PROBLEM 1: Trying to Change Everything at Once
SOLUTION: Pick one thing and do it well.
The general consensus among behavior change researchers is that you should focus on changing a very small number of habits at the same time.
The highest number you’ll find is changing three habits at once and that suggestion comes from BJ Fogg at Stanford University. Let's be clear: Dr. Fogg is talking about incredibly tiny habits.
How tiny? Suggested habits include flossing one tooth, doing one pushup per day, or saying “It’s going to be a great day” when you get out of bed in the morning. So, even if you keep your new habits that small, you should work on no more than three habits at a time.
Personally, I prefer to focus on building one new behavior into my life at a time. Once that habit becomes routine, then I move on to the next one. For example, I spent six months focusing on going to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Once that felt like a routine, then I moved on to my next habit, which was writing a new article every Monday and Thursday. This time, I spent eight months focusing on the new habit until it became part of my lifestyle. Next, I moved on to flossing every day. And so on. You get the idea.
BONUS SOLUTION: Pick a keystone habit.
Still struggling? When in doubt, pick something that could potentially be a keystone habit.
A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. For example, weightlifting is my keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a ripple effect in other areas of my life. Not only do I get the benefits of working out, I enjoy a wide range of secondary benefits. I focus better after the workout. I tend to eat better when I’m working out consistently. I sleep better at night and wake up with more energy in the morning.
Notice that I didn’t try to build better habits for my focus, my nutrition, my sleep, or my energy. I just did my keystone habit and those other areas were improved as well. This is why keystone habits are powerful. They cascade into other areas of your life. You’ll have to figure out what your keystone habit is for you, but some popular examples include exercise, meditation, or budgeting your monthly finances.
Further reading: Keystone Habits: The Simple Way to Improve All Aspects of Your Life