Celebrate your good habits

On New Year’s Eve, a great many people observe an odd tradition: believing we will become different people the next day. There will be new fonts of willpower. Outcomes that have eluded us before will be in reach!

It’s a nice idea. Whether it works in practice is a different matter.

In the recent goal-setting episode of Best of Both Worlds, Sarah and I talked about the benefit of “process goals” over outcome goals. An outcome is something like “lose 15 lbs.” A process is something like “eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.” Process goals — which are really habits by another name — are more likely to be within our control, and so they can feel more doable. They may lead to traditional outcome goals over time, but even if they don’t, they tend to have a lot of positive effects.

So we were giving a big cheer for process goals, but then Sarah noted that she wasn’t sure about setting more, because she already had a lot of process goals in place. If you think about it, this is probably true for a lot of the productive, successful people who read this blog! You may not even think about some of these because they are so ingrained, but if you didn’t have these habits, they’d take a lot of effort to develop. So why not celebrate them?

If you don’t smoke…you don’t have to put the time and effort into quitting. If you have a calendar you put time-specific commitments on and check frequently…you probably aren’t living in chaos. If you grocery shop and cook meals…you’ll probably eat fairly healthy foods. If you put some money in your retirement account each year…you’ll build wealth over time. If you have a few causes you support regularly…you are making a positive difference in the world. If you floss…you’ll have healthier teeth than you other wise would. If you go to bed at a reasonable time and wake up when you intend to…you have orderly sleep. If you read to your kids and have them see you reading…you build good literacy habits. If you have some process for dealing with bills, permission slips, etc., as they come in, you probably have a well-functioning household!

I’m sure you can add all kinds of things to this list that you do without thinking about too much. So while it’s fine to add new process goals with the new year, it’s also kind of fun to celebrate what’s already there!

In any case, happy new year! I appreciate everyone who makes reading this blog a habit.

In other news: If you’re looking for some productivity books for the new year, please consider checking out some of my titles. 168 Hours is my general guide to time management. Off the Clock is more of the “advanced class” on how to make time feel more rich and full. Or if you’re looking to think differently about money, check out All the Money in the World!

I’ll also be doing a time-tracking challenge from January 4-10. If you’ve never tracked time for a full week, please join me! When you sign up you get daily motivational emails to help you along. I’ll be posting some time logs here too.

Photo: Will this be the year I finally do develop a strength-training habit?

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