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living by design, not by default : 7 tips to make habits execution almost effortless.

Updated: Dec 3, 2021


We all pride ourselves on being hard workers, but what should we do when we want to push ourselves even harder and have reached our upper limit? In this article, we offer the solution: instead of giving up, burning out, or sacrificing our sanity, we can find an easier path.


So far in this series, we’ve talked about ways in which to create positive physical and mental health habits to help you feel better during this uncertain time. However, there is a piece missing, a piece that is now more than ever vital for our healthy habit formation. That piece is turning your goals into habits.




Goals Into Habits

Finding your life's purpose and getting rid of the unnecessary are the first steps toward living a flourishing and fulfilling life. Through execution, the goal is to make doing what's most important as easy as possible. All the steps before were the ground to enable execution.


We have a choice: A) create a system to make execution easy, or B) allow execution to be hard.


Execution is simple if you put in the effort, but difficult if you take the easy route. This article will teach you how to form new habits that stick, as well as provide you with a few pointers on how to really follow through on them.


Not every hard thing in life can be made easy.

But we can make it easier to do more of what matters most.



How can we make doing the vital few things almost effortless?


1.Start with incredibly small

Make it so easy you can't say no.

—Leo Babauta


When most people struggle to form new habits, they say something along the lines of "I just need more motivation." "I wish I had your willpower," for example. It's tempting to blame failure on a lack of willpower or a lack of talent, while crediting success to hard work, effort, and grit.


Those things, to be sure, are important. What's interesting is that we often bite more than we can chew. Our habits are motivated by the initial force. But after a while, our initial motivation fades and our will is broken down by the old habits. Once momentum is gone it becomes hard to maintain. Then we slip back to the old patterns.


Motivation is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to look at it is that your motivation fluctuates. It ebbs and flows. Motivation is fleeting and it is great for one-off feet but it's not enough for long term behavior change.


Solve this problem by developing a new habit that is simple enough to maintain without requiring motivation. When starting a new routine, begin with a minimal commitment and gradually increase it over time. Rather than beginning with 50 pushups every day, begin with five. Abandon the "go big or go home" mentality. Rather than attempting to meditate for ten minutes per day, begin with one minute. Make it simple enough that you can complete it without being motivated. Tiny is powerful, in the sense that you "show up" daily. Because consistency trumps quantity. Although these little gains can appear insignificant at times, particularly in the beginning. However, minor habits can really accelerate improvement tremendously.


For example:

If you started with 10 push ups and added 1 per day, you would do 775 pushups in 30 days.


To achieve your goal of becoming your best self, you must start with almost embarrassingly small patterns.Start with small wins and build momentum; don't start big and burn out. Done is better than perfect. Consider the following: "What is the smallest amount of progress that will be useful and valuable to the critical task I am attempting to complete?"



2.We are a product of our environment

Changing our habits is extremely difficult when we live in an environment that discourages us from doing so.

  • It is nearly impossible to eat healthy all of the time if you are living and working in an environment that is full of unhealthy foods.

  • It is nearly impossible to stay on task or not get sucked into the news if your phone is constantly notifying you.


Despite this, we frequently underestimate the influence our environment has on our actions. Your environment is the "default option" that you have been assigned. The default actions you take on a daily basis are determined by the environment you surround yourself with. So, choose the environment that will best develop you toward your goal. Examine your life in relation to its environment. Are the things around you assisting you in your quest for success, or are they impeding you? By altering your environment, you can obstruct bad behaviors and break down the barriers to good ones.


Consider your environment in relation to the number of steps required to perform a habit. Reduce the number of steps required to perform good habits to make them easier to maintain. Increase the number of steps between you and the bad habit to make it more difficult.


Here is an example:

It doesn't take much to keep you from working out when you get home from a long day at work or when you're tucked into a warm bed in the morning. By laying out your workout clothes the night before, you can remove one barrier from your environment. When your shoes, water bottle, and equipment are all ready and waiting for you, you have one less obstacle between you and a good workout.



