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Building Daily Habits that Stick: 13 Simple Steps

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Success requires two things: efficiency + consistency. Consistency means doing things on a regular basis and the most efficient way to do things on a regular basis, you guessed it… is to make them daily habits.

The cool thing about habits is that you can trick your brain into doing unpleasant things automatically- without thinking. You just do it, independently if you’re feeling motivated, angry, or sad.

If just one tiny daily habit can already make a HUGE difference in the long term, then imagine building multiple daily habits that you stack on top of each other and execute on autopilot . This could completely transform your life.

Whether the new habit you want to build is business-related, health-related, or something completely random, the process of building the habit itself is exactly the same. So learning how to build habits and how to make them stick is an incredibly powerful skill.

Do you want to write a book? Then create a daily habit of writing a certain amount of time or words per day.

Do you want to become super fit? Then set some work out habits.

With the right habits set in place, the sky is the limit. You can achieve basically anything.

Thousands of books and research articles have tried to study and gain a deep understanding of how habit-building precisely works and why it is so daaaamn difficult. And there is still no exact, bullet-proof answer to that question.

However, there are certain things you can do to make it a hell of a lot easier.

Here are 13 things that have worked for me in my journey to build productive daily habits.

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1. Identify the right daily habits and commit to them

Building habits requires a lot of work, right? So it’s REALLY important to identify the daily habits that would be the most impactful and meaningful in your life.

Choose the habits that you will be focusing on wisely and also realistically. Don’t expect yourself to start working out 5 times/week if you didn’t work out consistently before that.

It is also definitely not a great idea to focus on too many habits at the same time. This will force you to distribute your focus and probably not do any of the habits on a regular basis.

So only choose 1 or 2 habits that you focus on at the same time. Once these daily habits are established and you’re executing them on autopilot, then you can choose new ones to focus on.

Then think about how you can implement this daily habit (or habits) into your life in a way that makes the most sense.

For how much time will you be doing this habit? At what moment during the day will you be doing this habit? First thing when you wake up? Before dinner? Before you go to bed? Ask yourself, what would be the most convenient way to do this habit? If you’re not a morning person at all, you probably avoid doing this habit at like 8 am.

Once you have chosen your daily habit and defined at what moment throughout the day you will be doing it, you can then actually commit to it.

Promise yourself that you want, and will do this habit on a consistent basis and put it in writing. Write in your journal or on a piece of paper that you officially commit to this habit.

2. Have a plan

If you have a plan and you know exactly what you’re going to do, it’s waaaay more probable that you will actually do it. So it’s absolutely key to create a game plan.

A few examples:

  • Do you want to eat healthier? Set-up a meal plan with healthy dishes, veggie snacks and delicious smoothies. Create a shopping list with all the ingredients you need and plan when exactly you will be going grocery shopping.
  • Do you want to work out consistently? Then set up a workout plan! Define exactly which workouts you will be doing.
  • Do you want to wake up earlier? Create a specific plan about what exactly you’re going to do with these extra hours of sunshine.

And then, transfer your game plan into your agenda or set-up a recurring task on your Google Calendar with a reminder, so you remember to do this new habit.

3. Set up a trigger and a reward

According to the book ‘The Power of Habit‘, a habit consists of 3 different elements: the clue, the activity, and the reward.

A clue is something that triggers you to do the activity.

It can be an alarm you set at a certain time or it can be another activity that you do right before it.

A few examples:

  • After dinner, you immediately wash your dishes so they don’t pile up
  • Right before you go to sleep, you take a moment to plan out the next day
  • When your alarm goes off, you know it’s time for your daily workout
  • After your morning yoga session, you take some time to reflect and journal

It doesn’t matter what the clue specifically is, it just has to be there consistently.

Setting a reward is equally important since your craving for the reward will motivate you to do the task. This also means that in order for it to work, you shouldn’t give yourself the reward if you didn’t complete the task.

The reward can be as small as a certain drink, a TV show you love, or even just a long shower.

And it might seem ridiculous, but it REALLY works. You’re basically conditioning yourself like you do when you’re training your dog, right? You say ‘sit down!'(the clue), the dog sits down (the activity) and then the dog receives a snack (the reward).

4. Make it convenient to do your daily habits

Set yourself up for success. Put everything ready the night before so that starting the task the next day doesn’t require any prep work. You’re basically removing all potential obstacles that are in between you and doing the work.

I already put my mug under the coffee machine so I just have to press one button to make my coffee in the morning. I charge my computer, and take all the notebooks I will need the next day, together with a blanket, a comfy sweater, and fluffy socks. In this way, I can immediately start at 7 am sharp getting to work.

