Now that many people are stuck at home due to their virus, their daily routines have disintegrated. We have to invent, schedule, and stick to new habits. For Pagans and magic practitioners, this re-surfaces the topic of consistency. Many of us want to practice every day, but we struggle to do so.If you ever hear someone say that “all you need is motivation,” they know nothing about habits. If that were true, researchers wouldn’t conduct studies or write books about habit formation. No one would need advice from psychologists, because we’d all be “motivated” already.
So if motivation isn’t the key to a consistent practice, what is? Everything relies on how you go about practicing. Have you decided on what to do and why? Did you set out your tools? Schedule in your meditation session? All of these add up to keep you in touch with your deities or magical practice.
In this post, I’ll outline what steps you can take towards practicing your craft or religion every day. Many of these tips come from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. I’ll list more recommended books at the end of this article.
Schedule When, Where, and What
In 2017, a psychologist asked participants to plan their goals either by thinking or writing them down. Participants who wrote down a plan were 42% more likely to achieve their goals, according to the study. Jotting down your schedule can force you to stick to it.
To schedule your magic/worship time, follow the three W’s: when, where, and what. The “when” is a specific time of the day, and for how long. “Where” is the location you’ll do it, and “what” is the activities that you plan on doing.
James Clear also recommends a method called “habit-stacking.” Essentially, you plan a new habit after a pre-established one. For example, After I brush my teeth [current habit], I’ll meditate for five minutes [new habit].
Using these tactics, I’ll plan my own routine as an example. Around 7:15 a.m., I’ll make my morning coffee. After that, I will practice my craft. I will cleanse the living room, and then I will perform a rune reading/scrying session at my desk. It’ll take 10 to 15 minutes.
Make It Quick and Easy
When we encounter something we don’t want to do, our brains make up several excuses. “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” and “I’ll do it later” are common ones. The more you plan to do, the more excuses your brain will invent. Assume that when the time comes, you really won’t want to practice your craft. How can you get around this? By making it easy.
First, don’t make your habit too long in the beginning. I recommend only ten minutes a day (read more about that here). James Clear suggests an even shorter amount of time: two minutes. Whether you do two or ten minutes, it isn’t long enough to dampen your day. Anyone can do something for two minutes.
Don’t make your session too complex, either. Shorten it to one tarot reading, protection spell, or smoke cleansing. You can add on more once the habit is established. For now, you just want to get used to doing something witchy at the same time every day.
Determine Your “Why”
Remember back to the first time you practice witchcraft or Paganism, when you felt motivated and got a lot done. Back then, you had a “why” that was clear and decisive. It may have been as simple as “I want to know more” or “I enjoy this.” But it was enough to encourage you to work.
Without a foundation, we won’t feel the need to get out of bed early or turn off the TV. We need a clear reason for why we want to practice more, and we should remind ourselves of that reason consistently.
Perhaps you want to grow closer to a deity. Maybe you’ve always wanted to get better at geomancy. Or perhaps practicing every day gives you a sense of calm that lasts hours afterward. Whatever your “why” is, write it down and place the note in a spot that you frequently visit.
Put Everything out Where You Can See It
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” matters when creating a consistent practice. For months, I tried to perform divination every day, and I couldn’t stick to it. I eventually realized that my desk setup was hiding all my divination tools. Instead of placing my rune set in a spot where I can easily grab it, I tucked it inside a pencil case at the back of my desk.
Your craft will become unavoidable if you make it obvious. Keep your tarot deck out in the open. Place a crystal in your bathroom where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. Our brains are lazy, and we’ll be less likely to practice if we have to unpack all of our tools first.
If you’re closeted, you may not be able to leave your tools out in the open. I recommend writing a note to yourself. It can be discreet; the word “practice” will kickstart your memory enough. Place it in a spot where you’re guaranteed to see it.
I recently transferred all my tools into open boxes and set them on my work desk, which is by the kitchen. I can easily see and grab any tool I need in the morning.
Don’t Try to Change Other Habits at the Same Time
Learn from my mistakes; don’t work on more than one habit at a time. For years, I couldn’t establish a consistent practice because I tried to do too many things at once. I would go on a self-motivation kick and overbook myself. “Well, if I’m connecting with my ancestors daily, I might as well go to the gym every afternoon. And cook all meals at home. Oh, and I need to go to bed earlier, too.”
Take it from me: when you work on one habit, the rest will follow. When I wake up early to practice my craft, I often make breakfast at home. I work out later because I have more time. I feel more productive after a round of spirit work, so I write a blog post. Focus on changing your craft now, and the rest of your goals will manifest without you even thinking about them.
Record Your Streaks
The more often we practice our craft, the prouder we feel. For this reason, I highly recommend recording your streaks. When you finish your daily cleansing, mark it on a calendar. If you do it the next day, you’ll have a streak. These trails of success make us less likely to take a day off.
If you need to take a day off, however, follow the “two day rule.” The idea is that you should never take two days off in a row. If you’re too busy to write a prayer for your deity, give yourself a day off, and do it tomorrow. YouTuber Matt D’Avella has a great video on the two day rule if you’re interested.
I track my habits using the free app Habitica. It’s an RPG that gives you a customizable character. As you complete real-world habits, your character levels up, and you can upgrade it. In my experience, apps that reward me for streaks are more motivating than ones that punish me for missing a day.
Have Someone Keep You Accountable
This is a tip that I’ve heard for years but never took seriously until recently. To phrase the tip briefly, have others keep you accountable for your habit. Checking in with another person will peer pressure yourself into achieving your goal.
I never did this because of social anxiety, and I have missed out. Recently, I teamed up with the Pastel Priestess (who runs a podcast on Hellenic Polytheism) so we could keep each other accountable. We told each other our goals and checked in every day to reveal what we did.
There are less personal ways to hold yourself accountable. You can tell everyone your goal on a blog, like I’m doing, which will hopefully work. Hopefully. Otherwise, you can download habit-tracking apps that connect you with friends so that you can both see each other’s streaks. Some apps (like Flora) will have you donate a small amount to charity if you don’t keep it up.
In short, here are the techniques that I used to develop a consistent magic practice:
These books aren’t necessarily witchcraft or Pagan-focused, but they can help you determine what takes priority and how to practice every day.