Select Page
How to develop good habits (+ FREE Habits Tracker)

How to develop good habits (+ FREE Habits Tracker)

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Many of us look for the ‘secret sauce’ to success but the secret sauce is really what we do every day.  The little, seemingly unimportant activities that soon add up over time.

The Bloom philosophy is all about the Long Game!  Flourishing doesn’t happen overnight, it’s very much a journey. But I love to find ways of making that journey as easy and painless as possible and I believe that cultivating positive daily habits is a sure-fire way to make your journey to success a lot easier!

What exactly are habits?

They’re the things we do on autopilot every day, without really having to think about them.  Waking up and checking your phone first thing in the morning? That’s a habit.  Getting up and making your bed (or not!)?  Habit.  Brushing your teeth?  Another habit.  Probably even the way you brush your teeth is a habit – starting on one particular side of your mouth perhaps, the manner in which you actually brush your teeth, we do this without really consciously thinking.

And so it goes throughout the day, most of our actions are a series of habits.  The route you to take to work / school or wherever you go.  What you eat for lunch.  How you spend your time.  The things you do out of habit every day saves your brain from having to think hard about every little thing you do, it’s far easier to automate many of the routine things you do instead, like tying your shoelaces or starting your car.

Become aware of your daily habits

So what habits fill your typical day?  Chances are you’re not even fully aware of them yourself and that’s because you don’t give much thought to these things when you’re doing them!  To become consciously aware of what habits fill your day, it’s a great idea to make a note throughout your day of exactly what you’re doing from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.  Because we do most of these things without thinking, consciously taking the time to track your habits can be a real eye opener!  You might find that you spend an hour or two aimlessly scrolling through social media Every Single Morning.  That’s 7-14 hours hours a week.  30-60 hours a month.  See how seemingly small habits soon stack up?  Or maybe you find that every mid-morning you make yourself a cup of tea and reach for the biscuit packet by default.  And devour half of the contents!  Or flop on the sofa every evening and spend five hours binge-watching Netflix.  Take notes of your daily habits for at least a week, ideally two and you’ll soon see interesting trends emerging!  And this is also where you realise that all the seemingly insignificant things you do every day, compounded over a long period of time, can end up harvesting BIG results.  Your aim, of course, is to harvest GOOD results which will stem from GOOD habits!

Once you become aware of your daily habits, it’s time to take control and decide what habits you want to develop going forward instead of being at the mercy of the habits you’ve already programmed into your brain.  Hopefully you do already have some good habits going and that’s great, you want to continue building on those!  Now it’s time think of other positive habits that will help you get to where you want to be.

 Use a habits tracker

I love a good old checklist to keep me laser focused on what I need to do and for this reason I created my very own Habits Tracker, which is now part of my Born to Flourish® planner-journal as a tool for my planner-journal users to make use of.  It’s a simple one pager, covering a one month period, where I can think about and then write down the habits I want to practice daily that month and then check them off each day that I actually practice the habit.

Using this habits tracker serves two main purposes – firstly, I print and stick the habits tracker up on my office (or bedroom) wall where I will see it every day; this reminds me what I need to be doing, what I need to be spending my time on and that I need to check this off by the end of each day as having been done!  Secondly, as I check off my habits each day, the patterns and trends that start to emerge make it crystal clear to me where I’m doing well and where I’m slacking and need to improve.  That way I know which areas to focus on more the following month.

You can download my Habits Tracker for FREE using the link below – it’s a huge help to keep you focused on the activities you should be spending your time on!  I print and use this every month and would be rather lost without it 😊

 

So how do you decide what habits to write down and track?

Your habits vs the bigger picture / your goals

I personally like to link my habits to the goals I am trying to achieve, so looking at your longer-term goals – the bigger picture – is a great place to start.

What are your goals, what are you trying to achieve?  Once you know what your bigger goals are, you can then decide what daily habits will help you take steps towards those goals. 

So, for example, if one of your goals is to get into the best shape of your life in the next 12 months, what daily habits would you need to practice to achieve that goal?  Maybe habits relating to your diet, sleep and exercise?  Under ‘diet’, you could decide to form a habit of drinking 2 litres of water every day.  Under ‘exercise’ you could decide to form a habit of doing at least 30 minutes of intense exercise every day – or go to the gym at least 3 times a week.  Under ‘sleep’ you could make it a habit to be in bed by 10pm every night.  That’s already 3 daily habits you have linked to your longer-term goal of getting into the best shape of your life.  You could, of course, add more habits that will support that goal!

