S1E008: Breaking Bad… Habits! (aka: the three Rs of creating habits)

Show Notes:

In today’s episode, you will learn about a bad habit I recently broke (it’s a little shuddery, so listener beware), as well as the three Rs that make up good and bad habits.


Life is made up of habits, good and bad. In this episode learn how to break bad habits and create good ones with the three Rs to breaking bad habits and creating good habits.

Plus a NaNoWriMo pep-talk!

Intro and outro music from Uppbeat (free for Creators!): https://uppbeat.io/t/hartzmann/clear-sky

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If you have questions about the podcast content, content in any of my freebie resources, blog posts, books, website, etc.

Full Transcript:

Transcripts are created by Descript. Please forgive any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors!

Hey, Toucan!

Welcome to episode eight of the podcast. I am especially excited about today’s episode. Because we get to talk about one of my favorite things: Rewards. 

Which means your final NaNoWriMo pep-talk is also about rewards. Can you believe there are only two days left for NaNoWriMo? How fast did November fly by? Sheesh. 

To keep you going these last couple of days. I have a quote from Ralph Marston: “Start strong Stay strong and finish strong by always remembering why you’re doing this in the first place.” 

Keep pushing my friend. Keep going, keep showing up. Look at your stats on the website or your tracker. 

If you’re using one from the Quickstart Guide Look at all those words, you’ve added. Look how much progress you’ve made. Use that as a motivator to keep going these last two days. 

How far are you from a big milestone in your word count? Can you make that happen in two days? How many minutes worth of Toucan20 sessions have you put in over the past 28 days? Can you push around it to the nearest hour? 

Set some level goals for the next two days with equally rewarding level rewards. Remember the level goals from the plan for anything episode? 

What will you give yourself for logging 30 writing sessions? What will you give yourself for reaching that big milestone word count goal, that time goal? What will you give yourself for finishing strong? Let’s do this. As Thomas Carlisle says nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. 

And honestly, no matter what your ending word count is on November 30th. This is a huge accomplishment. 

And just a quick side note. So these little NaNoWriMo pep talks I’ve been giving out at the start of the last few episodes actually come from a 30-day challenge I created. So if you ever want to do a NaNoWriMo style challenge for any 30 day period. I’ve got you covered. I’ll put a link to my 30 day challenge in the show notes, just in case you’re listening to this outside of November, or if you want some extra noveling love throughout December and beyond. 

You can sign up for the challenge multiple times to get the motivational emails, no matter what time of year it is. Visit YouCanToucan.com/30days to sign up. 

Now onto the three RS of creating good habits. 

I am one of those people who just loves to reward myself for even the tiniest little things. Okay. I’m not talking about big rewards, like buying a new car or a bottle of Dom or anything like that. But even just like checking something off my to-do list is reward enough for me. It’s the little things in life, right?

Because if you can’t appreciate the little things. Then what the heck are we doing here? 

Life is made up of little moments that create a life so beautifully lived. *theatrical sigh*

And also life is made up of habits. Good and bad. 

Our days are strung, stringed? strung? stringed? strung together with habits. We are after all creatures of habit. Just like we are ruled by time, time and habits typically go hand in hand. 

Consider this: During the week, if we have a day job to go to, we typically get up at the same time every day and carry out the same routine every morning. We eat snacks at the same time every day. 

Okay. I did not mean to lump you in with how my day is ruled by the clock and my stomach, but I tend to get a little peckish around the same times every day. I can’t be alone in this right? 

So 10:00 AM for a mid-morning or pre-lunch snack. And again between two and 3:00 PM in which I typically eat like three snacks in a row. Maybe I have a little Hobbit blood in me. My mid-morning snack could be considered second breakfast after all. 

When the clock hits a certain time, our workday is done, then our evening routine begins. 

Our pets are also creatures of habit, who hasn’t been nosed stamped by a dog who thinks it’s time to eat dinner?

My beloved pittie mix, Kira, comes into my office every day and pokes and paws at me around 3:30 PM. I log off from my day job around 4:00 PM. She eats dinner at 4:30, but she knows the moment I log off and snap off my lamp in my office she gets to go outside and run around in the backyard. 

That is another routine. She and I have established.

What you’ll learn today are some concepts derived from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit.

The gist of it is we subconsciously create habits without even knowing it in what is called a habit loop. 

Today, I’m going to talk about the three R’s of creating a habit, which I tweaked just a little from Charles is vocab: Rituals, routines, and rewards. 

Rituals are a set of triggers or cues that are strongly linked to an activity. Routines are doing something the same way every time. 

While rituals trigger us in the action. Routines are the actual action we carry out upon receiving the cue. 

Rewards are the most important part of the habit loop. They are what makes any habit stick, good or bad. 

A bad habit, by the way, has the reward of whatever the bad thing is. The best example is smoking. The nicotine hit of smoking a cigarette is the reward. 

Now to break a bad habit. One must not change the ritual or the reward. One must change the routine.

Here’s an example of my own. At some point in the past few years, I developed this horrible habit of picking my cuticles. Sometimes to the point of bleeding. 

It was a nervous habit I picked up I think at an award ceremony in which I was a finalist. Standing up on stage decked out in an evening, gown, hair, makeup, all to the nines. 

