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10 Habit Building Strategies that ACTUALLY Work

Let’s talk about the struggle of building good habits, shall we? We all want to“be more productive” and “procrastinate less” or [insert desired habit here] but how do we actually go about doing this? Perhaps you’ve read the self-help books and watched all the motivational YouTube videos, but you just haven’t quite gotten the elusive habits to stick? Well, that’s exactly what we’re addressing today! We’ve tried a whole host of different techniques and strategies, and today, we’re sharing our top 10 habit building strategies that actually work! 

Are you ready to change your habits and achieve your goals more effectively? (Enthusiastically waves hand!) Then let’s dive right in!

1. Start Small

The best seller, Atomic Habits by James Clear, is an authority on this strategy! And it’s no wonder his book was a rip-roaring success! The book’s catch-phrase, “Tiny changes, remarkable results” pretty much sums up Strategy #1. (And if you haven’t read this book yet, it should definitely be bumped up to the top of your To Be Read list!)

Ultimate success when it comes to forming good habits is simply starting small. Pick the small habits you want to change or develop and start there. Or break down those bigger goals or habits into smaller chunks. And by “smaller” we mean small enough that you don’t need too much motivation or mental energy to achieve. This is where the true beauty and ultimate success of this strategy lies!

As a simple example, if you want to be able to run 5 miles in a set amount of time, you could start by simply running 500 yards a day, or literally just down the street and back. You can then gradually increase this until one day, you’re easily running 3 miles a day, and eventually, your goal of 5 miles will be successfully met. And because you’ve consistently been doing this activity for a longer period of time, there is a much greater probability that the habit will stick.

And by starting small, you’ll continually be meeting your goals, and your motivation tank will be filled to the brim! You’ll then be able to channel that enthusiasm and energy to the next habits you want to develop.  

2. Pace Yourself

The biggest mistake we often make is wanting to change all our “bad” or “negative” habits all at once. We set a mountain of goals, we begin with great gusto, but often, we take on more than we can handle too quickly, and our gusto quickly fizzles out. 

So if you want those habits to stick, another key strategy we’ve found effective is to pace yourself. You can have a long list of habits or goals you eventually want to form and achieve, but when it comes to implementing these habits, it’s best to start out slowly. Pick one or two habits, and once you’ve locked those down, pick another two or three, and keep going on that upward trajectory!

3. Write it Down

Strategy 3 is a winner! If you want to achieve your goals, change or habits, or even check off items on your (ever-growing!) mental to-do list, the key is to write it down! Writing something down brings realness to the goal, but it also serves as a way to help you keep accountable. By putting pen to paper and creating a record of the habits you wish to form down, you’re able to go back and evaluate your progress.

Writing down what you want to achieve also makes your goal tangible, and something you’re now more committed to than if it was just something in your head. Get yourself a notebook or designate a special page in your journal where you write down the habits you want to form or goals you want to achieve. Then periodically check back on the goals you set for yourself and monitor your progress.  

Which brings us to…

4. Track Your Progress

This strategy might not necessarily work for everyone, but if you’re someone who likes a visual representation of your progress, or you get a kick from ticking off goals, then creating a fun habit tracker will be a great strategy for helping you keep your habit building motivation! It can be a simple, straight-forward checklist that you mark each time you achieve your goal habit, and that totally works! Or, you could check out some of the simply amazing bullet journal habit tracker ideas! You’ll be totally inspired by these fun, colorful and super creative ways you can track your habits, and you’ll be so motivated to achieve your goals each and every day! 

Check out this website for some amazing habit tracker inspo! Whether it’s your spending habits you want to curb, or you just want to monitor your mood and emotions, you’ll find some amazing ideas to help get you started! 

5. Make It Easy for Yourself

If you’re wanting to eat better, clear the junk food out of the pantry. If you want to exercise as soon as you get up, lay out your exercise clothes the night before. These small little steps will help set you up for success, and make sure that when it comes time to actually applying your new habit, you’ve already improved the odds of following through.

The bottom line is that if you want a habit to stick, the key is to do it consistently, so if you can make it as easy as possible for you to do your new habit as consistently as possible, you’re positioning yourself for the best outcome possible. 

PRO TIP: If the habit you’re wanting to develop is something that you can do with other people, one way to “make it easy for yourself” is to sign up to a club or group. Whether that’s a running club, a sewing or language-learning group, or even signing up for an online course, making that commitment to other people, or paying for a course is a great motivator for seeing the habit through. 

6. Set Manageable Targets

Our next strategy to help you build all those good habits and make all those positive changes is simply to set manageable targets. What do we mean by this? We mean that the habits that you want to change or goals you want to achieve need to be ones that you can realistically reach in the not-too-distant future.