3.The Remarkable Power of cues

Part of the challenge in establishing a new habit, especially in the beginning, is simply remembering to do it. It is often helpful to use an external cue or trigger as a reminder that it is time to execute your habit. The cue should ideally be something you are already doing or interacting with on a daily basis. If the cue is already hard-wired into your daily routine, and you always carry out your habit immediately after the cue, your habit is much more likely to become deeply ingrained. For instance, presumably you hang your towel on the hook behind the door every morning after your shower. You could use that as a cue to trigger your habit because it is a relatively consistent activity. If your goal is to do three push-ups every day, you could do them as soon as you hang your towel up on the hook. The idea is to take advantage of your existing daily routine to anchor new habits.


4.Make it fun

Do you enjoy a challenge? Well, make your new habit one! There are various projections on how long it takes to form a new habit, ranging from three weeks to three months in most cases. So, using a month as an example, make the new habit you want to establish a 30-day challenge. Seriously, you can do anything for a month—and after 30 days, you might not even think about it and just do it. Then it becomes a habit.


“ People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.” —BJ Fogg, from Tiny Habits


5.The Genius of Routine

Design a routine that makes accomplishing what you've identified as critical the default position. This will allow you to carry out essential tasks on autopilot. We only need to devote a small amount of initial energy to develop the routine, and then all we have to do is follow it.


With repetition, the human brain masters routines so the activity becomes second nature. This takes time and is awkward at first, but eventually, the brain takes over.


Create routines to help us get into flow, for example:

  • Maintain a routinized weekly checklist to avoid wasting time scheduling your essential tasks.

Routinizing takes away the cognitive effort of deciding what to do and when. By routinizing your regular tasks you save your creative energy for more important projects.

Design a routine that enshrines what is essential, making execution almost effortless.

6.Create Accountability

Hate to tackle stuff alone? Bring a friend on board!If it's something your friend is also interested in, all the better! Solicit the assistance of someone you trust to hold you accountable for your most critical duties. If you're on your own, you can still recruit an accountability partner or friend. Or, if you truly don't want to disclose what you're going to do with others, how about a don't-break-the-chain calendar in which you mark each day you accomplish something? When your calendar is already filled with Xs, the last thing you want to see is an empty area! However, do not be too hard on yourself if you skip a day. Consider it a small warning and return to it the next day. It’s okay to fall short on perfection.


7.Set a sustainable pace instead of powering through

Learning to be patient is probably the most important skill of all. If you are consistent and patient, you can make incredible progress.

Going slower than you think while lifting weights in the gym is probably a good idea when trying to gain muscle mass. If you're going to start making daily sales calls as part of your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you think you'll be able to handle. Patience is essential. Do things that you will be able to sustain. Celebrate small wins grow your motivation hence allow you to take on more difficulty.


Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.




A take-home message

Getting ahead doesn't have to be as difficult as we make it out to be. Whatever challenges or obstacles we face, there is a better way: rather than pushing ourselves harder, we can find an easier path.


To sum up this series, we should live our lives without regret. It is less likely for you to regret any choices you have made if you have correctly identified what truly matters and have invested your time and energy in it. You grow to be proud of the life you've chosen. This is a new way of approaching productivity and life. It's a disciplined, systematic approach to determining where our greatest contribution lies and then making those things almost effortless to execute.


Behavioral changes can be learned; habits can grow and multiply. Understanding how to form new habits as well as how your current ones function are critical for making progress in your health, happiness, and life in general. Want to learn more about making healthy, sustainable changes to your habits? Check out the Sustainable Habits Masterclass to learn how small changes in habits can lead to big results.





If you are at all curious:

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About The Author

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Hey, I'm Elsa. I’m a fashion marketing and management student and the creator behind The Real Planner. I create content such as planning and personal development tips for those seeking to design a meaningful and joyful life over this platform. 

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