Perhaps another goal of yours is to start a side hustle to make extra money.  What sort of habits could you develop and track every day linked to this side hustle goal?  Wake up an hour earlier to get in an extra hour of building up your side hustle?  Listening to at least 3 good podcasts a week to learn new skills?

I’m sure you get the idea now! 

By thinking of your key goals, writing down in your habits tracker the habits that will take you in the direction of those goals, and then tracking those habits each month, you will find yourself in a much better position to achieve your goals!  Or – perhaps you have a shorter-term goal that still needs your daily habits tracked.  Perhaps you’re training for a run that’s a month or two away and you want a rock-solid routine to help you get into the best possible shape for race day – you can use the habits tracker to write down all the daily habits you need to practice every day until race day.

Recommended reading to help you develop good habits

I absolutely believe that our daily habits are one of the key factors to achieving success, to reaching our goals and dreams.  I highly recommend that you read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits – this book is an absolute must-read if you want to learn how to develop positive habits AND stop the pesky negative habits!  As you work through your habits tracker and you find that you’re really struggling with some habits, this book will give you the tools you need to nail those habits.  And once you nail your habits, you will find it soo much easier to reach your goals and dreams. 

I plan to do a book review soon on ‘Atomic Habits’ so watch this space!

And … don’t forget to download your FREE Habits Tracker above!

What season of life are you in?

What season of life are you in?

As I write this blog post, spring is starting to awaken here in England. Spring is like a new year to me – a fresh start, a new beginning, time to step out of hibernation and get out there!

But even though it’s officially spring over here and I can see all the signs of spring coming to life around me, as we change seasons, I can’t help but think about the seasons we all experience in our own lives, in our own journeys. While it may look like spring ‘out there’, we may not be experiencing a spring ourselves right now.

In my Born to Flourish planner-journal the first section is titled ‘Learn’ – in here I go through a number of lessons and reflections we can all learn from the last leg of our journeys to help us be better prepared for the next leg. There is nothing like hindsight to learn some valuable lessons! On the very last page of this ‘Learn’ section, before the next section turns to defining your ‘Dream’, I talk about the seasons of life. The purpose of this is for you to reflect on the season of life you’re currently experiencing or coming out of, or maybe even heading into.

This is because just like our planet experiences different seasons, or goes through a cycle, so do we. It’s so easy to feel like giving up when you’re going through the winters of life, or to feel over confident when you’re experiencing a summer. It’s great to stop and look at the bigger picture – to realise that as we go on our individual journeys through life, we are going to experience all these seasons at one point or another. We just need to realise that seasons come and go, we simply need to let the seasons run their course and adapt ourselves to these seasons as best we can.

So let’s talk about each of these seasons of life, which I describe in my planner-journal too. As you read through these, do you relate to any of these in your life right now?

Spring

Definitely my favourite season of all! This is a time of rebirth, a time of opportunity and hope, of dreams of things to come. It’s a time to roll up your sleeves, get rid of all the cobwebs, dust and overgrowth from winter and make space for new growth. It’s a time to sow the seeds you want to reap as your harvest further down the line. It’s a time to be industrious but also a time to take the time to marvel at everything that’s coming to life around you.

Summer

What’s not to love about summer (besides maybe the odd heatwave!)?! Long, lazy days, the sun’s rays on your skin. This season is all about enjoying the warmth of summer but also protecting and nurturing all the seeds you worked hard to plant in the spring. It’s also about keeping the weeds and pests at bay – often these come in the form of doubts, hesitation, fear, and all sorts of obstacles that trip you up and can undo all the work you put in during spring.

Incidentally, for a couple of years in London (where I live), I rented a small piece of land not too far from where I lived, they’re called ‘allotments’ and on this land people get the opportunity to plant vegetables and so on because the typical garden in London is pretty small, so having an allotment is a brilliant way to grow your own fruit and veg. And boy did I work HARD in the spring to prepare this small piece of land for planting (to me it was huge given I was doing everything by hand!). I diligently dug up the soil, removed all the weeds and overgrowth that had gathered over the winter and I sowed lots of lovely seeds. As spring turned into summer, I watched with delight as my tiny little seeds turned into seedlings and then into larger plants. Incredible! I have to say though, I would spend a day or two weeding and watering my plants and then disappear for a week or two, relying on the odd shower to keep my plants fed. I remember rocking up a couple of weeks later (after all, I was enjoying summer!) and my jaw nearly dropping to the floor. There was no evidence whatsoever that I had worked my tail off a couple of weeks ago. There were huge weeds EVERYWHERE, and my lovely plants were definitely in need of a big drink. The grass surrounding my piece of land that I had mowed a couple of weeks ago had overgrown. I simply could not believe my allotment could look like an abandoned, unloved site after taking my eye off it for only two weeks! But this is what happens when we take our eye off the ball for too long – things get overgrown. The weeds take over. The pests try their luck. We have to consistently nurture what we planted back in the spring to keep things in good shape. I realised that it was far better for me to spend 15 minutes every day on my allotment than all afternoon or all day every two weeks. Little and often was all it took to check in, do a little weeding and a little watering. And so it’s the same with us.

