Virtual open houses, digital closings, conversations from behind face masks — what productivity looks like for real estate agents this summer covers new terrain for all of us. All June, Inman surveys the New Productivity: the tools, skills and insights needed to make it work now.

Everyone talks about routines, habits and rituals as keys to productivity and success. But how do they form? What does failure look like in a quest for success through habits? Are you really cut out to have productive routines, habits and rituals? 

The answer to the last question is a resounding “yes.” I’ve been on a three-year journey studying and testing how to establish powerful, effective habits that outlast our usual promises to ourselves to just “be more productive.”

That fleeting promise lasts about a month for most people, and then moderate success or acceptable failures lead us astray. Today, I want to share eight steps to forming long-lasting routines, habits and rituals. But first, let’s define those terms. 

A “routine” is a series of activities that we do at a specific time, for a certain duration and in repeated intervals. A routine typically requires some level of thought.

Habits, however, happen without conscious effort. They’re actions we perform automatically. We might even feel a bit incomplete if we don’t engage in our habits and complete them on a repetitive schedule. Habits can be circumstantially driven and happen as a response to a trigger event. 

A ritual, on the other hand, is a series of actions that invoke a state of being usually tied to a step towards a goal, result or outcome that the person requires and desires.

Fortunately for you, in this article, I am going to prescribe to the K.I.S.S. rubric (as in, Keep It Simple, Stupid). I’ve found that you can develop successful routines, habits and rituals using very simple steps as long as your mindset is established and reinforced.

A simple and tested formula for developing successful routines, habits and rituals has these elements (very likely in this order): mindset, action, incremental steps, accountability, rinse and repeat, measure, refocus and celebrate, and then return to the grind.

1. Mindset

You have to believe you can accomplish your goals, and you have to believe this long before you prove that you can or actually do complete them. Affirmations are statements that reinforce an end result that you desire.

You have to will yourself to believe it’s true — without much proof. Most of us want proof that we’ve reached a certain point in life before we declare it to the world. Mindset for success is just the opposite. You actually declare your success before you are successful.

So, start by writing eight to 10 daily affirmations and commit to saying them to yourself, rebuking anyone who says otherwise and rejecting anything that suggests your affirmations aren’t true. Be delusional. It’s required for great success.

2. Action

Stop aiming, and take action. Let’s be real — it’s hard to be reckless with daily routines for success. Most of the “planning” that we do is just procrastinating.

Daily routines like waking up early, eating no sugar, making 50 prospecting calls and organizing your files (not productive, but OK) don’t require great planning. It’s better to take some action then assess and make a plan based on that action.

For example, if you want to create a lead generation routine, start by making 10 of the 50 daily calls you want to make. If you feel like you need to develop a script, do it after you’ve actually taken some action. It will make the planning and busywork more meaningful. You learn from action, not from planning.

3. Incremental steps

You don’t have to accomplish a big goal all in one go. Divide the actions that will be necessary for your success into bite-sized increments, and master the skill a little bit at a time.

For example, if your goal is to make 50 calls daily, start with five to 10. Do that for at least two weeks. If you end up making more calls, then great! But always, always do your required five to 10, and then add another layer of activity to that.

4. Accountability

Using action and incremental steps works, but only if you hold yourself accountable using data. You must measure your activities and track both the consistency of what you’re doing as well as the outcome. When you fail, be honest, and track your zeros, too. This will help you build your routines into a habit — and that’s the goal.

5. Rinse and repeat

This is the part that most people hate. When you’re accountable to yourself, you will definitely have days that are failures. They might be great big goose eggs, or maybe you fall short of your target.

You will feel like stopping for a rest or just giving up altogether. You might fall off the wagon for several days. You might not feel like starting all over again, so you might end up contemplating just quitting and trying something else. Don’t do it. 

Remember that part of the development of a routine is to “rinse” (lose all of your momentum and maybe even stop) and “repeat” (restart your routine with action and increments). 

Trust me, you will rebuild momentum and last even longer. Once you “rinse and repeat,” you will realize that you can recover and restart. This is a critical skill in the long-term development of a successful routine destined to develop into a habit.

6. Measure

Measure your success and your outcomes. If the goal of calling 50 people is to win solid leads, keep track of your calls, contacts and appointments when you convert a lead. This is the only way to assess whether what you are doing is bringing you closer to your goal.

More importantly, this data will also allow you to determine where you have a skill or a talent gap that can be filled or reinforced with training or a good hire to your team.

7. Refocus and celebrate

At this point, you’ve either hit your incremental target or missed. If you’ve hit your goal, then you can celebrate. If you’ve missed, it’s time to refocus your efforts and try again.

8. Get back to the grind

Don’t celebrate too long. Remember that this is an incremental journey. Some people get so caught up in the celebration of an incremental win or a milestone success that they veer off the path to creating a routine, habit or ritual.

Teresa Mack is the co-founder and manager of Pacific Playa Realty in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram

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