Starting and Maintaining a Daily Practice

When I first attempted daily challenges, I've often come to the same conclusion at the end of it. That is: I sucked at long-term daily-somethings.

Oh, I could do short-term ones like NaNoWriMo (Rebel) and A Week In The Life. But, something I have to do everyday for a full year or more? Well, let's just say I could never come out a winner no matter how hard I tried. And, I've tried plenty! For years.

But then, lately, I have realised that it doesn't seem fair to say that I suck at daily habits altogether. After all, there are many things I can completely ace every day. Granted, some of them, I have developed since I was a kid (yay for daily hygiene practice!). But, there are definitely daily habits that I had to train myself to do a bit later in life (skin care regime didn't kick in until the fear of wrinkles and sun spots came in my 30s).

Then, when I started making personal challenges where I get to make the rules that suit me rather than a bigger audience, I realised I can actually learn to develop daily habits that work for me. Hooray for that!

Starting and Maintaining a Daily Practice

So, if you're trying to work in a daily habit for yourself, here are some tips and ideas that might be worth considering -

1. Use the power of community to develop a habit.

For many people, joining community challenges to develop daily habits can be quite motivating and helpful. That's why things like Project 365, 52 weeks, Documented Life, and more are very popular. The ability to work together towards a common goal can be really inspiring.

While a number of these community projects I shared here are art/craft and/or writing/blogging related, I'm sure there are others in various areas and topics of interest.

2. Create your own challenges.

Play the game that you know you can win. - P Bregman Click To Tweet

If you're like me and you can't do long-term daily challenges, then make up your own. One of my favourite personal development books is 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done* by Peter Bregman. In the book, Peter wrote**:

"What game are you playing? Is it the right game for your particular skills and talents? Is it a perfect set-up for you or your company to win? If not, then perhaps it’s time to play a different game or invent one of your own; one that you can win." 

I really loved that! It gave me the freedom I needed to develop my own daily habits. Since then, I have learnt to play by my own rules when it comes daily challenges and I am all the better for it. Of course, it's not as much fun playing on my own but hey, at least I am winning.

3. Give yourself firm but flexible guidelines.

When I officially gave myself a daily art challenge this year in 2016, I knew that the only way I'd survive is if I gave myself parameters. You see, the thing about completely free challenges is that the brain can go on overload and shift to overwhelm when faced with no restrictions. So, I learnt that it's always a good idea to give yourself guidelines to increase chances of productivity.

The guidelines, however, should be flexible enough for you without feeling like you're cheating yourself from that daily habit challenge. For example, if you set yourself daily art challenges, you might want to make rules such as: As long as you do any kind of art, no matter how little, it is counted towards your daily practice.

4. Find an accountability coach or partner.

When you find that self-coaching or personal motivation doesn't come easily, engaging an accountability coach or partner could help immensely. An accountability coach can ask the right questions, guide you towards your goals, and cheer you on.

In my work at Vervely, I have served as consultant, trainer, and coach to different individuals - from fellow social media practitioners to C-Suite Level folks dipping their toes into the world of digital media. But, I have often offered training and coaching as part of my work rather than a separate service.

Recently, however, I have started to look into providing accountability coaching services on a limited basis via the Coach.Me platform. And, I am really enjoying working with my current coachees, as we work through goals that we turn into actionable tasks and daily habits. If you think I can help you as an accountability coach, please let me know. At the moment, there's a free three-day trial at Coach.Me. You can use any coach you want with that free trial.

For ShaiCoggins.com readers, I am happy to offer a one week free trial using the code SHAICOGGINSWEEK with me as your coach. I am only taking on a limited number of coachees, however, so as soon as my quota as filled, I will not be accepting new clients until new spots become available. So, by the time you read this, I'm not sure if there will be a spot available or not. To find out my availability, you can subscribe to The S Squad mailing list.

5. Remember that commitment and consistency are key to develop good daily habits.

As my coaching clients would've heard from me, I support the notion that in order to develop any new habit, we must be committed to it and we must be consistent. That's why it's best to articulate our goals as clearly and as specifically as possible. We need to create realistic schedules - choosing peak time and allocating a certain number of minutes of hours for the task or habit we wish to tackle. And yes, it's always best to start small - better to commit to 10-15 minutes of writing/blogging a day than to be overwhelmed and stuck with lofty plans of writing for hours in a day. If you've had a tough time finding that block of writing time before, setting yourself a huge goal at the start would only overwhelm you and possibly, get you stuck.

That's why as part of the reboot of this blog, I told myself that I would attempt to publish at least 1 new blog post a week, around Wednesday or Thursday. Granted, I'm still finding this challenging, but having a specific deadline spurs me into action. At the very least, I work on my blog drafts and plan on publishing something as soon as possible.

Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience. - H Rickover

Good ideas... must be driven into practice with courageous patience. -H Rickover Click To Tweet

6. Build in a reward system for your daily habits check-ins.

One of the things I learnt about myself is that I can trick (or train?!) my brain to work on my daily habits by creating an ongoing list of things I want to do regularly. And, the more I can keep a streak going, the more likely I am to continue. That's why I enjoy using check-in apps. On Windows Phone, I use the Daily Tasks app. I believe there are iOS and Android equivalents. In fact, Coach.Me has an iOS/Android app that you can use and they have a built-in function for setting goals and checking into those goals. A friend of mine also suggested habitica.com.

Apart from the virtual high-fives and/or badges you might get from using such apps, you might also want to create a personalised plan for your achievements. For example, if you get to your first week of daily tasks, you can treat yourself to something you've been wanting to have (e.g., mine includes personal bribes like a trip to the art shop, spending money for books or workshops, or even just a night off cooking, so takeaway dinners it would be for the family). You might want to reward yourself weekly to start with, then increase to bigger monthly rewards.

7. Make your goals and actionable tasks as small and limited as possible to start with.

As I mentioned earlier regarding commitment and consistency, remember that at the beginning of your goal setting, make sure you limit the tasks you want to do on a daily basis.

There was a time when I wanted to do a daily sketch, a daily painting, and a daily art learning all at the same time. Needless to say, it all became a bit too much and I burnt out.

So, it's best to keep the number of daily habits you're trying to develop at a minimum. It's up to you what your minimum would be. Based on experience and research, 3 to 5 would be ideal. Or even start with just one. Once you have one habit down pat (no need to overthink or struggle anymore when practicing it), you can then add a new habit if you wish.

In my Daily Habits List, I have limited myself to five daily tasks dealing with the following areas: art, writing, exercise, spiritual practice and conscious reading (as opposed to day-to-day reading I do for work or personal enjoyment, reading news, blogs, etc). But, I only managed to keep two tasks going for the first few weeks. When I realised I can maintain those two things with little thought, I added another task. Then, later, I added two more. I'm always tempted to add more but I believe five should be the limit or else things can get pretty stressful. Once those habits are fully ingrained and I believe I don't need to 'check-in' to keep going, I can move one of those tasks out of my list to make way for a new one.

What about you? Do you engage in a daily habit practice? Do you have additional tips to keep you accountable?

If you don't have one, would you like to start one? What habit/s would you like to develop?


  1. *affiliate link
  2. **Also mentioned in Peter Bregman's blog post: Play The Game You Know You Can Win

About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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