Looking all composed and elegant and calm and peaceful above the waist, because below the waist, my hands were clasped in front of me, in a fit of flurried movement as I moved from finger to finger tearing at my cuticles. I didn’t even realize it, but a friend of mine who was there to support me, mentioned it after I left the stage and took my seat. 

I lived with this habit for a few years. It became so satisfying to peel a long slice of skin from the base of my fingernails. I know it’s so gross. I am so sorry. This is just so gross. 

However, just this September 2022. I got a thought in my head that this nervous habit was actually causing me to feel anxious. So I set about breaking the bad habit of picking my cuticles. How did I do that? I changed the routine of peeling the skin. I know gross. 

Let me step back just a sec, a second, because first of all realizing and recognizing the bad habit is an important step in breaking it. 

Once you become aware of the activity, you have more power to stop it. It’s not easy. And I know it’s going to sound easy here, but it really, really wasn’t. Because picking my cuticles was so satisfying even though it’s so gross. 

So when I realized I was picking at my cuticles, I made a conscious decision to either tuck my thumbs into my closed fists, sit on my hands, or do something else with my hands to distract them from what became a subconscious reaction to anxiety. 

To put this into the three RS, consider this. 

The ritual (remember a ritual is a cue or a trigger) were the anxious feelings. Okay. So I would be triggered or cued. By the ritual of feeling anxious. The routine was picking my cuticles. The reward, the satisfaction of quote unquote, cleaning up my cuticles. 

I changed the routine of picking the skin to sitting on my hands or hiding my thumbs or occupying my hands and other way. The reward then became feeling less anxious because little did I know the very act of nervously peeling my cuticles actually was fueling my anxiety. 

So let’s take a look at the three RS for creating a good habit, because I know you want me to move on from peeling cuticle skin. *grossed out sounds*

I really should have used a different example, but that was a major one for me and the most recent. As someone who has suffered from anxiety, basically my entire life. Figuring out these little. Quirks that I do when I’m anxious has really helped make me feel more calm. 

Besides, I don’t have a ton of bad habits (said the person in denial). So there you go. Sorry if I completely grossed you out with the cuticle picking example. 

So onto creating good habits. 

Let’s say you want to start writing. Or, you want to start writing again. Maybe you’ve taken a break that went on for way too long. 

Perhaps right now you have a plan to write every single day. Maybe you even have a scheduled time to write every day.

That time rolls around. And do you write? Maybe. 

But 67% of writers who have a scheduled time, don’t always show up, according to the writing habit survey I talked about in episode three and all the time. The one I like to beat to death. 

So here’s how it might go. 

Your ritual is you sit down to write, maybe you even open your writing software or your notebook or you get your stone tablet all set up on your table and your hammer and chisel out. Maybe you even have a pre-writing snack or beverage or something. 

The routine would be that you sit down. You get all your words written for the day. Maybe it’s a single Toucan20 session. Maybe it’s for an hour. 

The routine is you write. Ritual, you sit down to do it. Routine is you write. 

Your reward: More words added to your manuscript, the dopamine released in your brain for a job well done, or maybe you have another reward picked out, like you get to have a couple pieces of chocolate or a glass of wine or whatever else you might’ve thought up.

Awesome. Good job. You logged your writing session. I am so proud of you. 

But, you know what, here’s how it probably actually goes. 

The ritual is you sit down to write. Maybe we even open up your computer notebook, drag your stone tablet. Maybe you have your pre-writing snack or beverage or something. 

Whatever it is you do to get you into the mood to write. 

Your routine: You stare at the blank page for a minute. Or less, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter these days. So you click over to, I don’t know, whatever your favorite social media is, or your email or a game or YouTube or news articles, or maybe you thought of something the minute you sat down to stare at the blank page. 

That you feel you must research right now because you can’t. Move forward without researching it. 

The reward is the satisfaction of being connected to others through social media, the joy of playing the game, perhaps laughter and therefore dopamine released in your brain at a funny video or post. You get the point. 

I know, I already talked about Toucan20 and why it works in episode two and like every single episode, hence forth. So this should not come as a surprise.

When you start your routine of sitting down to stare at the blank page. Instead of picking up your phone or clicking over to a website or social media or whatever your distraction of choice is, why not set a timer for 20 minutes at the start of your session? Like the very start of it. This will be a great ritual to trigger you into writing mode and get your brain engaged and ready write. 

So change your routine. Instead of clicking over to one of your other favorite things or distractions. Actually write. Write One word, right “the” and see where it goes. 

Set your timer. That is your ritual. 

Routine: Open up your software or notebook or stone tablet and write “the,” and see what follows for 20 minutes. And if nothing happens in 20 minutes, at least you spent that 20 minutes, maybe, even just thinking about your story?

So there you have it, change the routine and change the habit. 

Think of some other habits you want to break or create, try out the method of changing the routine for a week. Then let me know how it goes. I’d love to know. 

 I have a couple of special bonus episodes coming up. So stay tuned for those . 

And in next week’s episode, I’ll ask the question, “Am I a writer?” in which you’ll learn about the different forms of negative self-talk and how to get past them. 

Set your timer. Go write!

Join the 30-Day Challenge!

The NaNoWriMo pep talks included in the November episodes are part of a 30-day challenge I created. To keep the peppy pep talk love going outside of November and National Novel Writing Month, sign up here to get an email every week for 30 days and maybe a few bonuses and free things along the way.

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Claire L. Fishback

Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!

Youcan the Toucan


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