Working with my lambs is one of the best jobs on the farm. Photo by Keba M. Hitzeman
If I don’t write it down, it most likely won’t get done. I’ve always been a list person, trying to keep track of all the things I need and want to do in a given day on the back of envelopes, in notebooks or dry-erase books, or on sticky notes. That doesn’t mean that I won’t lose the paper I wrote it down on, but with programs and apps, that’s less likely to happen. I typically know where my phone and computer are!
There are some things that I want to make strong habits of as the year progresses: writing, working with my sheep and goats, daily movement and exercise, and completing several specific farm projects, among others. I know I want to do those things every day, and it’s satisfying when I do, but personal accountability is lacking at times. There’s also the external factor of appointments and other off-farm activities. Still, because those are usually scheduled in advance, I can adjust my schedule to make those habits happen that day. Most likely, everything will be for a shorter time (a brief “play date” with the sheep, or only working on the new fence for a half hour instead of two hours), but it will still happen.
Enter the Visual Reminders
For my yoga practice, I’ve joined a “365 days of yoga” group on Facebook, and a member posted a printable “calendar” – each month is spelled out in big letters, with divisions for the number of days in that month. For example, the “J” in JANUARY has four sections and is labeled 1, 2, 3, 4. The “A” has five sections labeled 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. As you complete your daily yoga, you color in the space for that day of the month. By the end of the year, you (hopefully) will have all the spaces in all the months colored in and can see how consistent you were with your habit.
This doesn’t mean I’m doing a full 30-minute practice every day. Some days, a 10- or 15-minute stretch before turning in for the evening is all I can muster. But I got on the mat and did the thing, then did it again the next day. A habit is forming.
There are several versions of this calendar on the internet. I got mine from Nerd Bucket. Color your way to a new habit or to complete a goal.
To not have many calendars like this and not have to write out the habits every day on a paper planner, I found an app for that! It’s set up like a fantasy or role-playing game. You have an avatar that you can personalize, and you type in the goals and tasks you want to keep track of, along with how often you want to do them (daily, weekly, monthly). Each time you check off an activity, you gain experience and gold. There are also random items that arrive as you reach certain checkpoints. A bit silly, maybe, but sometimes a bit of silly accountability is what it takes. Not everything has to be serious to be effective!
For my brain and style, being able to see what I’ve already done, whether coloring a square or leveling up my avatar, gives me a little boost to not shluff off those things that I know I want (and need) to do every day.
It’s motivating, because I can see what I’ve accomplished in the previous days, and I also don’t want to break the “streak” of having written something every day for the last month or spending a half hour each day sorting tools in the workshop. An empty square or an unchecked box is sad.
Photo by Keba M. Hitzeman
The Power of a 'Restart'
This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m going to punish myself for not having worked with the sheep for one day because I wasn’t feeling well, or a dentist appointment ran long, and I got back to the farm later than expected. That’s not a mentally healthy attitude. I will usually be a bit upset because my streak has restarted, but that’s the key word: restart. “Tomorrow is another day” is certainly true, so I don’t need to throw my hands in the air in defeat. In the words of a certain animated blue fish, just keep swimming.
Now I can go check off “writing” for today and collect a few more experience points and gold pieces. Here’s to setting goals and learning good habits, no matter when during the year you begin those goals and habits! How do you keep yourself on track to build good habits and reach your goals?
Keba M. Hitzeman is an advocate, baseball fan, caregiver, chicken wrangler, daughter, farmer, fiber artist, gamer, gardener, herbalist, laborer, manager, musician, nature-lover, potter, shepherdess, and teacher. She owns and operates Innisfree on the Stillwater, a former beef cattle farm, where she currently raises sheep and goats. Read all of Keba’s posts in her GRIT series, Returning to Innisfree.
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