5. Remind yourself why this daily habit is so important

Remind yourself of the ‘why’ consistently.

Why is this daily habit important and impactful to you? How will your life change when you do this habit on a consistent basis?

If you’re a visual person, it can really help to create a vision board that is directly related to the daily habits you are trying to create. Don’t just put inspirational quotes or beautiful sunsets on your vision board, but make it as concrete and specific as possible. You are trying to build a saving habit for that car you really want? Then put a picture of the specific car you’re saving for on your vision board.

6. Make it inconvenient to not do your daily habits

On the opposite side of step 4, try to put as many obstacles as possible so it’s inconvenient for you not to do the habit.

Do you want to wake up early? Then put like 10 different alarms on different devices that are far away from your bed, so that it becomes impossible to just snooze and continue napping. You first have to come out of bed to turn off all the alarms one by one, and once you have done this, you’re probably too awake to get back to sleep.

You want to eat healthier? Then only buy healthy food, so that if you want an unhealthy snack, first you have to go outside to actually buy it.

This will certainly help you to stay on track with the habit consistently.

7. Use a habit tracker

Keep yourself accountable by using a habit tracker. Either you can draw it on a piece of paper and stick it onto the fridge, in your bullet journal, or use an app on your phone.

No matter how you track your habits, it can really help you to visualize your progress by crossing off every day you have completed the habit.

And it’s also just sooo satisfying to cross off those days and see this chain appear that becomes longer and longer as you continue to do the habit on a daily basis. It prevents you from skipping a day because that would mean that you would break the chain.

8. Give your daily habits your own touch

Make the habit your own and make it as pleasant as possible by giving it your own touch.

Do you like competition? Then try to find a way where you can introduce gamification to your habit.

Are you a creative person? Then maybe you can create a drawing of the thing you want to accomplish and as you progress you color the drawing in.

Do you like structure and organization? Then maybe you can create a whole database where you track literally everything. For example, you can make a whole database with how many calories your favorite dishes or most used ingredients have. Or if you want to workout more, you can keep an in-depth tracking system with the exact distance, speed, calories burned, exact weather conditions, etc.

Maybe you’re someone that likes this feeling of community and sharing, so you decide to share your progress on building this habit on social media every week.

Maybe you buy some gorgeous notebooks or print out a cute meal planner printable for your habit.

Try to think about what you find enjoyable and introduce it into your habit.

9. Find an accountability partner

Don’t underestimate accountability. It can be extremely powerful.

Find someone that keeps you accountable and checks in with you on a regular basis, to check if you’re still keeping up with your habits. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a person that is close to you, this can also be someone online with similar goals.

Even better if you can find someone with who you can do the task together. A running partner or a study buddy can be really motivating since you won’t feel alone on this journey.

10. Focus on tiny daily habits

If you’re already thinking about this 50-min workout that you have to complete, this will probably seem like a mountain and might demotivate you.

However, you can trick your brain into doing this 50-min workout, by focusing on the habit before the habit. In this very example, don’t think about this extremely exhausting and long workout. Just focus on the habit before that, which is putting on your workout clothes.

Putting your workout clothes on is something that you can literally do in like 2 minutes, so it isn’t as huge and demotivating.

And from the moment you have accomplished this and you’re in your workout clothes, then it’s already a whole of a lot easier to actually start doing your workout.

Another technique that is similar to this, is from James Clair of Atomic Habits which suggests setting a habit that is so easy and tiny that you don’t need any motivation to do it. For example, setting a habit to put on your workout clothes and doing 5 push-ups on daily basis. This habit is so tiny and accomplishable in less than 5 minutes that it won’t trigger as much resistance. And in the majority of the cases, after doing these 5 push-ups, you will probably end up doing some other exercises as well or maybe a complete workout.

And if not, then you still showed up for yourself and completed your tiny habit and that’s worth celebrating.

11. Change your lifestyle and inner beliefs

If you really want to adopt a certain habit, it’s more than just forcing yourself to do this thing every single day.

At the end of the day, habits are a change you want to introduce in your behavior, and in order for this behavioral change to stick, it has to be aligned with your thoughts, beliefs, and even identity. So in other words, it also requires some psychological changes as well.

Think about it. If you’re serious about becoming vegan, it’s not going to work if from one day to another you just stop eating animal-based products. In order for it to work, you have to make ‘being vegan’ part of your identity. It has to become the way how you describe yourself to other people. It’s a whole lifestyle change and a change in how you perceive the world.

So really immerse yourself in this habit.

