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How small actions can build habits and support the meaningful change you desire

We are juggling a lot in life and however much people talk about multitasking, what we’re really doing is just switching focus (not always that successfully) between multiple tasks!

Being a working mum requires more juggling than even some of the most challenging job roles, and the feelings that go along with the tasks - responsibility, overwhelm and guilt can weigh heavily. From taking care of children to managing work tasks and household chores, there's always something demanding our attention. With so much to do and limited time, it's easy to fall into the trap of neglecting our own goals and self-care. That's where habits and small actions, what, in Atomic Habits, James Clear calls gateway habits, can come in handy.

Habits are automatic behaviors that we repeat regularly, often unconsciously. They can be positive or negative, and they play a significant role in shaping our lives. For working mums, building habits that support our own well-being and personal growth can be a serious game-changer.

However, creating new habits can be challenging, especially when we feel overwhelmed or lack motivation, which are not surprising feelings to come up when our whole sense of self is thrown up in the air. That's where gateway actions come into play. Gateway actions are small, easy-to-do behaviors that act as a trigger for the habit we want to build. They create momentum and make it easier to start and sustain the habit.

For example, let's say you want to start a daily meditation practice. Instead of going straight in aiming for 30 minutes’ meditation a day, you can start with a gateway action such as taking three deep breaths every morning. Once you've established this simple habit, you can gradually increase the duration of your meditation sessions.

Clear gives other really helpful advice about being specific and habit stacking. Choose something you already do habitually - maybe brushing your teeth - and link the new gateway habit to it. As soon as I’ve brushed my teeth, I will close my eyes and take 3 deep breaths. You can then keep building. Maybe you’ll even create a supportive morning routine for yourself just by the gateway habit! Being specific about time and place can really help you stick with the action until it becomes habit - give it time.

Here are some examples of gateway actions that you can use to build positive habits:

  • Drinking a glass of water before each meal to stay hydrated and healthy

  • Doing five minutes of stretching or yoga before bed to improve sleep quality

  • Spending 10 minutes a day reading a book or listening to a podcast to learn and grow

  • Setting a timer for 15 minutes to declutter or organize one area of the house

By starting with small, achievable actions, you can create a positive chain reaction that leads to bigger changes over time.

Building positive habits that will support you in getting where you want to be in life can help you prioritise your well-being, improve your productivity, and achieve your goals. However, creating new habits can be challenging and that’s where these gateway actions come in. By starting with simple, easy-to-do behaviours, you can create momentum and make it easier to establish new habits. So, start small and remember to celebrate your progress along the way.

You’ve got this!

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