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Habits Are The Key To Finishing

Whenever you have a task that involves doing the same thing over and over, habits are key to finishing. Today we’ll talk about using habits to get through NaNoWriMo.

1666 words every single day. That is what it takes to finish National Novel Writing Month. To win, you need to create habits, or routines, that make it easier to get things done.

There are two kinds of habits you want to form:

Time Habits and Place habits

Time Habits mean you do something at the same time every day. Writing is especially easy to set a time habit.

The key here is to do your writing at the same time every day. If you do this, your body and mind will get into a rhythm.

You’ll find your mind starts bringing up writing related things as you approach your writing time. Your body will want to sit down to write at the designated time, and you’ll feel antsy if you don’t.

For me first thing in the morning is best, but you might be a late night person.

Make it fit into your existing daily rhythm. Otherwise you are not only starting a new writing habit, you are changing your whole day. Find a natural break in your day, like lunch and write then.

Which brings us to the second kind of habit – Place Habits.

In On Writing, Stephen King talks about the desk he writes at. It was a huge fancy thing, but now he uses a simple desk.

Every day he has a ritual he goes through, turning on music, getting coffee, and sitting in the exact same place every time to write. All of this primes him and tells his body and brain it is time to write.

These things are sensory triggers. The visuals of your writing area. The sound of the room. The feelings and even smells. All of them trigger the habit of writing.

You can think of it is as ritual. What is your pre-writing ritual? If you do those specific things in a specific order, you are telling your brain it is writing time.

Writer Ryan Holiday taught me to put things in my way on my desk.

Every evening after he is done working, he set his three journals in the middle of his desk. He will have to move them in order to get to the keyboard and work. This forces him to think about them. Which then gets him to fill them out.

Another example of this kind of thinking is the maxim to “Floss one tooth.” If you want to floss your teeth, commit to just flossing one.

Once the floss is on your finger and in your mouth, who’s only going to only floss one tooth? Might as well do them all.

This can be applied to working out. Just commit to going to the gym. Once you get there, you can leave if you really want to. The struggle is to get ready, drive, park and check in.

Once you are there, it is easier just to do the workout than to leave and go home. Plus you’ve invested all the effort already. You wouldn’t want to waste it, right?

So make the commitment to write at least one sentence. Get to your writing room, at your writing time. Go through your pre-writing rituals.

Then write a sentence. If you want to quit after the first sentence you can. But I bet you will find you’ve done the hard part. Might as well keep writing.

Question of the Day: What habits are you using to get NaNoWriMo done?

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