how to build a habit

42 Productivity Experts Reveal How To Build Habits in 3 Steps

All high performing people have one thing in common:

Successful habits.

Research shows that as much as 40% to 45% of what you do on a daily basis is habitual.

This means that nearly half of your day is predetermined by the quality of your habits. Have productive habits such as, exercising, meditation and focusing on the task at hand, and you are halfway there to reaching your success.

But you’re probably wondering:

“How do I build successful habits and stick to them?”

Well, today I’m going to make it easy for you.

I decided to ask that same question from 42 of the world’s leading habit formation and productivity experts. I asked them to share their top 3 strategies and tactics about developing new habits.

And here’s what they are:

how to develop habits

Here is the full list of habit formation strategies voted by the experts (only the ones that received more than 1 vote):

Best strategies for building new habits, as voted by 42 experts:

#1 Start small / break it down into smaller chunks – 15 votes

#2 Do it consistently / don’t break the chain – 11 votes

#3 Have a plan / prepare in advance – 10 votes

#4 Use an accountability buddy – 9 votes

#5 Reward yourself – 8 votes

#6 Write down your desired habits – 7 votes

#6 Track your progress – 7 votes

#7 Be specific / clear about the habit you want to build – 5 votes

#8 Only build habits that matter – 3 votes

#8 Make sure your habit is doable / realistic – 3 votes

#8 Use reminders – 3 votes

#9 Visualization – 2 votes

Read on to discover each expert’s favorite habit technique along with some awesome tips that will make building new habits a breeze! You can either skip to your favorite expert using these quick links or grab a coffee, get comfortable and commence scrolling!

Aaron Lynn / Annie Mueller / Ari Meisel / Arman Assadi / Audrey Thomas
Bojan Dordevic / Bradley Chambers / Brooks Duncan
Carthage Buckley / Charlie Gilkey / Chris Bailey / Ciara Conlon / Claire Tompkins
Dan Hayes / Darren Tong / Dave Ursillo / David Seah / Deb Lee
Elizabeth Saunders
George Smolinski
Jamie Todd Rubin / Jane Porter / Jason Jennings
Kayla Matthews
Laura Vanderkam / Lisa Zaslow
Marissa Brassfield / Maura Thomas / Michael Sliwinski / Michele Connolly / Mike Asbury / Mike Vardy / Monica Ricci
Neen James
Patrick Allan / Paula Rizzo
Scott Young / Stefan Pylarinos / Stephen Guise / Steve Scott
Tim Brownson / Timo Kiander

Responses listed in the order they were received in:


1. Scott H Young – ScottHYoung.com

Scott H Young - ScottHYoung.com(1) Start small. Don’t jump into a habit right away, if possible, make it an increasing commitment.

(2) Use bright-line rules. This one comes from James Clear. A bright-line rule is a clear rule that has no vagueness to whether you’ve broken it or not. If you create bright-line rules for your new habits they’ll be easier to maintain than those with wiggle room.

(3) Be patient. I remember one study pegged the median time before a habit was as easy to do as not to do at something like 66 days, although it ranged depending on the habit to as much as 200+ days. Thinking of habits in terms of years, not weeks, is also more likely to help you adopt the right mindset.

 

2. Bradley Chambers – Chambers Daily

Bradley Chambers - Chambers Daily

(1) Track it (what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done)

(2) Do it first (you can put off something you’ve already done)

(3) Do things that matter. Don’t create habits that don’t help you accomplish your goals. Find out your goals and then build habits to help accomplish them.

 

3. Audrey Thomas – Organized Audrey

audrey thomas - organized audrey(1) Write it down. If there’s any type of deadline associated with the new habit, be sure to write this next to it.

(2) Break down the habit (into pieces/chunks). For example, if the goal is to go from checking email every 5 minutes to doing it only 4 times a day, then ease into this vs. trying to do it cold turkey. For the first week, use a timer and allow yourself to check your email every 15 minutes. In week #2, check your email every 30 minutes. And so forth.

(3) Tell someone else what your new habit is and ask them to check in with you on occasion to see how things are going. This builds in some accountability and you’ll be more conscious of sticking with something new. Your accountability partner should be a non-judgmental friend who will also provide encouragement and support.

 

4. Ari Meisel – Less Doing

Ari Meisel - Less Doing(1) Pavlok

(2) AskMeEvery

(3) Jerry Seinfeld Method (don’t break the chain)

 

5. Jamie Todd Rubin – JamieRubin.net

Jamie Todd Rubin - JamieRubin.net

Back in February 2013, I decided that–as a writer–I should be writing every day. So I started to do that. I wrote for 140 consecutive days before time and circumstance caused me to miss a day. Since July 2013, however, I have written for 673 consecutive days (and counting).

