Simple rules, continued

Simple rules help you do what you want to do (like form a new habit, or reach a goal).

Here’s how I come up with simple rules:

  1. Figure out what I want to do. (This is usually the most difficult part.)
  2. Figure out the ONE key action that will help me do what I want to do. (Sometimes this is so obvious it’s painful.)
  3. Figure out how often you can do that action. (As often as necessary? As often as possible? Somewhere in between?)
  4. Formulate your simple rule based on #2 and #3: I will do #2 action every #3 time period.

Some tips for using simple rules:

  • Keep them simple. Duh, right? But it’s so tempting to complicate things. You’ll start making a simple rule (“I will write every day”) and suddenly you find yourself adding on all sorts of caveats and timelines and minimums (“I will write 1000 words every day in the morning between 6 and 8 am while drinking hot lemon water and listening to meditative music”). Like, okay, whatever, you can do the lemon water and the music and the morning and however many words you want but don’t make it a requirement. Don’t make it part of the rule. Don’t make it a rule at all.
  • Avoid minimums. NO MINIMUMS. Not for quality, not for quantity. Later, when doing the simple rule has become a rock-solid habit, add a minimum or some other requirement. But not at first. I know you want to. I get it. Don’t do it.
    • This: “Write every day.”
    • Not This: “Write 750 words every day.”
    • This: “Exercise every weekday.”
    • Not This: “Exercise for 45 minutes every weekday.”
    • This: “Spend time with my kids at night.”
    • Not This: “Spend 1 hour of quality family time with my kids at night.” 
  • Find a simple, easy way to track whether or not you did your simple rule. Not to beat yourself up when you don’t, but because it’s fun to see how often you do once you get going.

Um, that’s it. These are simple, remember?

Some examples of simple rules:

  • Write something every day.
  • Publish something every week.
  • Greet everyone with a smile.
  • Go to bed when I’m tired.
  • Exercise every weekday.
  • Meditate every day.
  • Don’t eat grains.
  • Drink 2 liters of water every day.
  • Listen without interrupting.
  • Don’t accept invitations without checking my calendar.
  • Draw something every day.
  • Take a course every month.
  • Practice Spanish three times a week.
  • Brain dump once a week.
  • Do something embarrassing every day.
  • Update bullet journal daily.
  • Write in journal four times a week.
  • Spend less than 30 minutes/day on social media.
  • Call a friend every week.
  • Write a letter once a week.
  • Save money every month.

So on.

Simple rules are a lot like tiny habits.