The Fun Way to Create a New Habit

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

Two years ago I did away with resolutions. Instead, I committed to doing something new thing each week.

At the time I was preparing to leave my job and launch a business. I thought getting into the practice of doing new things every week would get me out of the rut I’d fallen into and ready for all of the new things I’d encounter as a business owner.

I only had 1 “rule” for my project: each new thing had to be small and fun. What I did each week wasn’t as important as actually doing something each week. In order to maintain momentum, I knew I had to keep things easy and fun.

It worked!

After several weeks of eating strange new fruits, finding different routes to the grocery store, reading news blogs, and striking up conversations with strangers, doing something new became as integral to my week as going to work. It become a habit to actively seek out new experiences.

I also started developing other habits that had initially been new year’s resolutions – getting up earlier, eating fewer desserts, and exercising more. My fun project led to developing habits that were decidedly less than fun. For example, one week I decided that my new thing would be to write morning pages before going to work. This meant I had to get up earlier than usual. Because I looked forward to writing the morning pages, I was able to drag myself out of bed 30 minutes earlier. By the following week getting up 30 minutes earlier was easy, so I continued doing it.

Doing something fun helps you do the thing you want to do on a regular basis. Doing something on a regular basis helps you form a habit. Habits help you reach big scary goals.

It’s now a habit for me to start the new year with a fun project.


Want to develop a new habit this year?

Skip the New Year’s resolution and start a fun project instead.

What do you enjoy doing? Cooking? Walking? Connecting with friends? Begin with what you enjoy and then make a commitment to do it at regular intervals. Here are just 15 ideas off the top of my head:

1. Do 1 new thing each week.

2. Take a photo with your phone every day.

3. Record one thing that makes you laugh each day.

4. Watch a new movie (or TED talk) every week.

5. Read a new book every month.

6. Comment on your favorite blog every week.

7. Perform a small random act of kindness every day.

8. Hula-hoop for 5 minutes every day.

9. Visit a new town in your state every month.

10. Eat a salad with every dinner.

11. Write a page in your journal every day.

12. Call a friend every week.

13. Hike a new trail every month.

14. Eat a new kind of chocolate every month.

15. Knit 5 rows of a scarf every day.

What’s my fun project for 2013? I’m doing three this year: 1) taking a photo a day with my iPhone (I’m using the Photo 365 app to make things easy), 2) recording one good thing that happened each day (the Gratitude 365 app is helping with that one), and 3) eating a salad with every dinner (no app for that one).

There are several other habits that I want to develop this year, and I know that my fun project will serve as a bridge to those desired (albeit much less fun) habits in the coming weeks.

Three tips for success:

1. Keep it small.
I purposely set the bar very low for my fun projects in order to keep the perfectionist side of me at bay. The goal of a fun project is to get into the habit of doing something, so what you do isn’t as important as doing it on a regular basis. I choose projects that easily fit into my life.

2. Keep it fun.
If it’s fun you’re more likely to stick with it. Don’t try to convince yourself that an hour of jump rope every morning is fun when you’d rather try a new chocolate bar each month.

3. Keep it to yourself.

I know, we often hear that we should shout our goals from a mountain top so others can keep us accountable. In this case, I suggest keeping your project to yourself until it becomes a habit. If it’s a fun project, you’ll automatically have the motivation to keep doing it and you won’t need accountability. If you feel like you need accountability, you probably need to choose a different project. Keeping your project to yourself for the first several weeks also helps keep perfectionism to a minimum.

What are your ideas for fun projects for the new year?