The three tactics I used to do this are:

(1) I tracked my habit. I have a set of scripts that automated this tracking process so that I don’t have to spend time doing it. I can spend my time writing instead.

(2) I set modest goals. I wasn’t trying to set personal daily records. In fact, I didn’t much care how much I wrote each day, so long as I did it every day. Turns out, I’ve averaged about 800 words/day. That’s about 30 minutes of writing each day. If I happen to write 800 words, great. If not, I’m fine getting in 100 words, or 200, or whatever I have time for.

(3) I learned to plan ahead. If I know I have a particularly busy day coming up, I try to get my writing in early. If I am going to be traveling on a day, I try to squeeze in my writing before I travel. If something unexpected comes up, I look for 10 minutes in the day and write what I can in those ten minutes.

Using these three tactics, I’ve managed to write every day for almost 2 years. Writing every day gives me the practice I need to improve my craft. I think it shows. In that time I’ve gone from averaging one story sale every 3 years to one every 45 days.

 

6. Paula Rizzo – List Producer

(1) Obviously you must start with a list! Picture in your head the ideal results you want and write them down. Create a short mantra to include in your life. You could even set it as your password to keep the momentum of your goal top of mind.

(2) Split up your project into small manageable pieces. Work towards it everyday, setting aside the time in your calendar like you would an appointment so you don’t skip it.

(3) Reward yourself. If you stick to your schedule, treat yourself to something you enjoy like listening to your favorite song, or reading a chapter of a good book. Just don’t go overboard!

 

7. George Smolinski – 4 Hour Physician

George Smolinski - 4 Hour PhysicianTactic 1: Doing the new habit at the same time and in the same surroundings each day. Surrounding the new habit with familiar “surroundings” will increase the chances of it sticking.

Tactic 2: Write it down! Make the statement positive (affirmative) and put it next to your bathroom mirror. The more you see it, the more it will become a part of you.

Tactic 3: Eat an elephant. Big habits are complex, and you need to build each piece before you undertake a major life transformation–its like eating an elephant: one bite at a time!

 

8. David Seah – DavidSeah.com

David Seah - DavidSeah.com(1) Commit to doing it at the same physical time and place, or just admit that you can’t do it.

(2) Do it with a friend who is equally committed, face-to-face, to keep yourselves motivated.

(3) Take a couple minutes to write down how you felt afterwards, to cement the experience.

 

9. Neen James – NeenJames.com

Neen James - NeenJames.com(1) Focus on it for 15 minutes every day.

(2) Make yourself accountable to someone else and share your progress.

(3) Track your results and celebrate your success.

 

10. Aaron Lynn – Asian Efficiency

Aaron Lynn - Asian Efficiency(1) Make sure your new habit is well-formed, and by that I mean super specific.

(2) Pick a reward for some positive reinforcement.

(3) Don’t just build a habit – build a ritual :)

 

11. Marissa Brassfield – Ridiculously Efficient

Marissa Brassfield - Ridiculously Efficient(1) The Best Defense is a Good Offense: Spend 5 minutes and generate a list of all the obstacles and situations that could stop me from building momentum… then circle the top 3-5 and create strategies on how to break those obstacles should they occur.

(2) Visual, Gamified Continuity: This builds on Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method: when he was writing a book, he took a wall calendar and crossed a big X in each day that he wrote, with the goal of not breaking the chain. I do this, but add level-based rewards at regular intervals (7 days, 14 days, 21 days, 30 days, 60 days, etc) to top up my motivation and celebrate mini victories.

(3) Destroy to Create: Each 90 days, I look at one area of my life and optimize it — even if my current method is working fine. Because I’m intentionally improving something each quarter, I get lots of practice at building new habits, which in turn boosts my confidence in attempting additional changes.

 

12. Monica Ricci – Monica Ricci

 

13. Jason Jennings – Jason Jennings

Jason Jennigns(1) Determine the desired behavior or habit – determine the desired behavior. (For example – go the gym every day at 6:30 AM)

(2) Discipline – Perform the activity for five consecutive days with zero exceptions Enlist others to help if necessary.

(3) Muscle Memory – By the end of five days muscle memory takes over and it becomes the new habit.

 

14. Kayla Matthews – Productivity Theory

Kayla Matthews - Productivity TheoryIn terms of using only three tactics, I guess I’d have to say that, broadly, I’d use positivity, positive reinforcement and micro-goals.

