You’ve heard about goals. And you’ve heard about habits.
Ever wondered how the two are related?
Goals are essentially the accumulation of small actions in the right direction over time.
A really easy way to make sure that this happens, is to create a daily habit to help you progress actions towards your goals.1It might have to be more than one daily habit. Just saying.
Why Create Habits To Get Goals?
Creating habits, especially daily habits, is one way to go about goal getting. It is not the only way.
I believe however, that habits are one of the better ways to go about achieving goals. The simple act of doing a habit daily helps exercise and train our self-discipline, which is a virtue and thus a good thing.
Some people say that habits are unnecessary because once you have achieved a goal, there’s no need to have a daily habit.
No goals consist only of once-off tasks.
For example, you may set a health and fitness goal that requires a daily habit of regular exercise. Once you have achieved that goal, you will want to maintain the habit to keep your health and physique.
A Systematic Way To Create Habits To Support Your Goals
Here is how you can systematically create habits to support your goals.
1. Be Clear On What Your Goal Is
The first step is to be clear on what your goal is.
Make sure that you have set up your goals properly, using OKR, S.M.A.R.T., well-formedness conditions or some combination thereof.
Be clear on what the goal is, and what the process will be to get there.
2. Discover The Daily Habit
The second step is to discover what the daily habit is.
I purposely use the word discover, because the habit you need to undertake already exists somewhere in the world.
Start by asking yourself:
“What small action can I take daily that helps with the process of achieving this goal?”2Remember, it could be more than one small action per day.
If you can’t answer this yourself, it is time to use technology to your benefit and hop on Google and look for someone who has achieved this goal before.
For 99% of goals, someone else has walked the path already. Just find out what they did, and modify it for your own goal.
Once you have uncovered the habit, write it down and get specific. Make sure you know:
- What mental or emotional state you need to be in to do this habit.
- The exact physical action you need to perform.
- If the habit has a time limit.
- If the habit happens at a specific time of day.
One caveat with this step is to be wary of false progress – of doing things that seem productive, but really aren’t helping you progress towards your goal.
A common example would be people who spend all their time “learning”, “preparing” or “deciding”, without actually doing.
The way to avoid this would be to make sure that there is a strong action-bias to your chosen habit.
3. Set Up a System To Make Sure The Habit Happens Daily
The third step is to set up a system to ensure that the habit occurs daily.
You can engage your rational mind by having the habit clearly written out and defined, as per step two.
You can engage your emotional mind by visualising yourself doing the habit – and also what it will be like after you have achieved your goal.
You can set up your environment to help encourage you to practice the habit daily.
The simplest way to do this is to use a daily reminder, be it:
- A post-it.
- A calendar appointment.
- A task list item.
- A journal item.
- A physical reminder – like sticking your water bottle and gym shoes next to the front door, so you always see them before you leave the house.
If you have your Time Management Stack set up, you already know which systems you pay the most attention to – insert the new habit into those.
An Aside: Some Cool Benefits
If you have gone through the three steps above, you will have also discovered a couple of cool benefits:
- You now know how to think about goals and projects systematically.
- You now know how to break down big goals into smaller actionable steps.
Example Goals and Supporting Habits
The process for deriving daily habits from goals above is generative. You can take it and apply it to any goal you choose.
I don’t usually like to give content examples for generative processes, but in this case they are illustrative enough to be helpful.
Example: Learning Mandarin3If you are serious about learning Mandarin, I would recommend checking out Olle Linge’s site Hacking Chinese.
Goal: Conversational fluency in Mandarin. Habit: Set aside 30 minutes daily and practice one of the four skills (listening, reading, speaking, writing). System: * Visualise self speaking in Mandarin. * Set a calendar appointment for 5:30pm daily to practice Mandarin for 30 minutes.
Example: Getting Over Fear Of Public Speaking
Goal: Be able to get up and make a speech without being paralysed with fear. Habit: Join Toastmasters and show up weekly (they have their own program progression). System: * Visualise self going to Toastmasters and speaking to group, confidently. * Calendar appointment for going every Tuesday at 6:30pm.
Example: Build A Social Media Following
Goal: Build a following of 100,000 followers. Habits: * Create content daily. * Post content daily. * Reply to all comments daily. System: * Task list reminder for each of the habits above. * Question at end of every week if I need to adjust any of my tactics (hashtags, content type etc).
Example: Bulk Up
Goal: Gain 15kg in the next 18 months. Habits: * Eat 4,000 calories daily. * Exercise 5 times weekly. System: * Write out exact meal plans for every day. * Calendar appointments for exercise times. * Calendar appointments for meal times.
What To Do Next
You now have a simple three-step system for creating habits to support your goals.
Start with one goal. Discover the habit. Set up a simple system to make sure it happens daily.
If it works well for you, pick the next goal and do it again.
For more on goal getting, see my guide here.
- It might have to be more than one daily habit. Just saying.
- Remember, it could be more than one small action per day.
- If you are serious about learning Mandarin, I would recommend checking out Olle Linge’s site Hacking Chinese.