No matter how chaotic our days can get, we always have some routines we maintain religiously – making coffee in the morning, brushing our teeth, taking a shower – checking email even. Have you ever been too busy to brush your teeth? I didn’t think so. Why is that? Because brushing your teeth is an automatic behavior. You don’t decide every day – will I brush my teeth today or not? You just do it.
Habit formation is all about establishing automatic behaviors – behaviors you don’t have to think about or decide to do, but just do at a certain time of the day, in a certain situation, or after a certain activity. When you make an activity automatic, it gives your brain a break – it doesn’t have to decide and you are more likely to complete the task with a minimum of effort.
It stands to reason, then, that automating your writing would both increase your output and reduce the effort involved in the task. You stop deciding whether or not to write – you just write. When you do this, the writing gets easier – a lot easier – and you produce a lot more of it.
Here are three tips to help you automate your writing:
Focus first on the habit
In the beginning separate output from habit, and focus on habit formation first. The time that you spend on an activity is not a factor in developing the baseline habit. You don’t need to write for an hour or 45 minutes or 30 minutes even. If you have that amount of time, then by all means use it. But if you are struggling with finding any time to write at all, don’t put up time duration as a barrier. Just write for 10 minutes to start if that is all the time you have.
The most common reason by far for not writing is that there isn’t any time. Ironically, we often focus so much on how much time we need to write that we don’t write at all. Remember that there are two things that need to be accomplished: establishing the habit and producing more written output. Once you automate the writing, the output will follow. You have to start somewhere. Write this on a sticky note and put it where you can see it every day: 10 minutes > 0 minutes.
Peg your writing to a daily routine
You can increase your success of developing a habit by doing it at the same time every day and/or attaching it to the same activity. The activity is the trigger that signals to your brain to perform the activity at the given moment.
One way to do this is to write first thing right after getting out of bed. Writing first thing in the morning, when everyone is still sleeping or just getting up and getting ready for their day is one of the single most powerful moments for habit formation that exists. That is why many people use this time to incorporate new habits such as daily meditation or exercise.
Of course you don’t have to have an out-of-the bed writing routine. You can do this at any time of the day by pegging it to a daily routine that you already have. Maybe you write for 15 minutes every morning after breakfast or before checking your email. Or maybe you write for 15 minutes daily after dinner. If you can find routines that you do consistently every day, these will be the most successful times for you to add on a daily writing routine.
Do it every day
Habits are formed by repetition. If you only do something occasionally or a few times a week, it will be much harder to develop it into a habit. When I was first establishing my daily morning writing habit, I took no days off, not even weekends. Every day for 12 weeks when I woke up I followed the same morning writing routine. It was very challenging in the beginning – my brain protested and pointed out other things I should be doing with my time. The writing was also difficult at first, my brain still in a fog right out of bed. But after a few weeks, I noticed that it became easier – a lot easier – until truly it was an automatic behavior – get up, get coffee, get writing, brain fog gone.
If you follow these three tips, I guarantee you that you will be able to establish a daily writing habit within three months that you will not want to deviate from. I know because I did it and it worked. I tested the hypothesis. But you don’t have to believe me. See for yourself by starting your daily writing routine this week.