(1) Keeping a positive outlook and doing things to make sure you feel positively about your new habit can make committing to the new habit seem easier and more fun

(2) Using positive reinforcement to motivate yourself to keep your habit going is a great way to stay motivated and give yourself a treat when you do a good job

(3) Setting micro-goals, or small goals that are a part of your larger habit goal, is just a good way to break down a more complicated process into attainable benchmarks. Plus, it feels good to meet even small goals, so meeting those will help keep you motivated as you form a new habit.

 

15. Chris Bailey – A Life Of Productivity

Chris Bailey - A Life Of ProductivityMy favorite tactics for building new habits would have to be starting small, and rewarding myself in the process.

When you start small, and make incremental changes to reach a goal, once your initial motivation to form a habit wears off, the change is way less likely to intimidate you, and you’re more likely to stick with it. That’s not to say your motivations should be small—but the changes you make to get there should be.

Rewarding yourself also lets you be kind to yourself as you effort to become more productive – a step I think a lot of people forget about. Productivity is pointless when you’re not kind to yourself in the process.”

 

16. Laura Vanderkam – Laura Vanderkam

Laura VanderkamFirst, make sure you actually want to build the habit. If you hate to run, you’re going to have a hard time becoming a faithful runner, no matter what you try. Choose a habit you want to build!

Second, use your calendar and schedule it in. Anything you want to do takes time, so when will that time be?

Finally, hold yourself accountable. An accountability partner is good for most people, but sometimes just writing down what you’ve done works too.

 

17. Maura Thomas – Regain Your Time

Maura Thomas - Regain Your Time(1) Be very specific in articulating the new habit you want to adopt. (For example, “Work from my task list for the first hour every morning” is more promising than “Spend less time checking email.”)

(2) Identify the obstacles to performing the new behavior, and write out your plan for overcoming those obstacles. (For example: I want to be proactive first thing in the morning, but I can never resist the temptation of checking my email and other communications first thing. Therefore, when I sit down to work, I will plan to disconnect the WiFi on my computer before opening my task list, and choose one or two tasks to do immediately that do not require the WiFi on my computer. Only after those are complete (or XX time has passed) will I reconnect the wifi and check my communication channels).

(3) Tie the new behavior to a reward. (For example, “Once I finish my two tasks (or work from my list the first hour of the day, etc), then I will head to the kitchen/coffee house/break room for my favorite coffee treat.”)

 

18. Mike Vardy – Productivityist / Beyond Productivity

Mike Vardy - Productivityist(1) The first tactic I would use is to add a reminder to my task management workflow to ensure it gets the attention it deserves. Whether that is through creating a recurring reminder in an app like Due, making a recurring task in a task app like Todoist, or making a repeating occurrence in the calendar (for a specific time-based habit only), it is only through consistent attention can a habit become engrained enough to stick over the long term. You can’t trust your brain to do it on its own right away; you need outside triggers to foster the habit until it becomes automatic.

(2) The second tactic I would use is to log my success rate in a journal of some sort. I journal daily and when I’m trying to build a new habit I make sure that I mention in it in my journal entries until it is part of my everyday (or regular) routine. After all, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” right?

(3) The third tactic is to use theming (daily and monthly) to help my keep a new habit on the fast track to success. If I want to devote my time to making a habit stick and it is important for me to do so, I’ll make that habit creation my overarching theme for a particular month. For example, if I want to focus on getting in shape for the summer and exercise and yoga need to be part of making that happen, I’ll theme the month of May as “Fitness Improvement” so that I have an overarching project or ideal to strive for throughout the month. (This doesn’t mean I only focus on getting fit for that month; surely I have plenty of other things to work on. But by creating an all day activity in my Google Calendar that is a different colour than my regular calendar items, I’ll see what my monthly theme is and – if it is a habit t be formed – it’ll get the attention it warrants because the intention is front and center every single day.

Mike Vardy, founder of Productivityist and creator of the Beyond Productivity workshop.

 

19. Dave Ursillo – DaveUrsillo.com

Dave Ursillo - DaveUrsillo.com(1) Set your environment for success. Cater your personal space to support you. Cultivate an area of your home to start a personal practice (as I recommend to fellow writers and creatives), or designate a new journal or notebook for the creative ritual you intend to commit to.

(2) People who support you. If you can’t join a support group like a writers’ group (I run an online writers’ group, The Literati Writers) or similar for accountability and support, share with a few friends what you intend to begin and why you’re committing to it. Sharing out loud will help reaffirm your personal commitment to what you say you desire internally.

