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6 Mistakes When Building a New Habit

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I am like a magpie when it comes to new and smarter ways to organise my time. Although I, generally speaking, am an old school pen and paper girl, I will always check out habit tracking and to do list aps to see what’s about. The ap itself might not be for me but you never know, they might be using a system or categorising method I haven’t seen before (hasn’t happened yet).

It doesn’t matter what method you use really. What is most important is that you find something that suits you and your life. There is no 1 size fits all, but there are some common traits I have noticed when running towards a new habit.

Too many options lead to nothing

Your brain is an amazing tool, a miraculous gift from the universe that we all have at our disposal. It has great power but also some limitations we need to work with.

New habits and actions require more mental power because… its new, a bit like learning a new skill. We have to access different information that differentiates from our ‘normal behaviour’, using more cognitive brain power and energy. A bit like tying your shoe laces the first 100 times.

The optimum number of new habits to integrate into your routine at one time is 1,2 or 3. Trying to be Wonder Woman by going from a couch potato to a 5-mile run, 3 balanced meals, a weights session, 8 hours of sleep and 3 litres of water a day is quite frankly, nonsense.

Start with a couple of things, cement them and then grow and develop them for maximum staying power and long-term results.

Not being practical 

Its true that we all have 24 hours in a day. I love this saying because it reminds me every day that Oprah, Tony Robbins and the pizza delivery guy all have the same amount of time resources available to them. However, we all have different levels of previously allocated commitments that fill up some of that time. Maybe you work long hours, have small children…. Or both. These leaves us different amounts of time and different schedules available for other activities.

Look at your schedule, and resources. Do you have limited time during the day or small windows throughout? Personally I like to read on my commute and meditate first thing in the morning for 10 minutes before my brain has a chance to remind me of all the ‘important’ tasks I have to get done.

If your habit it drinking more water, do you always have a bottle with you?

Getting creative will be your biggest asset and turning ‘dead time’ into ‘productive time’ leaves ‘free time’ for the evenings. Playing to the strengths you have will always serve you well.

Remember, always speak in the positive

My focus everyday is always adding more amazing stuff in instead of taking things away. It is so important to keep your mind in a growth mode. Focusing on the ‘I cans’ rather than the ‘I cant’s’ with the focal point of your day being fitting in your daily habits and main priorities is hugely powerful. 

Think about how all of your priorities will fit into your day. Which will be done at a certain time and which need to be maintained throughout. Once this is done you can fit everything else in and around or after them. This doesn’t mean depriving yourself, or skiving a day off work, just manipulating the time you have in your favour.

This principle works for clean eating. If you have to make sure you eat 8 portions of fruit and veg and 120g of protein (for example) it is unlikely you will have the space to fit a lot of other ‘bad’ foods in.

Expecting too much too soon

It has been documented for years that it takes ’21 days’ to create a habit. I don’t like being the barer of bad news but this isn’t strictly accurate.

It can take us anywhere from 70 up to 200 days to really cement a new habit and truly make it automatic. As with everything, there is a lot of variables, it depends on the habit itself, how easily you take to it or whether you have previously done something similar.  

I have had ‘take daily vitamins’ on my habit tracker for MONTHS and 99% of the time I take them ONLY because I have seen it on my tracker- not because it is a habit yet. 

Use the end of each month to evaluate things. Think about what has become more of less automatic and why. Some things will come easier than others.

Not being specific

There is a tendency to add in habits such as ‘self-care’ to our trackers. The hurdle you will face every day is ‘what shall I do for that?’ The more you have to think, the less likely you are to do. 

Looking for the path of least resistance is something I swear by and making everything idiot proof is key, especially when you have a packed day.

Instead of ‘self-care’ try using a specific action such as ‘meditate’ or ‘go for a walk’. Habits like this can also be multifunctional and serve several purposes (2 birds, 1 stone is always a winner) as well as taking out the thinking process.

Want to work out in the morning? Get your kit all ready so you can just roll out of bed and put it on, instead of having to think about it, find the right stuff and get dressed- by this point I would have definitely gone back to bed or at least talked myself out of it.

Look for impact over substance

When we think of high impact, we usually think of difficult workouts or strenuous activities and most of us already know the phrase ‘form over substance’. Good form and high impact are 2 keys words to keep in mind when adding a new habit into your tracker. 

If something is worth doing it is worth doing right. Doing something half arsed is no good to you. If its too difficult to execute daily, change it. If you can’t manage 5km a day because of your fitness level, reduce it to 2km. As your fitness level increases each month you can upgrade the habit.

If you want to create a Miracle Morning routine but don’t have time, why not have your first habit to get up half an hour earlier than normal. This has been a game changing habit for me because it has added extra time in my day! You might be pretty brain dead and useless for that half an hour for the first week but as you build the habit, you will adapt. Don’t worry about filling that time with lots of things to start with if it’s too hard, every day will get easier.

What are the biggest mistakes you have made and how did you overcome them?

Lucy sign off

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