Autumn / Fall

We all know what this means – time to reap what we sowed (or didn’t sow!)! We put in all the diligence and hard work in the spring, we nurtured what we planted over the summer and now it’s time to see what the harvest will be. I remember being absolutely over the moon when I got to harvest all these delicious, homegrown vegetables I had planted from seed in the spring. Despite having grown up on a farm, to me it was just magical that a tiny little seed could evolve into all this delicious food. Again, I learned some lessons on my allotment! Not going to harvest my goodies in time meant the birds got to enjoy my juicy, ripe tomatoes (and raspberries!) more than I did! Lesson learned for next year! I also find that autumn / fall is a time of transitioning – of looking back on the summer and of looking forward to the next season …

Winter

And boy do the winters of life come round, often without fail. Who can escape these? Sometimes they are cold, bitter winters that literally bring us to our knees but winters are also a time to enjoy cosy evenings indoors with loved ones, rest and recuperate from our spring and summer work and enjoy the fruits of our labour (or wish we put in the work!). Winters are also a time for reflection – of what went well, of what didn’t go so well and how we might do better next time around. The winters of life make us appreciate the summers all the more. It’s a time to plan for spring which is around the corner.

I have definitely experienced all four of these seasons in my life, many times over! And I’m sure you have too. Just as we can’t fight the physical seasons and allow them to just be, we have to do the same with the seasons we experience in our lives – go with the flow and learn lessons to help us be better prepared next time around.

 

What season of life are you currently experiencing?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  ~ Lau Tzu

 

This Chinese proverb is one I knew well and totally believed, or thought I did.  When you totally believe something, you live it, but I didn’t!

You see, I would want to see the WHOLE JOURNEY before I even took my first step! 

Before I did anything I wanted to ‘see the bigger picture’, make sure every ‘i’ was dotted and every ‘t’ crossed before making a move.  Heck, even our holidays were meticulously planned and executed!  I’d have my Excel spreadsheet detailing everything from A to Z – packing lists, detailed daily itineraries, the works.  And don’t get me wrong, this can be a good thing!  Although my husband did complain when I announced we needed to go to sleep early to get the train from Rome to Pompeii at 5am the next morning!  ‘I thought this was a holiday!’ he wailed.  Needless to say, we didn’t make it to Pompeii (I did eventually make it a couple of years later though – but that’s another story)!

So whilst hubby dearest simply throws his stuff into a bag a couple of hours before we head to the airport (and has a vague idea of where we’re going i.e. what country we’re going to!), I’ll have planned and almost ‘lived’ our holiday already – I know everything about the hotel we’re staying in (after spending hours agonizing over which hotel to stay in of course 😉), I know the waiters by name already based on the reviews I’ve scoured through and I know exactly how much a taxi should cost us from the airport to the hotel so we don’t get ripped off!

As I said, this can be a good thing.  I’d want to get the most out of our holiday after all – squeeze every last drop out of it, so to speak!  But of course trying to ‘see the whole holiday’ and cramming as much in as I could meant we were in need of another holiday the moment we got back having spent AGES planning it down to the last detail and the holiday itself pounding the streets visiting every site there is to see (and trust me, after three visits to Rome and lots of street pounding (and more hubby complaints!) I still haven’t seen half of the sites!).

I’ll also add that those were the days I had time on my hands to actually do all this meticulous planning.  When my life became more of a whirlwind, I barely knew what day of the week it was half the time.  We would book flights and accommodation for a couple of months down the line, and the only time I was able to do any sort of holiday planning was at the airport waiting to board our plane!

