Small habits that have made it easier to live into my values and achieve my goals

James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits” reminds us:

“We don’t rise to our goals, we fall to our systems”

James clear, author of atomic habits

When I first heard this, it stopped me in my tracks. All of a sudden, I got it. It just made sense.

I remembered how for years, I’d struggled to remember to take my daily medications. Suddenly, purchasing a weekly pill box, I’d had a visual cue, a tracking mechanism and a mini dopamine hit when I’d flip open each day’s lid seeing the contents inside empty. To make things even easier, I’d placed the box next to my toothbrush to “habit stack” (which is, as it sounds).

I had already observed in my life, how creating sustainable systems helped me to change my behaviour. I’d also observed that sometimes, we create a system only to see that it fails.

According to James, this doesn’t mean the method is wrong, but the system is. This is a sign to iterate, optimise and improve until we find the system that works for us.

I’m listening to Atomic Habits for the second time now. Many of the lessons I picked up the first time have already profoundly changed my life and I always find there can be more value in consuming great material multiple times as opposed to always searching for new knowledge.

In refreshing my approach to building “systems” I thought I’d share some of the systems I’ve put in place that are helping me to achieve my goals and live into the values I have for my life.

Simple substitutions

I want to drink less. Specifically between Sunday and Thursday. Having cans of Remedy’s Kombucha or Sodaly give me an option to pour something in my lovely wine glass and sip it with dinner. This substitute has been the one thing that has really helped me to stick to that goal.

I’ve also allowed myself to indulge in some beautiful (and boujee) non-alcoholic beverages too. I love these options when it comes time to head off to a friend’s supper club (and it’s often nice to be the one to offer a non-alcoholic option).

My favorite of the moment is that produced by “Non”. A non alcoholic wine alternative. It isn’t de-alcoholised wine (honestly in my opinion, this truly can just taste like grape juice and I’d frankly, rather the juice) but a bubbly, unique concoction of its own. It also just looks stunning as a piece to bring along to any gathering.

Looking just as beautiful as decor on my bookcase. Head on over to Non World.

Survival corporate girlie travel kit

I feel better when I look “together”. That means, feeling fresh and ready to walk in anywhere should I need to. This has led me to pull together my very own mini emergency kit for exactly these moments.

In it I keep:

  • Wet antibacterial wipes (perfect after a light gym sesh or brisk walk to work when you want to freshen up just a little without the need to shower)
  • Roll on deodorant and a mini perfume oil (at the moment I am loving Afrique by the Perfume Oil Company, a dupe for Byredo but with all natural essential oil properties)
  • Spare hair ties and a few bobby pins
  • Travel lindt roller (I have this one from Muju that doesn’t need refills)
  • Listerine breath freshener strips (these were so huge when I was a kid but I seem to only be able to get them at the chemist in the travel section now)
  • Hand sanitiser (my current favourite is this Koala Eco brand which smells like a gorgeous Tea Tree and Lemon)
  • BB cream (simple is best, this Garnier BB Cream in Medium is a staple and my skin loves it)
  • Mascara (I’m not fussy but Mecca’s Mini Hourglass is fantastic)
  • Brow gel (again, it’s Mecca for me)
  • Nail polish remover wipes (I talk with my hands, chipped nail polish is never a good look, these from Manicare are a saviour)

Having this corporate girly travel kit packed in my backpack means I’m quick to banish excuses like “Oh but I have a meeting I can’t workout and go straight to work”. Yes you can, Ms Cook. You can do anything and still look fresh in minutes!

Choosing function first

I joined my local gym. It’s VERY local. That is, 20 metres from my house. It’s not the most aesthetic gym but by being so close it’s the perfect gym to limit any and all excuses my brain might try to make.

Back when I was working at a sports centre and would cycle to work each day, the easiest part of my life became maintaining an exercise routine because it became part of my identity and was not even a decision point. I cycled to work. That’s what I did. In the cold, in the rain, in the blistering heat, I cycled. Being a “cyclist” was part of my identity (another hack “identity based habits” James talks about at length).

Life has changed a bit since then and I don’t have quite as long to exercise as I like to maximise my time for work and other hobbies (like blogging) so I can now roll out of bed, pop on the clothes I laid out the evening before (system) and stumble dreary eyed into the gym and onto that stepper. This is called “removing friction“. To go one step further, I’ll also place my workout gear neatly on the table so it’s the first thing I pop on for the day.

Strong weekly intentions loosely held

It’s helpful to have some decisions made in advance. I’ve learned enough about myself to know that when I make plans that are too ridged, I berate myself too heavily for not having followed through. It actually pulls me further away from my goals. Strong intentions loosely held however seems to provide me with the perfect level of direction and forethought to maximise brain power and limit decision fatigue when I need it most (Monday to Friday) while still giving me the freedom to change my mind should I feel the need to.

Strong intentions loosely held this week included

  • A general list of meals I’ll make for dinners during the week (leaving the only decision to be made “which of these do I feel like cooking and eating this evening?”
  • A workout regime. Monday home workout (arms), Tuesday walk to work and yoga after work with friends, Wednesday gym (legs) then walk to work, Thursday pilates with gal pal (equally great to have an accountability buddy), walk home, Friday walk with hubs.
  • On weekends, especially if I have had a busy week, I can have a tendency to withdraw and convince myself I just want to be by myself. While sometimes alone time is truly self care, I have learned about myself that I always feel better when I at least day have one day of social connection. Lately I’ve been trying to organise something social on my weekend to help me recharge this social energy centre. Last weekend, it was a spontaneous walk and impromptu double date with a friend and her partner in Blairgowrie.

Making use of my rare free time, whenever it falls

Making assertions like “I’m going to meal prep every Sunday” I’ve found never actually works for me. Life happens. Events pop up for myself or my partner and the lack of consistency ends up leaving me self-berating that I didn’t live into my promise to myself.

As a sort of extension of the “strong intentions loosely held”, I’ve realised that when I do have some spare time, I have a list of things I can draw from that help me make the most of that.

I call this my “Doing the things that future Kate will thank me for” list.

This can mean some sort of meal prep, laundry, cleaning the shower, re-tidying my wardrobe, revisiting my budget, cleaning out emails and even catching up on work. Basically, whatever I’ve been putting off and don’t get time for.

This weekend just past this looked like…

  • Batch of overnight passionfruit oats for the week
  • Pre-chopped veg for lunches and dinners
  • A batch of “Snickers Medjool Dates” hubs and I enjoy for dessert each evening
  • Prepped turkey burgers in the freezer for a meal one evening
  • Prepped soy, honey and ginger chicken legs for a meal another evening
  • A wardrobe clean out complete with a list on my phone of the items I need to replace when I happen to spot something on sale (e.g. a new white blouse to replace one I own that’s very much on its last legs)

Beyond the “list” and dedicated block of free time, there’s also just being clever about how we can inject mini habits or automate parts of our lives too to make it easier to stick to our goals.

As an example, I’ve also started keeping a set of dumbbells right next to my work chair. Intermittently throughout the day I can do a few reps of bicep curls, lateral raises or overhead tricep curls. It’s been a great, zero effort (and actually welcome little break) I’ve injected into my day.

Is there anything you do that helps you stay on track with the person you want to be? I’d love to hear about it. Let’s chat the comments!

Hi I'm Kate! I'm relentlessly curious about the attribution and origin of things. Especially as it relates to being a corporate girly balancing ambition and a life filled with joy.

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