(3) Daily (or almost-daily) practice. I don’t believe in hard-lined, militant, do-or-die productivity goals. They’re not sustainable, and create an unintended consequence: a fight or flight response in the body, which means your intended positive goals might even impact your mental, physical emotional health negatively. Who needs that? Commit to daily or almost-daily practice for a few weeks to give yourself enough time to witness some positive transformation, without the added pressure.

 

20. Timo Kiander – Productive Superdad

Timo Kiander - Productive Superdad(1) Acknowledge the behavior you want to change.

(2) Identify a new habit that this unwanted behavior should be replaced with.

(3) Take conscious and small steps every day to implement the change.

For instance, if it’s about getting more sleep, decide to go to bed 10-minutes earlier than the night before. Once you are comfortable with this, change your bed-going time yet another 10-minutes earlier. Repeat this until you have reached your intended goal.

The key is the repetition; if you stick enough with the step #3, you’ll reach your goal and form a new habit.

 

21. Dan Hayes – Simple Life Together

Daniel Hayes - Simple Life Together

Three things… follow Charles Duhigg’s model of Cue, Routine, and Reward.

Taken from my post at http://simplelifetogether.com/the-power-of-habit/

Knowing there are many ways to interrupt developing a new habit, here are a few things I did to help ensure success:

  • (Prepare for Routine) I prepared the night before by setting out my walking shorts, shirt, my RHA noise canceling aluminum ear buds, and Vibram Five Fingers. Yes, I wear (and LOVE) those funky toe shoes!
  • (Cue) I set my alarm to ensure I walk at the same time every day.
  • (Cue Continued) When the alarm goes off in the morning, I turn it off, and say to myself “Get up, get out!” Some days are just tough and it’s easy to make excuses. But I know that once I’m out there on my walk I feel better. So I say every morning…Get up, get out!
  • (Prepare My Reward) So once I’m up I go make my coffee. My ritual includes my beloved Aeropress and Cafe Bustelo Espresso.
  • (Enjoy My Reward: Coffee & Audio Content) Armed with my coffee and my iPhone loaded with an audiobook or good supply of podcasts, I head out for between 1-1.5 hours and cover 4+ miles (Routine) each and every day. And I LOVE it!

 

22. Jane Porter – Jane Rose Porter

Jane Rose Porter(1) Setting realistic goals and expectations

(2) Building and sticking to a routine

(3) Not letting minor setbacks or derailments be discouraging

 

23. Steve Scott – Develop Good Habits

Steve Scott - Develop Good Habits(1) Find a habit that’s related to a long-term goal. It’s much easier to commit to a new routine when you a solid “why” behind it.

(2) Start small. People tend to overestimate what they can do on a daily basis. So they often start a habit and then give up after a few days. What’s more important is to stay consistent instead of trying to hit a specific milestone.

(3) Track your habits. Use an app like Coach.me to track this habit on a daily basis. Do your best to never break the streak.

 

24. Patrick Allan – Lifehacker

 

25. Mike Asbury – MASBURY

Mike Asbury - MASBURYFirst, tell everyone you reasonably can! New habits can be difficult to establish. It takes a village, and your tribe can help you with things like discipline, removing barriers, and stamina. Tell the people in your life what you want to do and what it’s going to take, and they will almost always rally around you to make you successful.

Second, make sure you have a plan. “Ready, fire, aim!” isn’t a plan. A plan requires thought (and can be a lot of fun). Develop a roadmap for your own success with your new habit and put contingencies in place for when obstacles present themselves. There’s no substitute for hard work, and there’s no short cut to planning for success.

Finally, do the work! Reward yourself along the way for success with your new habit. Beware the temptation to backslide as a means of reward. Not smoking for two weeks, as an example, is not rewarded with a cigarette. Choose rewards that strengthen your new habit. Most of all, celebrate and advertise your success. Your tribe will want to know how you’re doing, and there’s nothing like success to breed success.

Straighten your spine. Know yourself. Create new habits that make you a better person. In the end, life is a series of choices. Make them good ones. Make them matter.

 

26. Charlie Gilkey – Productive Flourishing

Charlie Gilkey - Productive FlourishingWhen I go about building new habits – which I do multiple times a year as I experiment with new habits – I focus on the following:

(1) Make it a daily action if possible. Dailies lock-in better because they remove the cognitive overhead of remembering when you’re doing what and you progress faster.

(2) Make sure there’s meaningful, near-real time positive feedback that supports the habit. The further out the benefit from the habit change, the more you’ll need intermediate positive feedback to get to that point.