By setting targets that you can achieve in a relatively short amount of time, you’ll get a taste of success and, most importantly, the sense of accomplishment that comes with successfully achieving a goal, or, in this case, successfully changing a habit.  

When you sit down to write down the habits you want to change, be honest with yourself. You know your capabilities and your current habits, and as much as you want to see results quickly, if you can, instead, set manageable targets, you’ll be more likely to actually achieve them.

7. Set Realistic Timeframes

This is an effective but often overlooked habit-building strategy! So often, we give up on our goals because we expect to see results too quickly. In reality, it takes time to first build the habit, and then often, more time, before we see any sort of results. 

FUN FACT: You have probably heard the line, “It just takes 21 days to form a new habit.” However – and it’s a big “however” – studies have shown that figure is likely a myth, and in reality, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, with the average being 66 days!¹ 

Armed with this handy piece of information, it should be clear why it is important to set realistic timeframes to the habits you want to form. Don’t expect these to change overnight, otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment, which can then lead to quitting altogether. Set realistic timeframes (and remember, the bigger the habit, the longer it will take to form or change!) take it one day at a time, and when you stop and look back, you’ll see just how far you’ve come, even if you’re not quite where you want to be just yet! 

8. Limit Screen Time

You may be wondering what limiting your screen time has to do with helping you build better habits, unless the habit you’re trying to build is less screen time, then it makes perfect sense! But if that’s not the case, we’ll tell you what limiting your screen time has to do with building better habits…time! Have you ever checked your weekly screen time reports your mobile so lovingly shares with you? If you haven’t, prepared to be shocked! You’re likely to find that you spend a lot more time staring at your screen and aimlessly scrolling than you thought! It’s probably time to get some of those hours back…

Limiting your screen time was something I sound incredibly helpful in my bid to form better habits (which ironically, then became one of the good habits I wanted to form) because it just gave me more time to focus on my other goals. It’s also a particularly helpful strategy if one of your goals is to get more done in a day! Set time limits for social media apps (this is something most smart phones will allow you to do!), games, Internet-surfing, or whatever other activity you can cut out. You’ll be seriously amazed at just how much more you can accomplish without an added distraction in the way. 

9. Keep Your Body Healthy

When you’re tired, burned out, or when you feel like all the energy in your body has been zapped to oblivion, you’re not going to want to focus on building good habits! If you’re not feeling in top form, you’re more than likely going to pick the path of least resistance which, in this case, will mean falling back into your old habits. 

But if you’re getting enough sleep each night, staying hydrated, and eating foods which give you energy, and don’t leave you feeling lethargic and bloated, you’re going to be in a much better frame of mind, and you’ll be more likely to make the choices you want to make in order to form your good habits.

PRO TIP: If developing better eating or sleeping habits are on your Good Habits To Do List, then we recommend bumping these up to the top of the list. By tackling and forming these good habits first, you’ll be in a much better position when you set out to check off all the others on your list. 

10. Be Kind To Yourself

And last but not least, Strategy 10, is you need to be kind to yourself. 

If you miss a day in your new exercise routine, or you have a day (or two) where you’re not meeting your planned targets, that is a-okay! Tomorrow is another day where you get to try again! You don’t lose all your progress with a misstep here and there. You only lose when you’re so hard on yourself that you quit altogether! 

Bad days will happen. So it’s best to make peace with that, and rather than beat yourself down when you don’t hit the marks you were hoping to, give yourself the grace to try again tomorrow.

PRO TIP: A great strategy is to build leeway days into your timeframes and targets. By doing this, if you do have a day or two where you fall back into old habits, you will still be on target, and have no need to be too hard on yourself. This could look like days where you’re allowed to “cheat” a little on your eating plan, or designated rest days, where you have the space to be a little unproductive. By working these types of days into your plan, if do tiptoe into your old ways, you’ll still actually be on-track to ultimately achieving your goal, and you’ll not lose any of your hard-won gains! 

In Conclusion

Changing your habits might not be as easy, or as speedy as we would like, but (thankfully!) it is possible. With a hearty dose of commitment and perseverance, and armed with these 10 strategies, those old habits’ days are numbered!

The most important take-away is that habit changing is not something that happens overnight, but if you diligently keep at it, whenever it comes time to do a little reflecting and evaluating, you’ll find that, even if you’re not exactly where you want to be, you’ll be so much further along than you imagined…and you’ll be so happy you started!

Sources:

1. Healthline: How Long Does It Take for a New Behavior to Become Automatic? https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit

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Jennay Horn

Jennay Horn

Jennay is the Content Director at We Edit Podcasts

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