2020 taught me to be prepared for uncertainties. In retrospect, my goals for 2020 were not flexible. Everything went for a toss at the first sign of disruption. So when planning my goals for 2021, I was cautious. I focussed on things I could control and weren’t likely to change with circumstances. Instead of working on a major transformation, I explored the power of small habits to make changes to my daily routine.
Every year, I set myself a reading target. I usually start well and stay consistent for a few weeks. Then I would forget about it. Weeks later, I would remember about the challenge and start reading again. This would keep happening. I would achieve my target, but I was never consistent. It never became a routine. For 2021, I still wanted to read more. I broke my reading goal into the smallest possible version I could do every day. I set a target to read for 30 mins every morning. It could be anything -books, magazines, blogs etc. As long as I spent at least 30 minutes reading, I would consider the task done.
I read for 264 out of 365 days.
Inspired by my strategy to be more consistent, I extended this for other goals. I looked at the outcome I wanted to achieve and broke it down into something I could do every day. It worked extremely well for me.
How well, do you ask?
- My days were structured. I was happy to control at least one aspect of my life.
- I was consistent with my habits. I used a habit tracker to track progress. It also doubled up as a reminder.
- I did not have any deadline pressure. Breaking down a goal into a byte-sized habit made it easy to keep the momentum going. Aggregation of marginal gains at its best.
- My schedule was flexible. I could take a few days off without worrying about how it would affect my progress. If I missed one day during the week, I could compensate for it on the weekends.
The first few weeks were obviously challenging. It took some time to find a rhythm that worked for me. Once I played around with my schedule, made some adjustments, and figured out what worked for me, it was a smooth ride.
When I look back at what I’d accomplished in 2021, I do not have great results to show. But I know my habits made every day better. It gave me the time to do things I loved and wanted to do more of. I enjoyed the process.
For 2022, I plan to follow the same approach. I tweaked a few aspects of my schedule based on my current priorities. I’m not sure if I will maintain the same progress as I did in 2021, but I know I will wake up every day knowing I can spend time on things that make a difference in the long run. The habits have become so deeply entwined with my daily routines that it no longer feels like a task. It feels like the right thing to do.