(3) Start small, even if it’s just going through the motions. If you want to build a habit of running two miles a day, Day 1 may be putting your shoes on, setting a timer for 20 minutes, running as far as you can, and walking for the remainder of your time.

The next day might be putting your shoes on, running as far as you can (probably farther than Day 1), and walking for the remainder of your time. Eventually, you will be up to two miles; it’s not how long it takes you to get there, it’s about the action you’re taking to get there.

 

27. Claire Tompkins – Clutter Coach

Claire Tompkins - Clutter CoachFirst, make sure the habit is do-able. If you’re a couch potato, don’t choose “aerobics every day for half an hour” as your new habit. Start with something bite sized.

Second, find a spot in your schedule where it will fit as seamlessly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll keep putting it off and then suddenly it’s time for bed and you haven’t done it.

Third, use reminders. Post-It notes on your bathroom mirror, pop ups on your phone, whatever it takes. We’re all busy and distracted so reminders are a must. Don’t rely on memory.

 

28. Ciara Conlon – CiaraConlon.com

 

29. Annie Mueller – AnnieMueller.com

Annie Mueller - AnnieMueller.comFirst, I’d get really clear on why I wanted to build a new habit. We could call that a motivation tactic, I guess. It really sucks to try to force yourself to establish a habit you don’t really want or care about in the first place. If I can’t come up with an important, visceral, internal motivation for a habit, I’m not going to like doing it. I can still force myself — willpower, and all — but why? There’s probably another habit that will be better for me, that I will find important and even enjoyable.

Second, I’d make myself wait before I started building the habit. We could call this the build-up-to-a-frenzy tactic. I don’t know how I stumbled on this one, but it works for me. For a week or two or even more, once I’m sure I’m motivated to build a habit, I won’t let myself start. I’ll just think about it. Maybe write about it. Maybe investigate some methods. Maybe read about other people with this habit, and how amazing their lives are. And I’ll ponder the process of this habit in my life, so there’s the third: a visualization tactic. But it’s key to think about the process of the habit itself, not just imagine myself at the endpoint, the goal that the habit helps me reach. Then, once it’s been a week or a month and I absolutely can’t stand it anymore, I’ll start building the habit. By that point, I’ve upped my motivation to the point where it’s annoying and I have to tackle this thing; and I’ve visualized the process so many times (plus investigated methods and tools) that I’m ready to jump in and I know how to jump in. I’m still not always successful in building habits, but these three tactics, together, help me waste a lot less time on habits that aren’t for me or on trying to form habits before I’m really ready.

 

30. Brooks Duncan – Document Snap

Brooks Duncan - Document Snap(1) Get quick wins: Don’t try to change something big all at once. Start with a small change that you know can be successful, then you can iterate from there.

(2) Grease the skids: Set yourself up for success. Want to start running? Leave your shoes right by the door and have your running clothes right beside the bed. Want to eat better? Get rid of all the junk food in the house. Want to stop spending money on lunch every day? Make extra food at dinner so you have enough for tomorrow’s lunch. Do little preparation things now that make being successful at the habit later.

(3) Don’t let one bad decision ruin everything: Just because you messed up once doesn’t mean you need to mess up twice. If you break the habit, don’t worry about it. Just keep going again next time.

 

31. Lisa Zaslow – Gotham Organizers

Lisa Zaslow - Gotham OrganizersWe are creatures of habit. If you want to be more organized and more productive, you have to build some new habits, whether it’s filing stray papers at the end of each day, limiting the time you spend on e-mail, or conducting a weekly review of the status of your to-do’s and projects.

Since old habits die hard, to successfully develop a new habit, use a variety of tactics to support you. More is more! The more you know about what it takes to change, the more likely you’ll succeed. Fore more info, google the Transtheoretical Model of Change developed by Prochaska, DiClemente, and Norcross and check out the book Changing for Good.

These 3 tactics will serve you well in developing a new habit:

1. Be crystal clear about your new habit goal. The habit you want to develop should be specific and measurable. “Being organized” isn’t a specific habit. Keeping your horizontal surfaces clear of clutter is. Be just as clear about why you want to develop the habit. List all the benefits you’ll gain, as well as the costs of not changing. Refer back to your reasons often to keep you motivated.

2. Create a structure to support you in building your new habit. You can: create a simple chart that reminds you to do your habit; use an app that tracks your progress; join a group or online forum of like-minded people; get an accountability buddy or coach to keep you in action. It can take 21-90 days to develop a new habit. Your structure should cover this whole timeframe. Expect some set-backs.

