good pieces of music while I lounge around and read my latest book. I think it is a good move to have a “do whatever” day. It gives us the freedom to really do what we want, when we want, or do nothing at all. There is a caveat to this “do whatever day”, however. Mine is my habits, which I am trying to build. These I do not miss.

For me, my current habits daily are writing, reading, working out, flossing, and meditating. With all of the advice of minimizing, some may say this list is a little big. Well, I guess it is, but some of these I’ve pretty much mastered and about ready to pull from my daily reminder list. I use an app called Habit Bull for my reminders. It is literally nothing more than a list of my habits that I click on when I’ve completed a task. I typically run them for 99 days. I know the research out there says 66, but 99 is my way of really making sure that the neuropathways in my brain are solidified before adding another habit.

I also start very small with my habits. When I started the writing habit, I stuck with about 300 words a day. When I started my reading habit, it was just one article online or a page in a book. When I began my workout routine a long time ago it was 10 minutes on an exercise bike.

Starting small is really crucial to the habit-building process. I start ridiculously small. Write a sentence. Read a paragraph or page, or doing one pushup is what I’m talking about. This may seem silly, but your brain doesn’t know the difference. All it knows is that you are doing something new. Once you’ve done this for a few weeks, the brain begins to “expect” to do this thing you do every day now. When this expectation occurs is dependent upon the individual. I tend to feel a shift in the habit’s solidity when I start feeling a need to do something. It’s almost like I become addicted to doing this one thing.

There are many folks who want to get rid of bad habits. You can apply the same process. Let’s say you want to minimize your caffeine or sugar intake. First, you have to know what level of consumption you are at. Once you do this, take a little bit away.

Let’s say you have 6 cups of coffee a day. Some may think this is a large amount, others may say, that doesn’t even dent my level of coffee consumption. Instead of having that 6 cups a day, chop it away to 5 or 5 ½ cups a day. Do this for a week. Write this one thing down on a pad, a journal, or some app reminder you use. Right before going to bed, check it off your list. Once you do this for a week, chop it down again to 4 or 4 ½ cups per day. Keep doing this until you have your coffee consumption down to where you want it. Believe it or not, I used to be a 10+ cup a day person. I’m down to two. My initial plan was never to quit coffee altogether, but to lower my consumption. Once I hit my goal of two (one in the morning and another mid-morning), I pulled this from my habit creation list and moved on to the next.

You can do this with anything you wish, but I would start with those really heartfelt goals you have for yourself. Start with the really impactful habits. Here’s a list you can start with:

Negative habits you want to remove:

  • Lower nicotine intake to one cigarette a day
  • Lower coffee consumption to one or two cups a day
  • Lower your sugar intake to two cheat meals a week

Positive habits you want to add:

  • Read a page a day
  • Write a sentence a day
  • Do one pushup a day
  • Drink one glass of water a day
  • Meditate for 5 minutes each day
  • Plan or brainstorm for 5 minutes each day

Obviously, this list is not all-inclusive. Our habits are a very personal thing. Whether we want to remove things we don’t like or add things we are not doing is a personal choice. My advice would be to pick just one thing that would have an immediate and long-lasting impact on your life. My first habit ever was working out.

There’s another thing about habit building. Once you grow one habit, you’ll decide later that you want to improve that habit even more. Then you add that new habit to your list and continue to pursue others, which is why my list has 5 on it, instead of only one or two. My workout habit is pretty well established, along with my reading habit. My writing, meditation, and flossing habits are still in the infantile stages and ones that I am really focusing on to solidify.

If you want more advice on this habit-building regimen, you’ll want to take a look at a book called Mini Habits by Steven Guise. This is a great book and one that will explain why this mini habit process is founded in many psychological principles.

Some habits are beneficial, while others are really horrible for you. Think about the person you would like to become and utilize the steps listed in this book or here. It is really this simple. Here are some apps that can help you as well:

HabitBull (compatible for Android and iPhone) – simple habit-building

ToDoist (compatible for Android, iPhone, and The Web) – simple routine-building to-do list

Once you have established some good habits, you can begin building what has been called a routine or ritual. These are the things you do every day without fail in the morning and evening. The morning routine could be as simple as get up, make the bed, meditate, eat breakfast, brush teeth. Your evening routine could be as simple as take a shower, brush teeth, get out clothes for tomorrow, listen to calming music, read, and retire.

Routines solidify your habits into a regimen of activities, triggering one event after another. You can see my habit of brushing teeth (and flossing) in both routines. When I was working full time, I had a mid-day routine, which also included reading, eating lunch, and brushing teeth. Routines become a macro habit once you have done it for a while. The key again is to start simple. Yours maybe get up at this time, make the bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, head to work. Whatever you decide for your daily rituals is up to you, but another great way to automate your day by building habits of activity structures that you automatically do every day without fail, using one habit to trigger another.

Well, I’m off to the enjoy the rest of my “do whatever day”. I hope you enjoy the picture of the cookies featured in this posting. They are my Mom’s Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

Until next time…