Developing new habits can be tough—and often times just as hard as breaking bad habits. So what does establishing new habits have to do with accountability partners? More than you think. By our very nature, human beings are creatures of habits. In fact, we have formed so many habits over the years that we don’t even believe they are habits. In order to manage your time effectively and be more productive, you need to form some new habits. But be aware: Forming a new habit is not easy, and most people fail within the first 10 days. How can you help ensure your success?

I should say that I don’t claim to have this stuff down, as I certainly have my own struggles. However, I am learning and improving more every day. Here are a few things that are working for me:


1.     Focus

As ambitious goal-setters, we sometimes try to take on the world. Studies show, however, that if you choose just 1 to 3 items to focus on, your chances of achieving success are much greater. Resist the temptation to divide your attention among too many goals. Forming a new habit is challenging enough—trying to change too much at once can minimize your chances to succeed, and create added frustration from being overwhelmed.

Think about this: If you establish just 1 to 2 new habits over the next three months, then repeat that every 3 months you could accomplish significant changes in your life. Firmly establishing just four new habits over the course of one year could create a truly meaningful shift in your life—perhaps even the biggest you’ve experienced in a year! Imagine establishing long-term habits, such as waking early, running, drinking water and having a date night with your partner. See what I mean?


2.     Establish triggers

It helps to pick a trigger for your new habit; that is, a predetermined time or event that will trigger action. For example, establishing a time for daily or weekly meditation. I created a ritual of meditating for 10 minutes each morning before I begin my day. I’ve managed to be very consistent with this because, over time, it has become nearly second nature to me. I wake up, go down stairs, look outside, and let thoughts flow without judgment. This new healthy morning routine invigorates me and helps me start my day off in a positive state of mind.


3.     Start small

If your new habit is running, for example, it might be tempting to set a grandiose goal—like running 10 miles on your first excursion. Probably not a good idea. Instead, think about the proper running gear you’ll need then set a first-time goal that is more suitable to your experience and level of fitness. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself with an unrealistic goal—then deal with disappointing results that could discourage you to continue on.

Try focusing on smaller, measurable goals to build up to what you want to achieve—like going for a 10 minute walk. Do that three days on the run and you have three solid first steps in a row. Then, perhaps, you can move up to 5 minute light jogs. Gradually extend each excursion and you will soon discover your ability to take on decent runs will improve, and the new habit will be well formed. Small, measurable steps are the key.


4.     Give yourself some accountability

Accountability partners are key to helping you form and reinforce new habits. These are trusted people with whom you have natural relationships that can help you to stay on track. Holding yourself accountable with the help of supportive friends and family members can significantly help you follow through on the things that are most important to you—and can give you the extra push to become extraordinary in specific roles in your life.

When it comes to becoming more productive or better in a particular role in your life, share it. Be honest with where you are currently and ask your accountability partner to help you form new, healthier habits. The general rule of thumb is that it takes approximately 21 days to form a new habit. If you are consistently trying to form a habit during the 21 days, your accountability partner will be extremely helpful with encouraging you along the way. If you find yourself not being consistent in your efforts, an accountability partner can redirect and support you along the way to help ensure your success.

Remember, an accountability partner is someone that helps you become what you have decided you want to be—not what they think you should be.

Perhaps tell your loved one that you are intending to commit to some future event. For example, I want to develop the habit of establishing a consistent amount of movement into my day by using my pedometer to track my movement. I have shared this with my husband, kids and accountability partner. It feels a bit scary; however, I know that by sharing this they’ll encourage me to walk more and think about the total number of steps I've accomplished in a day. My accountability partner asks me about my progress and how I am achieving my goals, which helps to establish a regular cadence of reporting and measuring of my progress—just enough to motivate me each day.


5. The tipping point

Even with small steps, the early stages of building a new habit can be tough. It’s all new, sometimes challenging and there can be a lot of anxiety around whether you will stick with it.

As you are dealing with this, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a tipping point when forming new habits and with most things you learn. Once you hit a certain point, things will suddenly seem much easier to accomplish and more fun—and in a more natural way.

Hang in there for it.

The learning curve can be challenging, but taken with the right amount of accountability, grace and positive attitude, you will find it’s worth the hard work. Your accountability partner can help you become the person you want to be. Looking back on goals I've worked on over the past year, I don't regret the hard work it took to get where I am today on any of them.