Habits are not always easy to create -- and even more difficult to keep.
In a recent Product Hunt blog -- which has a great newsletter, if you like to stay up on new technology and software applications -- Rich Pierson, Co-Founder and CEO of Headspace, an app that guides you through meditation and mindful living practices, shares how he formed the habit of meditation, as well as several other daily rituals, to be more productive and happy.
First, Pierson points out that real habits are those practices in which you engage that are resilient to excuses. These real habits take time to create, but with the right tips and mindset can actually be easy to form and maintain.
Tie new habits with old habits.
Forming a new habit from scratch can be a challenge, but tying it with an existing habit will simply create an extended ritual you are already accustomed to doing.
For instance, if your goal is to create a habit of taking five minutes each day to unwind and meditate, do it right after you take off your shoes, eat dinner or brush your teeth.
Give your habit clear and meaningful value.
More than likely, you are forming a new habit because it is something important to you. While it may be obvious in your head, take some time to identify your goals, write them down, and review them often (at least once per week).
More important, when you analyze your goals, be sure to look at the "bigger picture". If you want to start a habit of running every day, your goal may very well be to "live a healthier life," but keep asking yourself, "Why?" Does your family depend on you to be healthy? Do you want to run a half-marathon before you reach 50? Are you trying to qualify for a life insurance program?
Whatever the reason, be sure that it is clear, concise and has true meaning and value to you. Doing so will remind you why it is important to stick with it.
Use (and avoid) technology.
Even with a clearly understood purpose, it can at times still easy to break your ritual. For that reason, we have apps ("there's an app for that"). Pierson highlights a few of his favorites, which also resonate with me and my daily activities.
Headspace. As the co-founder and CEO, Pierson has a great deal of experience with meditation and the value it can add to one's life. "Thoughts can do a lot of things: they can keep us awake, they can distract us, they can certainly upset us, but only if we let them," Pierson says. "Meditation helps us to see thoughts for what they are: just thoughts."
Nike Plus. One of the greatest accomplishments Nike achieved is not creating great sportswear, but rather developing a community around their brand in which customers could meet, share personal accomplishments, and even challenge each other.
I have been using the Nike Running app since 2007, and on days when I am tired or exhausted, I just check my app to see friends who managed to get over their excuses and run. And let me tell you, there is no better motivation.
Time blocking. I have a number of different calendars I use every day, including kids' activities, wife's activities, work and personal activities. I also have a separate calendar that blocks off times every day for practices that are important but often and easily substituted, such as meditating, free writing, yoga, or calling an old friend.
In reality, these small exercises add tremendous value to your life, so they deserve a block of time just as any other activity.
Lastly, Pierson suggests one other rather radical step to improve your life.
Delete your email app. From experience, I can tell you that blocking time specifically dedicated to reading and responding to email -- rather than randomly checking them at every free moment -- has made a tremendously positive impact on my sanity.
Deleting my mail app? I just don't think I am personally ready for that -- yet.
What do you think? Do you have other useful tips for creating meaningful habits? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.