Planning, habit forming and reaching your goals

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This week we are back to looking at planning, forming good habits and keeping your goals in mind as well as recording them.

So, 2021 is still shaping up to be a bit of a disaster when it comes to arranging in person exhibitions. I have had three cancelled for next month, so all those plans are now out of the window, which is sad, but gives me the time to focus on the next projects and use my new journaling system to do so. I do hope that you too have been able to continue with your planning this year and if not, hopefully I can help you to get back on track.

I have managed to keep on using my journal to great effect and I hope that I can encourage you to do so, too. It really has made huge improvements in my daily life. Using the bullet journaling system, I can produce lists of what needs doing, write it in my journal, tick items off in a sensible way, push forward items which don’t happen when planned and all in a totally manageable way. The confusion and all the little pieces of paper have disappeared. Well, almost.

I do take copious notes during meetings (online of course) and I have pages and pages of those which I do need to organise better, but one thing at a time.

So, on a side note I wanted to talk to you about habit forming. Using any new system is likely to be asking you to form new habits. If you type into Google ‘how long does it take to form a habit?’ you will get the answer “It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.”

Now, let’s just break that down a bit because it is not strictly true and came about when a plastic surgeon, Dr Maxwell Maltz, observed back in 1960 that it took his patients a minimum of 21 days to get used to the surgery he had performed on them. For a start off they hadn’t formed a habit; they had to get used to the changes he had made to their bodies. Also – and this is the important bit and the thing most people leave out of Dr Maltz’s observations – he said it takes his patients a minimum of 21 days.

So, I did a bit of digging. Phillippa Lally, a health researcher at University College London (UCL), suggests that a new habit usually takes just over two months – 66 days to be precise – to form, but it can take as much as 254 days to fully form. Don’t despair; some habits are easier than others particularly if you are truly invested in them actually happening. If you would like to read the full report, and I recommend that you do, just click here:

For you one of the really important research findings is that if you miss performing your activity for a few days, it doesn’t matter. You can easily get back on track and simply keep going. So, if you have got to that stage, which around this time (Valentine’s Day) is when most people realise that all the New Year resolutions they made have not been pursued, then don’t panic. You can still get back on track and start planning and organising your year ahead; you just have to want to do it and then you can. It all comes down to one of my favourite sayings: “How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time but a jar of mayonnaise helps.” I hope that I am your jar of mayonnaise.

A book worth checking out if you are interested in creating new habits, or indeed breaking old ones, is Atomic Habits by James Clear, which will show you that small changes in your behaviour and habit forming can lead to some pretty incredible results.

So, coming back to the changes I have experienced and those I have made to the way I record events in my life, I have stopped beating myself up because things I wanted to happen haven’t – and clearly won’t right now – so I have removed them as possibilities from my weekly records.

The first page I have removed is Habit Tracker. I had hoped to record time spent keeping fit, sorting my papers, clearing my clothes and organising my cupboards. The reality is that now is not the time for these things, I have too many other things I have to deal with, some of which I have no control over (house viewings, family issues, etc.) so I am not going to beat myself up every week by having an empty page. Also, I decided to amalgamate the Check In pages, which were for recording my Emotions, Physical actions and Spiritual feelings, with my weekly Brain Dump.

I find looking back on the week or even the last couple of days, covers those topics adequately, but I have included them in the title as a reminder. Another little tweak to my pages was to expand the amount of writing space under the days of the week. I have found that I need more space to write down tasks and a smaller amount of space for the times of the day I need to achieve things. 

As this is a work in progress, I have not beaten myself up for what could appear to some as failures. Instead, I have approached these changes as positive actions to increase my ability to achieve my goals more easily and to record more accurately the things I need to deal with on a weekly basis.

If you started this whole new process with me on January 1st, 2021 and you have not managed to keep it going, don’t despair, just start again from today and carry on. If those empty pages bother you, colour them in; stick stickers in there; doodle there while you are on the phone or stick photos of people, places and objects which bring you joy in there, instead. You simply need to find a way to make you fall in love with your journal and want to use it. Practice makes perfect but we don’t have to strive for perfection. Just having it done is good enough.

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