Forming habits that stick can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding things we do. Whether you want to incorporate a new health habit, build better financial behaviors, or ingrain new productivity routines, it takes focus and perseverance. However, it is possible to establish long-term habits with the right approach.
In this post, we will explore seven key strategies, backed by scientific research, that enable you to build habits that become second nature. Implementing just a few of these methods can make a huge difference in whether your new habit continues on autopilot or fizzles out after a few weeks. Small changes add up, and soon, you will notice the positive effects of lasting habits on reaching your goals and improving your quality of life.
When trying to change behaviors, many people become discouraged when they slip up or don’t see immediate results. They may abandon the ship entirely after just one lapse. However, know that habit formation takes time. Be patient, stick with it day after day, and you will get there. Trust the process and use these proven techniques to create enduring habits.
1. Start Small: Focus on Tiny Changes
When embarking on a new habit, one of the fundamental principles is to start very small. For example, commit to putting on your shoes and walking 5 minutes daily to establish a running habit. Once that’s consistent, then build up to a light jog. Gradually increase distance and speed from there.
Small steps feel more straightforward to stick to. Don’t overhaul your whole lifestyle at once, or you set yourself up for failure. Tiny changes over time lead to lasting transformation.
2. Attach It to an Existing Habit
Connect your new habit to a current behavior that already happens automatically. This helps it become a natural part of your routine. For instance, do ten push-ups right after your morning shower. Or meditate for 5 minutes as soon as you pour your afternoon cup of coffee.
Piggybacking onto existing habits makes new ones more familiar and effortless over time. Leverage built-in memory cues you already have.
3. Schedule It
Pick a designated time to perform your new habit daily and set calendar reminders. Consistency is vital for forming habits—the more you repeat it, the more automatic it becomes. Carve out time specifically for this new routine and stick to the schedule.
Planning it into your day ensures it will get done and not fall by the wayside when you get busy. Habit-building requires dedication, so treat it as a top priority.
4. Eliminate Friction
Streamline your new habit as much as possible so little to no effort is required. For example, pack your gym bag and lay out exercise clothes the night before so you can go out of bed.
Reduce any points of friction that can trip you up. The easier you make it, the more likely it becomes routine. Remove obstacles to consistency.
5. Track Your Progress
Monitor your new habit in a journal, spreadsheet, or app designed for habit tracking. This keeps you accountable day-to-day. Record what you did and mark off each completion.
Tracking also lets you see your progress over time. Concrete proof that you are sticking to it motivates you to keep going. Numbers don’t lie!
6. Reward Yourself
Celebrate the achievement after you’ve successfully maintained your new habit for a set number of days! Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a delicious meal, massage, or fun outing with friends.
Planned rewards reinforce habits. It gives your brain positive feedback, releasing dopamine, so you associate the habit with feeling good. Use rewards strategically.
7. Find Accountability Partners
Share your new habit goals with supportive friends, family members, or colleagues. Ask them to check in on your progress. Having people who hold you accountable boosts your chance of success.
Some apps connect you with like-minded habit builders for mutual encouragement. Social motivation helps habits last over the long haul.
Jessica wanted to establish a consistent early morning yoga habit but struggled to stick with it. She loved how yoga made her feel physically and mentally but often skipped her planned sessions to sleep in instead. Jessica implemented several strategies to make mornings with yoga a lasting habit.
First, she started small, committing to unroll her mat and hold the simple “child’s pose” for 1 minute each morning. After a week of consistency with the 1 minute, she added another pose, holding each for 1 minute. Jessica gradually increased her practice to five minutes, then 10, building more time and poses week-by-week.
To attach yoga to an existing habit, Jessica rolled out her mat every morning after letting her dog outside. She had always taken her dog out first thing, so yoga became the natural next step in her routine.
Jessica also began scheduling her yoga session on her calendar, blocking out time for it each day. She set a reminder on her phone for when she needed to start her sequence. Having the time carved out ensured she practiced even on busier mornings.
Jessica laid out comfortable workout clothes and her unrolled mat the night before to eliminate friction so everything was ready. She also selected an inspiring yoga playlist to start playing when she woke up.
Using a habit tracking app, Jessica recorded a green checkmark on her calendar every day she followed through on her yoga routine. Seeing the growing number of completed days motivated her.
On days when she met her goal, Jessica treated herself to a relaxing bubble bath. She joined an online community of people working towards yoga and fitness habits for accountability and inspiration from people embarking on similar goals.
In months, Jessica had formed a rock-solid yoga habit that she looked forward to each morning!
Forming long-term habits requires determination and work, but it can be done. Start with baby steps, then incrementally build. Maximize memory cues by linking habits to existing routines. Rigorously schedule the time and plan for it. Reduce obstacles that get in the way of consistency. Monitor your progress through tracking. Reward yourself after milestones. And involve others for social accountability.
Implementing just a couple of these researched-backed strategies can set you on the path to habit success. Over time, repeated small actions snowball into substantial change. Recognize there will be ups and downs, so when you miss a day, restart the next day. Persistence through the plateau is vital.
Lasting habits can improve health, increase productivity, manage finances, and optimize your life. By implementing these proven strategies, you put time on your side. Small steps today compound into substantial gains over months and years. Build habits that last with patience and commitment to your growth. You can shape your days and reach your full potential through the habits you ingrain.