Using Habits to Reach Your Goals – Part II

Implementing successful habits is really one of the most critical parts of changing your life. It’s because once something is a habit, it becomes a fundamental part of your life and daily routine.

If that habit is good, it’ll help you each day without little effort. If that habit is bad, well it will restrict your growth until it is removed.

Think of habits like software for your mind. And think of the whole process of analyzing your habits as removing bad ones, adding good ones and monitoring them over time.

If you’ve read my post on my monthly report card system, then you’ve probably seen this next part about The Habit Index. It’s the tool I use to graph overall progress on all of my habits.

A Quick Way to Overwhelm Yourself:

At any given time, I usually have about 10-15 successfully habits activated in my own life.  However, trying to implement all these habits all at once is a recipe for disaster and overwhelm.

My suggestion would be to focus on developing one or two key activities until those become a habit (or something you don’t need to think about doing, it just happens). Typical this can range from 20 to 35 days.

I analyze each habit by looking at how many times I want to accomplish it per week (typically this is once per day, so 7 times a week) and by how many times I actually perform the habits (by measuring your progress over time).

Example, If I perform a habit 5 times out of the 7 days that week, my score on the habit would be 71%. I do this method for each habit, each week.

Before, I would measure each of these habits separately but the resulting graph was an absolute mess. It was really all over the place as shown in the image below:

I still measure each habit separately but then I decided to combine all of the success habits together into a single metric, which I call the Habit Index or (HI) for short. This way you can monitor a single metric and determine if you are improving or declining.

The Habit Index:

The Habit Index approach allows you to implement goals and give out awards for success. If you miss a day when using the habit index approach, you’ll find that you are less discouraged to give up because you know that missing one day won’t destroy your score.

Here’s the formula I use to get the Habit Index (it’s actually really simple).

You add up the percentages for each of your habits from the above graph, then divide it by the number of habits (thus creating an average of the habits, or a habit index).

Here’s an example of the same data shown above as a Habit Index:

You can see that I am slowly implementing new habits and growing my HI. The key here is consistently growing, each day.

Goals and Setpoints:

I think of the Habit Index as a score on a test and each week I review that score and see how it compares to the week before.

Taking this one step further, I then implement a target goal that I want to see my habit score balance at each week. For me, this is around 80%.

I then create a “setpoint”. This is a value that I determine to be the absolute lowest I can go. If I reach my setpoint at any week, I need to take a step back and reevaluate what went wrong.

Maybe I started doing too many late nights, or started an additional project, or etc. The purpose here is to notify yourself once you start to go off track. I use a 60% value as my setpoint currently.

Notice in the graph below that once I hit my setpoint, I bounced back to my goal the following week. If I wasn’t tracking this, I would’ve slowly starting dipping back into the low HI area of -50%.

Here’s a graph of the last several weeks for me, it’s also one of the graphs I use during my monthly reports to monitor progress on my key metrics.


Use Awards to Launch Yourself Forward:

I’ve found implementing an award program to be highly successful in implementing new habits then staying focused to hit them each month. I realize this takes a lot of self discipline but hear me out.

Start small when implementing a new habit. Try giving yourself an award for 7 days in a row of success in a single habit (or an 80% score in that habit). This could be a guilt free Starbucks coffee, something you’ve been wanting to get on Amazon for awhile, or etc. This way you create a game for yourself to achieve new habits. Typically once you get to that 20-35 days, you can start reducing or removing the awards all together.

Once you establish yourself at a habit index of 80% each week, consider then using bigger awards to remain focused.

An example of this could be buying yourself a new watch if you achieve an 80% habit score for 10 consecutive weeks.

Examples of Success Habits:

Your habits may differ from mine but here’s a quick list of some of the habits I’ve used to transform my life:

  • Waking up early
  • Not snoozing
  • No social media (or limited at once per day)
  • Daily physical activity
  • Stretching
  • Journalling or writing in a blog
  • Reading
  • Strength excerise
  • Audiobook or podcast listening
  • Flossing
  • Visualization and affirmations
  • Goal review
  • Meditation
  • 2nd Physical activity
  • Daily gratitude
  • Successful daily diet requirement

Remember start small, track your progress and keep consistent. And don’t forget to reward yourself for making progress!

Best of luck! ~Cheers!

Bill Womeldorf is an energy efficiency consultant and real estate entrepreneur in Boston, MA. He’s typically the one with the reusable water bottle in business meetings. When we all work together, he believes, it’s possible to solve the climate crisis. You can follow Bill on twitter @BillWomeldorf and read more about self-improvement and sustainability on his blog.

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