As writers, we know that creating good habits can be one of the keys to our success. But building new ways of doing things into our day isn’t easy. Wanting to make changes isn’t enough. How can we transform our intentions into solid results? According to Heidi Halvorson, a psychologist and author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, “The biggest problem is that we rely too much on willpower alone.”
To form a new habit successfully — whether it’s coming up with a daily writing regimen or managing your editing process differently — depending upon willpower alone won’t work. In fact, says Heidi, you have to actually bypass willpower to make a new habit stick. Here’s her advice:
Come up with an action plan: Breaking your goal down into doable action steps and then follow them one by one. To build a workable plan, start with the end in mind: imagine that you’ve already mastered the habit you want to adopt. What would you do differently on a daily basis? Then build a plan that will get you there.
Create a setback strategy: Whatever your new goal, it’s inevitable that you’re going to encounter setbacks. Don’t let them derail you: expect them and have a fall-back strategy. so you’ll be prepared and fortified against them. Then, when those pesky obstacles crop up, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Stick with the program: While conventional wisdom says that it takes 30 days or so to form a new habit, Heidi cautions that there really is no 30-day guarantee. It might take longer, so stay focused and committed. Some people also say that if you skip a day and fall off the wagon, then you have to start all over. Not so. Just get back up and keep going.
How long will it take for you to really feel solid about your new approach? That depends on three things: how difficult the new habit you want to form is, how often you do it, and how different it is from your old approach. Says Heidi: “Imagine a piece of paper with a deep crease. Mastering a new habit is like ironing out the old crease and reinforcing a new one — it takes time.”
What new habit would you like to form on the writing front? You might want to write a certain amount every day or train yourself to write at the same time every day or come up with a revision plan and stick to it. Whatever your goal is, this three-step strategy can help you get there. Write on!