Back in my early 20s, when I was starting a career as a life insurance and mutual funds salesperson (I know, sounds boring. It was), I attended many, many, many motivational conferences. While I’m no longer selling insurance, much of the wisdom I gathered at these conferences sticks with me today.
One piece of advice I heard was that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Last year I read a Forbes article insisting that the 21 day rule is a myth. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to be a money mogul. I don’t care to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company. All I want is to get my shit together, and if I manage to stick with something for 21 days, I’m gonna call it a habit.
22 days ago, my HSN impulse buy (an elliptical/bike hybrid) showed up at my door. My husband put it together and the very next day I woke up and decided that was the day I was going to work out. My first day on this thing was hard. I had it on the easiest setting and at 15 minutes in I was ready to collapse. But I kept the 21 day rule in my head. After all, I only had to commit to 21 days, and if I didn’t like it, I could abandon ship, right?
Today was officially day 21 of my workout routine. I woke up this morning and didn’t feel like exercising. But unlike day one, two, or three of this routine, that thought quickly vanished and was replaced by “But you’ll feel so much better. It’s so much easier now. You’ve already put in so much work.”
I got dressed and got on the elliptical. On day one I was doing level 1 for 15-20 minutes. Today, on day 21, I worked out for 40 minutes on level 10. And the best part is, I enjoyed it. It’s not something I dread, it’s not something I avoid doing. 21 days later, this work out routine has become a habit.
The same principle can be applied to your writing. If you have trouble finding the time, or you find you go days without working on your manuscript, try committing to a 21 day plan for 15 minutes a day.
21 days is not a long amount of time in the grand scheme of our lives. It’s not even a full month. If you try something for 21 days and find that it makes you unhappy, then it’s not the length of time you do it, but the action itself that isn’t working for you.
If 21 days isn’t enough time to form a habit, at least it’s enough time to know for certain whether you like something or not.
So give it a try. Commit to your writing for 21 days. Commit to your workout, your walk, your plan to eat better, your plan to read more for 21 days. Hopefully by the end you’ll have a habit that no longer feels like a chore. 🙂