3. Set interim goals and use rewards to help you achieve them. In the first week or so, you may want to give yourself a mini-reward for each day you successfully demonstrate your habit. As you develop your new habit muscle, set larger goals and give yourself bigger rewards.

Organization and Productivity Expert Lisa Zaslow has helped thousands of people and businesses save time, money and effort over the past 15 years. Her expertise is regularly featured in the media, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ABC News, CNN Money, and many others. Get Lisa’s super-easy organizing tips at www.GothamOrganizers.com

 

32. Stephen Guise – Deep Existence

(1) Minify the habit into something so small that you can’t fail to do it (e.g., one push-up a day). I call these mini habits.

(2) Determine your cue. Will you do it at a particular time or following another activity? Or if you’re following my “Mini Habits” strategy, you can also choose to do it once per day at a time of your choosing. But make sure whatever it is, that you define it clearly ahead of time.

(3) Don’t let a lack of motivation throw you off. Motivation fluctuates, but you can use willpower at any time to force yourself into action. If your action is small as suggested in step one, you should never fail to do it and the habit will form.

 

33. Michele Connolly – Get Organized Wizard

Michele Connolly - Get Organized Wizard(1) Choose Only 3 Habit Changes or Resolutions at a Time

Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned from psych research, working with clients, and my own experience is that taking on too much is a surefire way to exhaust and de-motivate yourself.

Changing a habit is difficult enough as it is. It’s much better to succeed at an achievable pace, and then use that sense of mastery to set the bar a little higher next time.

Once you’ve gotten on top of one of your habits, you can replace it with a new challenge, so you always have 3 resolutions to work on.

(2) Focus On What You Will Do, Not On What You Want to Avoid

The next major lesson I’ve learned is that it’s very difficult to make yourself not do something. Not eat chocolate. Not talk too much. Not be late.

As much as you might think the biggest challenges in your life are things you want to stop doing, I urge you to try it this way instead, and see how it works for you.

Frame your habit changes in positive terms – things to do, not things to not do.

You might need to get creative and look for things that:

  • Are inconsistent with the thing you want to avoid
    • EG: Go to the gym; go for a walk; drink peppermint tea after dinner (if that’s when you usually smoke)
  • Make you feel good about yourself so you’re less motivated to do the thing you want to avoid
    • EG: Wear jeans that look great when watching TV (so you won’t be as tempted to binge)
  • Distract you from the thing you want to avoid
    • EG: Take up ballroom dancing (so you won’t be home to stalk your ex on Facebook).

Even if you still smoke, binge or stalk, at least you’ll be adding a good habit or good feelings to your life.

And chances are that if you persevere, you might just crowd the bad habit out of your life.

(3) Place Your 3 Resolutions in 3 Places and Read Them 3 Times a Day

Once you’ve got your 3 habit changes or resolutions and you you’ve framed them in positive terms, put them in 3 places.

Ideally, you want to choose places where you’ll naturally come across your resolutions every day – like the bathroom mirror, your wallet, the fridge door, your bedside, your diary, etc.

Aim to read them to yourself – mentally or aloud – 3 times most days. This will help you to remember and focus on the things you’re committing to.

 

34. Stefan Pylarinos – Project Life Mastery

Stefan Pylarinos - Project Life MasteryThe first tactic I’d use is willpower. Anytime you start a new habit, you need to be able to utilize your willpower and “push” yourself to take action and implement your new habit. In the same way, when a rocket launches into space, it requires a tremendous amount of fuel and energy to get outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. But after it’s in space, it requires very minimal fuel. The process is similar in developing a habit – the beginning stages are the hardest, as it requires the most “fuel” and “energy”, also what I consider willpower.

Next, I think it’s important to understand that willpower does not last long-term. Ultimately, you need to get yourself from “having” to do something to “wanting” to do it. The “push” strategy will only last so long, so ultimately your habit needs to “pull” you towards doing it everyday. This requires you to fall in love with the habit and associate fully to the reasons WHY it’s important for you to do everyday.

Finally, to ensure you’re sticking with your habit and it’s apart of your life, I’d get an accountability buddy. Have someone that you can talk to everyday that is just as determined as you, to help hold you accountable. This could be a friend, a coach, or a mentor. This will ensure that you’re holding yourself to a high standard and keeping your habits strong.

 

35. Deb Lee – D. Allison Lee

Deb Lee(1) Create a trigger. A trigger will help you incorporate your habit in your daily routine (e.g., use a specific time or location … or attach new habit to an existing habit).

