Many of you know that I am really big on habits. I believe that habits are critical to leading healthy and happy lives. We need good habits in our personal life, our family life and our financial life. I want to share in this post a few thoughts on habits and the tool that I use to build habits.
What is a habit?
Habits are actions that through repeated use become easier. Habits can be good habits like exercising or choosing healthy food or they can be bad habits like smoking or credit card spending. Habits are like muscles that need to be strengthen to serve their purpose. We all have the muscle we just don’t all workout.
Why build habits?
Building strong habits is crucial to building our wealth. If we have the habit of budgeting it will make it easier to reach our financial goals. If we have the habit of saving we will be better prepared for sending our kids to college and retiring on time. Most of the problems we encounter in our financial life are due to poor habits around money.
How to build habits: The Habit Matrix
I have used the habit matrix as a tool to help me build habits for last 15 years. I have found it to be the most effective way to grow personally and professionally. I did not come up with the habit matrix. I actually took the idea from Benjamin Franklin. I read his autobiography in high school and started using it ever since. Here is how to create you own habit matrix and begin building habits.
Each year identify 5 to 10 habits that you would like to build or root out in the upcoming year. They work better if they are things that you can do (or not do) every day. So a good example of a habit to build is exercise. It is something that you can do every day. A bad example would be exercising every Sunday since you will only get once chance a week to work on the habit.
The habits that you should select should also be very specific. You can improve the above example of exercising by saying I will spend 30 minutes a day on the stationary bike.
After you have selected your 5 to 10 habits you can then create a matrix (a table) with the selected habits in the first row and the days of the week in the column headers. Each day, preferably before you go bed you can go down the list and put a check mark next to the habits that you achieved and an X where you failed. It is also a good practice to review your habit matrix when you wake up in the morning.
After you have your habit matrix you will want to rotate your focus so that you begin building the habit. Each week pick one of the habits that you really want to focus on and move it to the top of the list. Make the commitment that no matter what happens that week you will have 7 check marks in that row that week. You are still working on the other habits but your main focus for the week will be that top habit. Each week to can rotate them so that you focusing on one habit but building all of your habits.
At the end of the year you will see that some of the habits are truly habits now (consistently putting down check marks) and some habits need more work. You can replace the habits that you have down with new habits that you want to achieve and leave the habits that still need work.
In conclusion habits are critical for building wealth. Select a handful of habits to work on each year. Build your habit matrix and review it every day. And finally rotate your focus so that each week you are focusing on one habit. Good luck!