Read about it, research it, and watch documentaries about it.

Even with tiny daily habits such as taking your vitamins, you can research what effects taking vitamins on a daily basis can have on a long-term basis. Or which successful people wake up at the same time you want to wake up and what they have accomplished because of this change.

Really making the habit part of how you perceive yourself is just extremely powerful and will make daily habits stick way more easily.

12. Focus on the system

Of course, setting goals and challenges continuously is important and can really motivate you. But to avoid that once your end goal is completed, you just totally quit your daily habit, you should also focus on the system itself.

I will illustrate this with an example. Imagine, you set this ultimate goal to reach your dream weight with little mini weight goals every month. This is awesome! But from the moment you have reached your dream weight, you think ‘goal accomplished’ and you quit that habit. And a few months later, your weight starts increasing again, and suddenly, you’re back at square one.

To avoid this from happening, it’s way more sustainable in the long term to focus on the system itself instead.

Focus on how energized these healthy dishes make you feel or how satisfied you feel after an intense workout. Focusing on the system itself will make you achieve your goals inevitably.

But instead of always focusing on the future, you’re focusing on the present moment and truly enjoying the journey.

13. Don’t give up

There will be days where doing your habits will be extremely difficult and days where it goes super easily. Days where you are incredibly motivated and days where you can bang your head against the wall. Nonetheless, independently if you feel happy, sad, or angry, you just have to do the damn daily habit, unconditionally.

Your motivation goes up and down during your journey, but discipline is the thing that gets you started. Your motivation often comes when you are already in the middle of doing your habit.

Prepare yourself mentally for different scenarios that might happen that can demotivate you to do the work. What if you’re extremely tired? What if you just received some bad news? What if it’s raining outside? What if you have had a super busy day? When you know in advance what your potential obstacles are, you can anticipate these and take strategic action to overcome them.

If you would only do the habit when you truly felt like it, you would never be able to build this habit in the first place.

Don’t expect perfection. It’s normal that once in a while, life happens and you skipped a day. And that’s OK. Then you just get back on track and try again the next day. What you don’t want to do is just give up and quit the habit altogether. So you can skip once exceptionally but never skip twice.

Just be patient and have faith in yourself. Building a daily habit approximately takes 60 days. So yes, it does require lots of motivation, willpower and perseverance. But I promise you, in the end, it will be so worth it because you will be able to just execute your daily habits on autopilot without thinking at all.

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Let’s Chat!

What habits do you want to build? Please let me know in the comments down below.

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  1. Elzaan says:

    Thank you for this! Really needed it as I struggle to complete things and reach goals in my life. Will definitely use this😊

  2. Tammy Harris says:

    This is such a wonderful article. Ever since the Covid came around I have found myself having a rough time sticking to my goals and routine. This really makes it seem much earlier and doable. Thanks for writing~

  3. Ruchika Gupta says:

    Thanks, Thats a much needed article, I am glad I found it.

  4. I found this very interesting. I lost 17kg last year and I put it down to several things. Good habits, tracking everything and having a dietician as a coach to help me set goals. Good article

  5. Alaia says:

    These are perfect tips! Thank you so much for sharing. This is really going to help me stay on top of my daily habits.

  6. Christine says:

    I love this. We all know that small habits are possible but normally we do not do all these things to help us succeed. I love the idea of drawing it if you are visual! Great ideas!

  7. Alyssa says:

    These are really excellent tips! Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective! 😊

  8. Jonathan says:

    I agree. Sometimes it’s about taking the first step to get started!

  9. I’m going to save this. Is a brilliant article full of good advices. I keep very organised and ambitious with my plans but I think I should reward myself more often.

  10. Mike Worley says:

    Great ideas and I like your practical implementation plans.

  11. These are great tips, thanks for sharing!

  12. Kari Emerson says:

    These are really awesome tips–thank you! Great post.

  13. Sydney says:

    SO many good tips! Using all of them! Thanks!

  14. I needed this! My life became a little too hectic this year; a little discipline and a PLAN – a great idea. Thank you for reminding me:))

  15. Tascha, what a great piece about habit!!! We have similar areas of interest in our blog, which is great to contrast ideas! Love this! 👏👏👏

  16. Adriana says:

    This is honestly one of the BEST blog posts on creating good habits I’ve ever come across! I’ve been really struggling, so these tips will come in handy for sure. Thank you!

  17. denise gill says:

    this blog fits the time we are in now!

  18. Ally says:

    I love the idea of finding an accountability buddy!

  19. Katrina says:

    These are really great tips! I love the idea of having a habit tracker!

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