On goal-setting and habit formation

As we’re rapidly moving through January, I’m realizing anew the distinction between between goals and habits. Do you distinguish between the two?

A new year, new goals

With the dawn of the new year, I sat down and contemplated my goals for the coming 12 months (more to come on that!). For the month of January, I pulled out a sub-set of goals to accomplish this month that will set me on the path to achieving my annual goals. I have also been working on being more consistent with setting weekly goals.

January’s goals include a financial goal (both earning and spending), social goals, reading goals, organization projects, and a few professional goals.

I love to cross off the goals, and get frustrated when I don’t complete all the goals I set for myself.

Why you should separate "habit's I'm forming" from "goals I'm accomplishing" | strategysarah.com | On goal-setting and habit formation

Goals vs Habits

Recently, I have realized that several of my goals each week are really the practicing of habits. There are several general things about my lifestyle and homemaking that I would like to change – habits that I would like to form. There are also several specific things that I want to accomplish – goals to achieve.

I can’t write make the bed every morning immediately after waking up on a goal list and realistically expect to cross it off each week. Maybe you have more discipline than I do, but I’m not going to hit that 100% of the time at this stage in life. However, even if I didn’t fully meet the goal, I have likely made significant progress. If I shift my mindset to forming the long-term habit of doing exercises twice a day, I am more likely to celebrate my forward progress rather than get discouraged for not fully meeting a goal.

Practically, this realization has led me to separate “habits I’m practicing” from “goals to accomplish” on my weekly, monthly and annual goal sheets. (Although, I can’t really call them just goal sheets any more, can I? What would you call them?)

Practicing habits

Typically, habits and goals are tied together. For example, practicing a habit of exercise will help me achieve a goal of losing weight.

It’s true that changing seasons of life (hello, small children, new jobs and moving!) can derail some habits. However, when I work tore-establish old habits, the previously held habits seem to fall back into place faster and easier than the habits that are brand new to me (I’m sure there’s a scientific study somewhere to back this up).

Getting back in the habit of getting up early in the morning, and showering first thing have fallen back into place fairly quickly. The habit of carving out a set amount of writing time daily has not.

For January, the three habits I am focusing on are:

  1. Make the bed first thing every morning. This only takes a minute or so to do, but creates a whole new atmosphere in bedrooms. I am also working with my kids to “make” their beds every morning.
  2. Focus on the positive. I have a terrible ability to see what’s left to be done and not see what has already been accomplished. I’m using a 5 Year One Sentence Journal to focus on the positive.
  3. Read 10 minutes of non-fiction before I read fiction. I’ve always been a big reader, but my reading tends to be mostly fiction. One of my goals this year is to increase my ratio of non-fiction to fiction books read. One way I’m trying to do this is to make a habit of reading 10 minutes of a non-fiction book before I dive into fiction.

One of the most productive habits I developed way back in 2014 and have continued is to consistently use Evernote to store key information. I find Evernote Premium to be well worth the cost, and highly recommend checking it out. And, if you use this link, you can also get one-month of Evernote Premium for free. Work smarter not harder! 


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