How To Keep Up With Your Daily Habits

Learn five ways to stay motivated and consistent in your daily habits, even when it's hard.

How To Keep Up With Your Daily Habits
Keep going, even just for today. And then do it again tomorrow, and the next, until it's part of your normal. (Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash)

I have written many times about daily habits and shared my experience keeping up with daily reflection and fitness streaks and publishing this newsletter on a regular rhythm. Here are a few examples:

I’m often asked how I’ve been able to keep up the streaks for so long and keep up with writing my articles.

The keys to maintaining any habit on a regular, if not daily, basis are consistency and motivation

  • It’s doing the thing, even when you really, really, really don’t feel like it. 
  • It’s doing the thing, even when you have a lot going on. 
  • It’s doing the thing despite all the other things that demand your time.

The follow-up question is then: 

How do you stay consistent and motivate yourself to do the thing (whatever the thing is for you) and keep up with your daily habits?

Here’s what works for me:

Five ways to keep up with your daily habits

1. Find the value

All three—fitness, reflection, and writing—are important to me because I have found their value in my life.

Fitness: The value is it makes my body and mind feel better. It’s as simple as that. Fitness helps my body process stress when I’m feeling anxious, clears my mind when I feel overwhelmed, and keeps me strong and flexible so I can move.

Reflection: The value is I know myself better and have regular opportunities to improve. It’s also an excellent way to process challenging emotions. Acknowledge and celebrate wins, or lament and learn from failures. It’s a record of my life that I can look back on and appreciate.

Writing: The value is twofold. Professionally, my articles are the primary way people find me to work with. Personally, it’s a creative outlet. Writing consistently keeps articles in the pipeline for regular content publication and also as a way for me to process and share my thoughts.

When you think about whatever habit you want to maintain, ask yourself why. Why is this important to you? What do you get out of it? What’s its value in your day and life? 

Keep that value in mind as a motivator to keep going.

2. Change your self-talk

When I first started my daily fitness streak, it wasn’t with the intention of keeping at it every day for years; It was to do a 30-day yoga challenge, which felt like an amount of time I could commit to. Once I finished the first 30 days, it was easier to commit to the next 30 and then just keep going.

Over time, the conversation in my head changed from:

“Will I do some kind of fitness today?” to “When will I do some kind of fitness today?”

Now, I assume that I will do something every single day. What I do varies depending on the day and how my body feels, but I always do something.

You know you want to keep up your habits and be consistent. Instead of making the decision each day about whether you will do it (and often deciding to procrastinate!) change your self-talk to: When will I do it?

3. Plan ahead

Part of changing that conversation and committing to consistency is planning ahead to make my daily habits possible, regardless of what’s going on in my life.

I have an ideal week calendar to time-block and plan my days. In it, I have a writing block for the first hour of every weekday morning and a fitness block for the 45 minutes before lunch. My daily reflection is the last thing I do before bed.

I am diligent about not booking over these blocks. I do my best to prioritize them and plan my meetings and other commitments around them. 

If you want to stay consistent with your habits, schedule them in your calendar. When they are in your calendar, the blocks hold that time for you. You are less likely to book over them, and it’s easier to establish a routine that includes them as an assumed part of your day, not just a possibility.

Running in Stanley Park. Even on vacation, I planned ahead to get out and do my daily exercise.

4. Be flexible

Of course, sometimes things come up, and the plan has to change! 

Each week, I review my commitments and decide if my writing or fitness blocks need to be moved based on what’s coming up. If I have a day where I can’t do my blocks when I usually fit them, I review the options for moving them around. 

For example, if I have a full day or one I know will be draining, I default to yoga first thing in the morning. For that habit, I am unwilling to skip it, so I make it fit in my day by doing it first. I am more flexible with my writing block, where sometimes it has to be deprioritized for other things.

Also, I occasionally forget to do my daily reflection before I go to sleep or on an evening when I have been out late. I will do it the next day and still consider it keeping my streak.

To maintain your habits, it’s helpful to give yourself permission to be flexible. If you are too rigid, it’s harder to stay committed because it feels like you can never keep to it as your schedule changes or things come up. 

Whether that means deciding it’s ok to miss a day as long as you pick it up again, doing it at a different time of day, or committing to a shorter duration, you can figure out a way to keep at it.

It’s better to do some version of the thing than wait for the perfect time or circumstances!

5. Establish a ritual

I have several daily rituals that help support consistency in my writing, fitness and reflection.

To keep up with my bi-weekly publishing and get in the zone for writing new content, my writing ritual goes like this:

  1. Collect my support items: Blanket, coffee, water, AirPods (for noise cancelling) 
  2. Settle in at my writing desk
  3. Close my email, Messenger, Slack and WhatsApp
  4. Put my phone on Do Not Disturb
  5. Open a Google Doc (either a new one or whatever one I have been working on)
  6. If I only have a certain amount of time available, I set a timer on my watch
  7. Full-screen the document and get to work

This ritual helps ensure I make consistent progress on new content and always have a new article in the queue.

My second daily ritual is for my fitness. Because I work from home and have a lot of flexibility in my schedule, my usual fitness ritual goes like this:

  1. Break at 11:00 am
  2. Do a self-check for how my body is feeling
  3. Check my Streaks App for which type of fitness I have done most recently
    1. If I’m sore, yoga or pilates
    2. If the weather is nice, an outdoor run
    3. If it’s not, an indoor cycle
    4. Otherwise, upper or lower body free weights
  4. Choose a YouTube video from one of my favourite fitness channels 
  5. Put in my AirPods and turn on my audiobook
  6. Start the workout video

After that, I eat lunch, shower, and get on with my day. Doing something physical daily helps me manage my energy, and midday fitness prevents the afternoon slump!

My third daily ritual is my daily reflection. Every night before I go to bed, I spend a few minutes answering the following questions:

  1. What went well today?
  2. What was tricky or didn’t go well?
  3. What would I do differently in the future?
  4. What am I grateful for?

Going through these questions each night helps me process my day, build self-awareness, and keep a history of my life's daily happenings.

One of the central concepts I often remind myself and my clients is that when you say you didn’t have time or were too busy to do something, you’re really saying it’s not a priority

Everyone has the same amount of time each day, and you make choices about what you do with that time. When you think about your habits, consider where they fit in your priorities. If they are high enough on your list, you will make sure they fit into your schedule. Naturally, there is always a caveat: Life happens, and sometimes, these habits must be deprioritized because something else moves up the list. 

The goal is to get back to them when you can. 

  • Remember why they are valuable to you
  • Change your self-talk from if you will do them to when you will do them
  • Plan ahead as best you can
  • Be flexible when you need to be
  • And figure out a ritual to help encourage you to do them. 

Get started to get that momentum rolling!

Need help establishing and keeping up with your habits? Reach out for a free consultation.