5 ways I increase the odds of sticking with a new habit goal

I decided to draw for 10 minutes every day for a year. Here’s how I plan on following through.

Photo by Kamila Maciejewska on Unsplash

For my whole life, I have told myself things like “I am not a visual person,” “I suck at drawing,” and “I’m just better with words.” So today I am committing to drawing for 10 minutes every day for the next 365 days.

Why am I putting myself through this? Learning to draw was not even on my radar when I did my planning for 2022. It had been, however, on the back burner for years. When I left my academic research management job, one of the career pivots I pondered for a (short) while was visual storytelling. The Story of Stuff video had blown me away and I fantasized about following Annie Leonard’s legacy. (Tall order.) Instead, I found myself pulled to organize events and project-manage plant-based dinners. In the urgency of starting a new business, using skills I already had seemed wiser.

Five years later, I feel different. Not that I am completely secure in my business — far from it! But, although I have done reasonably well in life thanks to words, I feel that exploring visual storytelling has the potential to take me places where I haven’t been before… and where I need to go. Magic is what happens outside of your comfort zone, right? I am making the bet that drawing will help me go deeper into my own ideas (perhaps by making them simpler?) and that it might help me share them better with other people.

This was all precipitated by stumbling upon Ingrid Lill’s Visual Storytelling for Business course. Ingrid has an online business not unlike mine, however whereas I teach vegan cooking she teaches business illustration. We are both students of the marketing wiseman extraordinaire George Kao. I love Ingrid’s simple, concise, non-perfectionistic, and heart-based approach to drawing. Her course is organized in bite-sized chunks that I can make my way through a little bit at a time. Seems reasonable!

Also, and perhaps critically, it just seems like a fun thing to do — and I need more fun in my life.

So, here I am, committing to drawing for 10 minutes every day for the next 365 days.

That’s the kind of resolution that has the potential of starting in earnest and getting forgotten after about three weeks. However, I very much want to improve as a visual storyteller, so I need a system in place to prevent that from happening.

Here are the five things I will do to enhance the odds of sticking with the habit goal I set for myself.

1. Commit publicly

I guess this post right here is it. By telling a lot of people about my new habit goal, I am creating accountability for myself by putting my “face” (meaning my honor) on the line. This may not be for everyone, but it’s a strategy that has worked well for me in the past, notably carrying me through the darkest hours of writing my PhD dissertation after telling everyone that I would finish in four years. (I did.)

In other words, I count on other people’s voyeurism, and on our unfortunate tendency to keep an eye out for other people’s failure, to keep me on track.

2. Do it every day

Solidly into mid-life now, I have discovered that I am most creative when working cyclically: one social media post every weekday, one blog post every week, one meal plan every two weeks, one new workshop every month. I wish I had realized that about myself earlier.

Some of you may do their best work when going all-in for months in a row on a single project, and part of me wishes I could work like that… but when I tried it, it led me to frenzied cycles of booms and busts in creativity. I’ll stick with slow and steady.

3. Break it down

Habit building works best when we take it one ridiculously tiny piece at a time. I break down big projects into small pieces I can repeat on a regular schedule, building momentum. The pieces have to be small enough that they don’t scare me. Eventually, all the little chunks can be assembled into something bigger, like a mosaic. Drawing should be no different. I thought ten minutes would be small enough to not seem daunting, but big enough that I can sketch a few tiny things.

I am still missing a vision of the big picture. I am prepared to go with the flow and seeing how my drawing changes… and how drawing changes me.

4. Don’t go to bed without it

My plan is to draw first thing in the morning. Ten minutes is short enough that I can do it before going to the gym, and my pens are quiet enough that I can do it while the kids are still asleep.

This said, if for any reason I have not done my drawing by bedtime, I will not go to sleep before having done it — even if it means I have to skip reading that night. I’ll keep a pad of paper and a pen at my bedside to make it easy, just in case.

5. Celebrate practice not perfection

I am committed to being proud of myself for just doing it every day. Putting pen to paper to draw for 10 minutes, day after day, for 365 days, that’s the only goal. Spend 152 hours drawing in a year.

My drawings don’t even have to be good by the end of the year — although from where I am starting there is no doubt that I can only improve.

If nothing else, it’s probably going to be good for my brain, just like learning a new language or solving problems.

Will you help me keep my feet to fire?

Follow me on Facebook for daily posts or here on Medium (click “follow”) for less-regular reports on my learn-to-draw journey.

I am so going to regret this post.

I can’t draw arms or hands but the representation of my hair is rather accurate.

Brigitte Gemme is a vegan food educator, meal planner, and coach. After a PhD in sociology of higher education and a 15-year career in research management, she got impatient with the slow pace of planet-friendly change and decided to help individuals live a gentler life. If you need help deciding what’s for dinner, check out her meal plans at VeganFamilyKitchen.com. If you need personal guidance and accountability to embrace a gentler lifestyle and better habits, consider signing up for a free week with her on coach.me using coupon code BRIGITTEWEEK. Brigitte loves nothing more than helping more people make a habit of eating more plants.

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Brigitte Gemme

Vegan cooking mentor, mom, runner, writer, avid reader, PhD in sociology, certificate in nutrition, morning person. Author of _Flow in the Kitchen_.