We’ve all been there – we promise ourselves we’re going to finally get through that stack of books by our bedside, or start learning that second language, or finally learn to cook… Maybe we even made it a New Year’s Resolution! But soon enough after a couple of weeks of making progress — maybe a month if you’ve got the willpower — the goal fades away as life takes over.
The biggest thing people get wrong with creating positive new habits is making it contingent on willpower. Sure, willpower is great — but it’s not going to last you months, years and maybe even decades. What you need is a solid plan with baby steps to keep you accountable, and that’s where 25 minutes comes in.
Why 25 minutes?
I’ve read blogs and stories about people who’ve mastered a language by studying three hours a day or read a book a week — and hey, good for them. But for the rest of us who have work, family and social lives to balance, taking out 3 hours is literally impossible. What isn’t impossible, is 25 minutes.
You might have come across 25 minutes before — it’s the amount recommended in the Pomodoro technique.
“ 25 minutes is just enough time to stick your teeth into something, but not so much you get put off by the enormity of the task.”
How to get started with your 25-minute blocks
1. Pick a time
First thing first, we’re going to block out time in our day to day or tomorrow to devote ourselves to our goal. Just for 25 minutes. Some people like doing it in the morning and getting it out of the way or ‘eating a frog,’ as Brian Tracy would say. Others will fit it in during a break or just before bed. Either way, pick a time and set an alarm now.
Note: don’t pick a time when kids are around when your mum normally calls for a chat or when you’re. e need as little friction as possible to make this easy.
2. Select your goal
It’s very important to only pick just one goal to start. Our brains are better at focusing on just one thing at a time. So, don’t try and do 5 different things at 25 minutes each or you’ll fall into that willpower trap. Keep it small and simple.
3. Sort out what you need
If it’s a chair and a desk, make sure they’re comfortable and ergonomic; if it’s a clean kitchen, make sure you choose a day when you/your family have likely cleaned up the night before; if you need anything to make this easier put it on a list and figure it out this week.
4. Get started!
Start reading/learning/planting/drawing! Do it until that timer goes off! You might have used some of your 25 minutes setting up, that’s okay! The good news is, you now have the momentum to keep going. Now all you need to do is schedule when you’ll have 25 minutes’ free tomorrow or whenever you next want to do your 25-minute session!
5. Choose your structure
This brings up to our next point! To make sure you stick to your 25-minute habit blocks, it’s useful to have a visual reminder handy. You can do it however you like, but monthly lists with boxes work for me. Take some time to create a structure. Mine looks like this:
You might notice mine has a few habits on there — it’s because I’ve already pretty well established my exercise routines and Chinese study, but I want to get into journaling now, so that’s my new habit!
I like it this way because I can color in the squares when I’ve done my 25 minutes.
You might also notice mine only has 5 squares a week, not 7. That’s because I can choose to take 2 days off from my 25 minutes whenever I want. If you stick too hard to your pattern you’ll feel terrible if you miss a day, but by leaving yourself some wriggle room it can be easier to bounce back if you miss a session or two.
Once you’ve got your structure written up, blue-tack it to somewhere where you’ll see it! I’ve got mine on my wardrobe mirror.
As you go on, keep coloring in your boxes/ticking off your list/however you wrote up the structure in step 4. If you find you can only handle 25 minutes aside for 3 days a week, or maybe 25 minutes for 7! Then that’s fine. Keep coloring! If you go over 25 minutes give yourself a pat on the back! But don’t fill in more boxes. The structure is there to keep you doing it every day.
After a month, you’ll see all those colored-in boxes, and it’s pretty damn awesome. If you stick to the way I do it, 25 minutes 5 times a week adds up to more than 8 hours in a month! And almost 100 a year!
As you continue to put aside your 25 minutes each day, you might start to notice things. Maybe you need to get different resources, maybe your original three-month goal seems too ambitious after a week or so. Don’t be afraid to use your 25 minutes to restructure and rethink whether you want to keep that goal or not – and use that 3-month goal to check back in with yourself.
Bio: Eleanor is a Sydney-based journalist. When she’s not making lists and listening to productivity podcasts, she’s trying and failing at speaking Mandarin. She’ll also whoop your ass at Harry Potter trivia.
This article originally appeared in A Girl in Progress.
This article originally appeared on A Girl in Progress.