Habits can be incredibly helpful. They can help us use our time more efficiently. And they can increase our capacity to do more of what we’d prefer to be doing.
But making an activity become a habit takes time. And focus. And effort.
So much time, focus, and effort that we often confuse the actual activity with the process of making it a habit.
Is your goal the activity or the stress of creating a habit?
Let’s say you want to be making five to ten prospecting calls each week.
When you start the activity, it is really, really hard. You go weeks with only making 1 or 2 calls. You wrestle with the calendar, wondering where you’ll find the time to do these calls. And you realize that to do the calls you need to have the names and numbers of the right people. Gathering that takes even more time.
You feel overwhelmed.
Gradually, you start keeping the time commitment you set with yourself. And you figure out what information you need to effectively make the 5 – 10 calls each week.
After a few months, you even forget you’re making these calls.
Isn’t it odd that when an activity becomes a habit, we can get stressed out?
Overwhelm is not the goal
The very fact that it has become a habit is indicated by the fact that we stop being aware of the activity. We just do it. The prospecting calls are getting made each week.
But since it used to take so much discipline, we start stressing out. Our inner critic wrongly equates the absence of the effort with a worry that we’re slipping in our discipline.
The good news? You’re not slipping. Your activity has become a habit.
Check in to see if you’re experiencing slippage or habit
To prove it to yourself, reflect on the prospect calls you had last week. Did you hit your goal of five to ten?
If so, awesome! You’ve likely built this into a habit. I bet you’ll find you even did these calls outside of any scheduled time on your calendar. That they are happening in the natural flow of your week.
Did you miss your goal? Then maybe this activity isn’t a habit yet. So figure out what was working well when you did make the calls. And try to replicate that this week.
Stress isn’t the sign of success or effectiveness
Too often, we equate “busy” or feeling overwhelmed with being effective. And when we feel peace, or our schedule seems calmer, we get worried that something is wrong.
But our goal in making an activity habitual is exactly to relieve our stress while setting ourselves up for success. So if you’re experiencing an eery sense of calm as you continue to meet your activity goals done, give yourself permission to enjoy it!