(2) Track your progress. An an app like Wonderful Day or Strides can help.

(3) Reward yourself. Keep the motivation going by celebrating specific milestones (e.g., 10 days of sticking with the new habit, 30 days, 60 days, and so on).

 

36. Tim Brownson – A Daring Adventure

Tim Brownson - A Daring AdventureI’d say it depends somewhat on the chosen habit. For most people a great starting point is to fully understand why it is they want the new habit by aligning it with their values. If you want a habit of working then understand the real driving forces underpinning that. That way when times get tough you remember to focus on what you want and not what you don’t.

A second step would be to tell as many people as possible so that you demonstrate commitment and can be held accountable. There are a small minority of people who this would cause intense stress to, or even a sense of have already done the work, so know yourself.

Finally, write whatever it is in your calendar. When I wanted to get back into the habit of going the the gym when we moved from the UK, for about 6 months I wrote every gym visit in my calendar. Once in there it was an appointment like any other and it kept me on track.

A ward of warning. Just remember there is no set number of days to form a habit, so don’t think because you do something for 30 days or even 90 days that you have necessarily built up an unconscious habit.

 

37. Carthage Buckley – Coaching Positive Performance

Carthage Buckley - Coaching Positive PerformanceVisualise – I feel that there are 2 important aspects to visualising when embedding new habits. The first is to know why you are trying to adopt the new habit and the second is to become confident with the practice of the habit. A number of times per day I would visualise myself implementing the habit e.g. a new training regime. I would then finish my visualisation by focusing on what my life will be like when the habit becomes second nature to me and the ‘why?’ had been achieved.

Small Actions – Quite simply, if you don’t take action, you cannot change. I would break the new habit down to the smallest workable action e.g. with a new training regime, I wouldn’t focus on completing the workout; I would focus on traveling to the gym. Then when I get to the gym, I could focus on each individual element of the workout; one at a time. It is easy to complete the small action of traveling to the gym but thinking about the whole workout can be overwhelming so just focus one step at a time.

Journaling – When implementing a new habit, it is important to capture everything that goes through your mind. You can reflect upon your performance each day; capturing both the successes and the setbacks. When you identify what went right you can ensure that you do more of it. And, when you identify what went wrong you can find a way to deal with it. New habits can take time to develop so patience is required. A little self-reflection and a willingness to learn from your mistakes will ensure that it is a smoother and swifter experience.

 

38. Darren Tong – Alpha Efficiency

Darren Tong - Alpha Efficiency(1) Start small and increase difficulty/effort /complexity over time.

(2) Repeat as often as possible.

(3) Record every time you do it successfully and review.

 

39. Bojan Dordevic – Alpha Efficiency

Bojan Dordevic - Alpha Efficiency(1) Visualize the future self you want to be.

(2) Identify the smallest common denominator of your future behavior.

(3) Make a decision on who you are, not what you do.

 

40. Michael Sliwinski – Nozbe

Michael Sliwinski - NozbeFirstly I’d make sure that I really want this change in my life, that I am ready for it and that once I build this habit the quality of my life will increase. Perhaps, I would make a list of benefits and positive stuff about the change on the whiteboard in my office and leave it there for some time.

Secondly, I’d focus on reducing the “barriers of entry” – I would make this new habit as easy to start as possible. Once I start getting it, I would add some new stuff to it and develop it in order to achieve the final “big goal.” I’d rather avoid introducing drastic changes that would turn my life upside down.

Thirdly, I would carefully plan the habit building process for a certain period of time. I would choose a particular part of a day for working on that new habit and make it my routine that follows the action I do everyday anyway, e.g. after I read to my daughter in the evening, after having dinner with my family etc.

I’m right now in the process of building morning training habits as the summer time has come. In the winter time I train during the day and in summer I train sports in the morning – so I have to change my habits every half of the year :-)

 

41. Elizabeth Saunders – Real Life E

Elizabeth Saunders - Real Life E(1) Start small. A simple habit kept is better than a complex habit broken.

(2) Write a checklist.

(3) Put a recurring reminder in your calendar to help you remember to keep your habit.

 

42. Arman Assadi – Arman Assadi

Arman Assadi - Why I Left GoogleTo build any new habit/ritual you first have to understand the root reason (the why) for wanting to implement this new action in your life. Spend time identifying the biggest motivating factors in detail, and get very granular about why you must create this habit. It’s also key to identify whether there are any existing negative habits in place that could be obstacles. Often times, these habits are formed in early childhood. and we do not realize how these unconscious actions can easily prevent us from creating better habits. This is what results in frustration (and eventually quitting) for many people when initially beginning. Once this investigative work and preparation is done, I would move onto the following three steps:

1. Identify the new habit in detail – It’s not enough to say you want to write one blog post a day, or lost one pound a week. You must answer the deep-rooted question of why it matters to you. Write down each answer, and then ask why again until you can no longer answer the question.

