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8 Rules for creating a writing habit that finally sticks

Are you struggling to make writing a habit? Do you keep pushing it off until tomorrow? Too many times when we try to create a habit or a change in behavior, we try and change too much or too many behaviors at once. This ultimately isn’t sustainable and we crash and burn in failure. It’s like going from running a mile a day to a marathon without any training in between. Or writing for an hour every other week to writing for an hour every day.

Fall is a great time to focus on forming new behaviors because your days are most likely more structured and routine than during the summer. And with the right set of rules to follow, along with determination and commitment, you will finally create a writing habit that sticks.

The Rules

  1. Focus on one habit only. This step is extremely important! When you focus on forming a single habit, versus multiple at a time, your likelihood of retaining that habit for a year or more is around 80 percent. Try forming even two habits at once and your success rate drops to as low as 20 percent.
  2. Define your goal—make it measurable! Just saying, “I want to write every day” is not enough. You need to make your goal measurable so that you can successfully track your progress (see step 5). Your goal can be word count or time based, whichever you believe to be more effective for you, it doesn’t matter. Just be sure to make it specific and measurable so that you have something concrete to strive for daily. Another important note here is to also define what will count toward your writing goal. Will reading literature related to your article count towards your writing goal? Or will only purely writing count? In order to be successful you need to clearly state and define your goal.
  3. Acknowledge that this is a process. 21 days. That is the amount of time commonly thought to be necessary to form a habit. It turns out that number is off, way off. In fact, according to one study this “magical number” can vary greatly from person to person and from habit to habit. However that same study found that, on average, it takes roughly 66 days to form a habit.
  4. Determine your trigger. Having a trigger will help you make sure your habit sticks. A trigger can be anything, like a specific time each day or a constant in your life that will provide consistency. Here’s a simple example: Every morning, regardless of the time, before anything else you sit and have a cup of coffee. Immediately following this “sit and have a cup of coffee” time, you then sit at your desk and write for an hour. Your trigger would be “I just had my cup of coffee.”
  5. Track your progress. This step is crucial. Not only will tracking your progress keep you accountable, it will help motivate you along the way. Plus, how will you know how far you’ve come if you don’t track your progress? Tracking should be done daily.
  6. Make your goals public. I know, this seems scary, but trust me when I say going public with your goals—sharing them on social media, with your friends and family, or your colleagues—will help ensure that you stick with your writing. And if you don’t trust me, trust science. Many studies have demonstrated that going public with your goals increases your likelihood of success by as much as 50 percent. Your peers will support and motivate you, plus hold you accountable along the way.
  7. Anticipate roadblocks. Another key to forming a habit is to know that roadblocks and challenges will arise that will try to steer you off course. Luckily, you anticipated these ahead of time and made an action plan for how to overcome them.
  8. Don’t get stuck on one missed day. Even if you plan for roadblocks and have strategies in place to overcome them, you still may slip and miss a day of writing. Don’t get bogged down in self-blame, this will only set you back further. Instead, forgive yourself and focus on tomorrow so that you don’t miss a second day in a row.

Now that you are equipped with the proper rules to keep in mind for habit forming, you are best set to make this the year you make your writing habit finally stick. Best of luck and happy writing!