A new habit, one month in

A little over a month ago, I had a scheduling epiphany. I had been saying (possibly for years) that I should do regular strength training. I was also frustrated with a small chunk of time in my “typical” weekday schedule that I could not see how to use well. After running my 11-year-old to middle school (or clearing the breakfast dishes), I had about 15 minutes before I started getting my 9- and 7-year-old out to the bus stop. I deleted emails that had come in overnight, or did administrative work (like mailing a check or filing an invoice) but it felt like a waste.

Then, a little over a month ago, I thought, hey! I should use that 15 minute window for strength work!

So I looked up some kettle bell exercises, and pulled out my resistance bands. I pulled together a routine and committed to noting on my time logs when I did it.

I realized, quickly, that this habit had a high chance of sticking. There’s a definite cue (I walk into my office around 8:10 a.m.). I’m using time I otherwise wasn’t using. There’s also a time limit (15 minutes!) so I’m not biting off more than I can chew. I get the payoff of writing my workouts down. (I suppose eventually I might be more buff but the habit is in its infancy!) All of these help distinguish a reasonable habit from wishful thinking.

So, a month in, how have I done?

The answer is reasonably, though it’s interesting to see how how often “typical” days happen in practice. If I were to describe a typical day, it would definitely involve my weight routine. However, for various reasons, I did the routine 3/5 weekdays the week of March 4, 4/5 weekdays the week of March 11, 4/5 weekdays the week of March 18, 2/5 weekdays the week of March 25, and 4/5 weekdays the week of April 1st. I did my weight routine every day I could reasonably be in my office at 8:10, but during that month, I had two morning kid conferences, two work trips requiring travel, one morning where I hadn’t managed to eat (so I elected to do that before jumping on my first phone call) and one morning where I had to shovel snow off the driveway.

In other words, what I might be tempted to describe as my “daily” habit never happened more than 4 times per week.

But! Four times a week is better than nothing. So is three times a week or twice a week. A month in I am enjoying my habit and I see no reason I’d stop. I probably won’t lift weights while we travel over spring break, but when I return to my office after, the cue — the weights and the time — will still be there, so I think I’ll be able to pick back up again.

Have you made a new habit stick? What were your strategies?



3 thoughts on “A new habit, one month in

  1. I actually picked up a habit pretty similar to yours about a month ago – doing strength training for ten minutes post baby bedtime each day. There are a number of reasons why this is an easy habit to make stick – ten minutes is a really short period of time, so there’s less room for excuses. 8 pm is baby bedtime each day, give or take ten minutes, and it’s a clear unambiguous trigger. I can turn Fitness Blender on our living room TV in a couple of clicks. We already have rubbery flooring there to make it easier for our toddler when he falls. And we stash the weights in a box underneath the couch, so they’re right there. Finally I’m enlisted my husband to do it with me, and we egg each other on (to be fair, more me egging him on, but that’s fun in its own way). All that said, we do end up skipping days – just feeling super tired out, my husband needs to get a bit more work in or I do. But we’ve been able to stick to it more days than not, which feels good!

  2. I love a good chart. Being able to keep track of my progress and add a mark of completion makes me feel accomplished and keeps me in check. This year I’ve added a simple fitness goal to my regular gym and running routines — jumping rope for 300 days. I don’t have to do much, just 100 strokes minimum (though I don’t stop until I make a misstep. Sometimes this means I have to add 5-6 attempts to get to my goal. Sometimes this means I almost reach 300.) The chart has been a motivator and a reminder. I also tried to build the habit into already established routines (as James Clear suggested in ATOMIC HABITS). On gym days, I bring my rope and jump after class. On running days, I jump after I walk the dog.

    It’s been satisfying and fun!

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