The Surprisingly Simple Way to Stick to Good Habits


 I was having a conversation with an acquaintance the other day, and she mentioned that she is a personal trainer. I asked her about her work challenges during the pandemic, how she’s doing now, and so on, and I casually threw in that I really don’t like working out, and so I’m impressed by her work.

She was bewildered.

“Really? So…you don’t work out?”

“Well, no, I do work out. It’s only that I don’t like to. I work out only because I have to.” (I left out the part that I could go weeks without working out and I really wouldn’t miss it.)

She asked me if I had ever joined a gym (yes), if I’d tried working out with friends (yes), if I’d stuck it out for more than a month (yes).

“And after all that, you still don’t enjoy working out, even a little?”

 Nope. To be fair, I do enjoy that every time I work out, I’m helping my health, and hopefully my focus and energy. But the actual working out part is something I just sludge through. It’s never felt enjoyable to me.

Clearly, since waking up and deciding to work out doesn’t come naturally for me, I have to force myself to get it done. Those weeks that could go by without a single workout? That can happen oh so easily if I don’t have a plan in place:

The Surprisingly Simple Way to Stick to Good Habits: Stop Making Decisions About Them

As with most things that I dislike doing, but that are good for me, I’ve decided that I need to stop making the decision about doing them (pardon the paradox).

In other words, to create, and stick to, certain good habits, I have to do these things without much conscious decision-making.

Because frankly, if the decision to work out or not to work out is in front of me, not would always win! The energy it takes to make such a decision, and the guilt and angst it would surely cost me, just isn’t worth it.

There are some tasks, though, that aren’t worth the energy to make decisions about because they just need to get done. In fact, I’ll probably never make decisions about them again.

How to Stop Making Decisions About Good Habits

Every morning that I don’t have early appointments or meetings, by default, I put on my workout clothes and sneakers. I barely even think about it; it’s just what I do. By taking this one decision away — deciding what to wear, or whether to shower right away — I’m one step closer to working out. Having fewer barriers and decisions in front of working out majorly increases the chances that I’ll work out.

Meal planning follows in the same way. If I take decision-making out of weeknight cooking by having already planned it out on Sunday for the entire week, I’ll never be at a loss for what to make, or be missing a vital ingredient when it comes time to prepare dinner. Things move with much less friction with fewer decisions to be made.

Think about where you could reduce decision-making in your life that would reduce the friction involved in getting essential things done, and create habits that will stick. Here are 9 ideas to try right away:

  1. Breakfast – eat the same thing every day
  2. Lunch – rotate salad base, add a different protein
  3. Getting the kids ready – pick out clothing the night before, or better yet, on Sunday
  4. Working out – put your sneakers and workout clothes in the bathroom the night before
  5. Groceries – when you open the last bottle of ketchup, add it to the shopping list immediately
  6. The dog – keep the leash and poop bags close to the door, and you’ll find it easier to take him on walks more often
  7. Filing – do it immediately; don’t give yourself the option of waiting for more papers to file them all “at the end of the week”
  8. Afterschool snack – pre-plan these on Sunday. Keep it simple and repeat what they like that happens to be healthy(-ish)
  9. Homework – keep a homework station set up with necessary supplies. Have the kids empty their backpacks and place homework at the station as soon as they walk through the door every day (including Friday). Immediately after finishing their snack, they start on homework

Bottom Line:

There are so many tasks that we’re faced with daily that require mental energy to make decisions about.

For me, these are decisions that require research, investigation, and weighing of the available options.

There are some tasks, though, that aren’t worth the energy to make decisions about because they just need to get done. In fact, I’ll probably never make decisions about them again.


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Zeenat Siman

Zee Siman is a Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant eager to help working moms and dads take transform their homes and schedules from chaotic to calm.

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