2. Create leverage – it’s important to create a positive (or negative) reinforcement and create leverage for taking action. Ask yourself the key question: “what do I need to do in order to guarantee success?” From there, seek partners you trust to hold you accountable for the new goal. Check in with them as often as necessary in order to keep yourself moving. Many times people respond better to negative consequences than positive ones, so do a little critical thinking here to identify what works best for you.

3. Track the new habit for a minimum of 66 days – some say it’s important to make a habit as simple as possible, e.g., if your habit is to floss your teeth daily, make it a goal to floss at least one tooth. For me, what’s more important is step two above, and then actually tracking the habit and creating an incentive for yourself. What matters is not doing this habit every day, but simply creating consistency. As I’ve written about before (see: The True Science of Forming Habits) this controversial figure of (66 days) isn’t the key, it’s only part of it.

“The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days.”

This quote is directly pulled from the Phillippa Lally study. How long it takes to make the habit stick isn’t the determining factor. The point is to create consistency over a long period of time. 66 days has been proven to be the average in the most recent studies, so plan to track for at least that many days until you perform the habit automatically (without thinking and/or effort).

And remember – have fun!


Over To You Now

And there you have it, the top strategies for building habits and sticking to them.

Here are the final results again:

how to develop habits

So what’s the take-away from all of this?

If you want to develop new habits, the best way to go would be to:

  1. Start small and slowly build your way up. Don’t be a hero right off the bat. Figure out what is the smallest amount of consistent action that you can take and start there. Train the behavior.
  2. Create a plan / schedule for your new habit and stick to it. Extra points for writing it down and not just making the plan just in your head.
  3. Some social pressure will go a long way. Find an accountability buddy. Someone who you feel comfortable with to share your goals and to ask to keep you in check.

I will add a bonus point #4: don’t over-complicate it. Imperfect action beats perfect planning on any given day. You know the best habit formation tactics, now you just need to apply them.

And remember:

Successful people are simply those with successful habits.
~ Brian Tracy

Question: what are your favorite strategies and tactics for building new habits and sticking to them? Leave a comment below:

  • http://whyileftgoogle.com/ Arman Assadi

    Fantastic article, Kosio. Especially love the summary and infographic at the end. Honored to be part of this list, thank you! Rock on my man! :)

    • http://www.highperformancelifestyle.net/ Kosio @ HighPerformance

      Glad you like it, Arman and thanks for participating :)

  • http://thehabitjournal.com/ The Habit Journal

    Great article and lots of good advice!

    Building habits is the easiest way to improve your life right now – and the best thing is, anyone can do it no matter what situation they find their life in.

    My advice would be to think about and write your big goals down (health/fitness/family/relationship/personal development/money/mental/spiritual).

    Then half the effort required to achieve them. Keep halving the effort until you’re left with something you can start right now, today.

    Then repeat this action until it becomes habit and you can do it with relative ease. You can then double the effort until it too becomes habit. Then keep doubling the effort. Eventually you’ll reach your goal but more importantly you’ll have built momentum to tackle all sorts of other goals.

    For example, let’s say you’ve always wanted to run the London Marathon but you can’t run the length of yourself. This is your end goal. Your penultimate goal is to run 21KM. Your goal before this is to run 10.5KM and so on until you land on a goal you can achieve today. Say run 2KM. Go run it now. Run it tomorrow and the next day until you feel confident you can run 4KM. This is where the magic of habit kicks in. You’ll feel more confident as you start achieving goals, even if they are small to start with. You’ll also find you start to enjoy the process and you’ll become your very own accountability partner.

    One other thing – it’s vital to build good foundation habits at the same time as chasing goals…things like drinking water, exercising and saving money should be tracked alongside the flashier goal based habits.

  • ekua odoi

    Thank you this is a great summary of recommendations, will definitely try some of these tips!

  • http://niklasgoeke.com/ Niklas Göke

    Great roundup! Happy to see start small at the top, little sad to see accountability buddy only on spot 4, being an accountability coach and all 😉

    Solid!

    Question Kosio, what would have been your answer to this question, if someone had asked you this (before you knew the results of course ;))?

    Thanks for the post!