Allowing things to unfold …

And you know what?  Those holidays worked out FAR better!  I didn’t waste hours and hours of precious time scouring for information to plan the Perfect Holiday.  The more information I gathered the more confused I would get!  I would find the whole process stressful and be mentally drained by the time we set off!  But when we simply decided on where we were going (the ultimate ‘goal’), I would book the basics i.e. flight and hotel (I haven’t got to the stage of turning up in a foreign country with nowhere to sleep just yet, ha!) and we would let the rest UNFOLD – as it’s meant to.  We’d meet someone in the elevator after checking in and they’d tell us what an amazing time they had somewhere that day.  So we’d do that the next day.  At that place we’d come across a quaint restaurant and have dinner there that evening.  There we’d be told about a fabulous show we really must see the following night.  And that’s often how our holiday would unfold.  This is actually exactly what happened when we travelled to Thailand a few years ago (what a beautiful country!).  I booked the holiday and being completely inundated with work and life, had absolutely NO time to do any planning of any sort.  I was gutted as Thailand was so far away, such an amazing place with so much to see and I really wanted to ‘maximise’ our stay there!  However, I needed to recognise that I’d taken the first step by booking the holiday and I then allowed things to unfold instead of stressing myself over the minute details – trying to see our whole holiday through from beginning to end – before we even got there! 

Well, that was the best holiday we’ve EVER had!  It was perfect in every way.  We decided what to do and where to go when we got there.  If we woke up and decided we felt like lounging on the beach, we did.  If we felt like exploring, we’d find somewhere to explore.  Each thing lead to the next.  This is a picture of us kayaking in the Andaman sea as sunset fell, something we booked spontaneously and it was one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in my entire life. 

It really taught me not to take life so damn seriously!!

In comparison, during our (or, rather MY!) Perfectly Planned Holidays we’d come across something great to do but find out ‘itinerary’ was already rammed with activities that we’d already booked and paid for so had no wiggle room to be flexible.  We missed out on a lot of things we could have done based on where we were at that moment in time, because I’d planned everything in advance.  I didn’t trust the process.

Whilst in my holiday scenario, the good thing is that the next step is an action you HAVE to take – if you’ve booked a flight and hotel, then you have a set date on which you need to get yourself to the airport and onto the plane!

But it’s a bit tricky with other things and this is where I really fell on my face.  Starting this blog for example.  I really wanted to be a blogger and this is now going back years and YEARS.  I wanted everything to be perfectly planned and in order before I actually made it happen.  An amazing site in my perfect niche, fabulous content being pumped out like clockwork.  As I planned and planned … and planned … and planned … well, the whole blogger era came and went as the years rolled by and I kept tweaking this and that before I actually DID anything!  In the meantime, bloggers had claimed their space, taken each step in faith, learned by trial and error as they kept going, allowed things to unfold and became resounding successes, or, discovered that, actually, blogging wasn’t for them.  I was literally spending YEARS trying to set up a thousand dominoes neatly lined up which I could then go back to the first domino and give it a nudge, which would set all the other dominoes going in perfect order, as I had perfectly planned!  I was doing this around a crazy full-time job and family commitments by the way, rather than spending all day every day for years trying to create my blog!  The whole thing fell to the wayside many times, but in the small pockets of precious time I DID have available, I misspent it trying to see the whole staircase ahead instead of just TAKING THE FIRST DARNED STEP! 

Keep moving

You see, only when you’re in MOTION can the next step be revealed to you.  Not when you’re standing paralysed in one spot!

Sure, sometimes the next step may turn out to be a dead end, but all you need to do is backtrack and carry on.  It’s only through trial and error that you’ll find your way to your final destination.  The only way that guarantees you NOT reaching your final destination is not taking that all important first step (and subsequent steps!)!

We need to trust ourselves more.  We need to step out in faith fully believing that the next step will unfold, and the next, and the next.

If you’re stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ like I always was, just take that first step!!  Things will become clearer, as long as you TAKE ACTION.  I was waiting for everything to be perfect before I started my blog, instead during that time I could have learned all the valuable lessons I needed to take things to the next level.  When I did get back into my online business, I just decided to go for it.  At first, I got all confused again.  But what if this happened, and what if that happened?  Shouldn’t I do this first and shouldn’t I wait for that before I did anything?  ‘No!  Just get moving and figure it out as you go along!’ I told myself.  And I did.  And you know what?  As soon as I took my first shaky step, the next step immediately unfolded.  I took that next step and the next step unfolded.  I just needed to trust myself.

And this is why Bloom is all about the JOURNEY we’re making.  Journeys don’t excite most people.  They want the destination!  After all I didn’t tell you about my flight to Rome or to Thailand – the airlines I flew on or how I spent my time in the air – and neither did you want to hear about it!  But you’ll never REACH that destination unless you make that journey, so you may as well take that crucial first step – whether you think it’s the right step or the wrong step – and let the rest unfold. 

What first step will you take today?