Day 4 of 7: 10 Tips to Help You Form New Habits

Awesome to see you get this far! We are already more than half way through our challenge! :D


For today, we've ellaborated on the most important tips you should keep in mind at the time of tracking your habits. We suggest you read it in steps, divide and conquer! ;) We hope you'll find new valuable ideas to experiment with!

1. Be specific.

One of the most common early errors we make when tracking habits is at the definition phase. We aren't specific enough. For example, "play the guitar" is quite vague. Instead, "pentatonic scale 3 times" is much more defined.

When adding new habits to the tracker, we should aim to reduce the decision load as much as possible from the moment when we are to execute the action. Hence, we minimize the energy required to perform it. Think of yourself as giving orders to your later self. This way, you won't be negotiating with yourself whether you should be making 20 or 25 push-ups while you are doing them!

You can be specific in many ways: By place, "in bed", "while driving", "at home", by time: "at 7pm", "when I wake up", "after lunch" or amount "drink 5 glasses of water", "read 3 pages", "send 1 cold email". Scheduling them certainly helps.

Finally, it's a good idea to define your habits as positive. Instead of habits like "not late", be "on time".

2. Start small

Hopefully, you have already experienced the power of starting super small by now! Starting small is the gist of it all. The number one reason for you not performing a certain action is because it is not small or easy enough for you.

BJ. Fogg, an accomplished behaviour scientist at Stanford, would go as far as to recommend flossing a single teeth in his Tiny Habits programme! In any case, any new habit should take less than 2 minutes to do.

There's always an easier version of the habit you are trying to perform. Push-ups are a good example. Can't do 5 push-ups? Then do just 1. Can't do 1 push-up? Then try a knee push-up. Can't do a knee push-up? Then do an incline push-up. Can't do an incline push-up? Then do a standing push-up! If you don't stop us we can go on forever!

When it's not challenging anymore, increment. It's much easier to continue doing what you are already doing than to start something different.

3. Start with few

Another pretty common mistake is that we get excited and we start adding habits to our tracker running around like headless chicken. A formula for failure that undermines our motivation.

Start with few, and if it doesn't work, start with one.

Do not add new ones until the tracked ones have completion rates above 70-80%. The same applies for daily completion rates of your habits. Everyday makes it very easy to check these rates out.

4. Every day, no matter how little

Contrary to what the title might imply, this tip isn't to put pressure on you but to take it away from you. Every day is a challenge, but it doesn't matter how much of the habit you do. Habit-wise, the quantity is irrelevant. One day you read 1 super boring page of a book and another day you almost devour the very same book in one go. The important bit here is that you read both days, and the first one led into forming the habit for the second to happen.

Remove yourself from performance anxiety. An empty habit tracker doesn't mean you are a failure, it means that you have to start smaller! Having this mindset, helps us think of habits as new experiments, not as obligations, which ultimately leads to our success.

Since we are human, we will miss some days. That's alright. You can skip that day and go on with your beautiful streak! What's important is to not skip twice, or that we'll be the beginning of a new habit, the habit of not doing it!

Ultimately, if the problem persists, do take a few minutes to analyse why you failed to do the habit. Too many distractions? Was it out of your control? Did you think of it and failed to do it or you simply didn't think of it? Do you always break a certain streak on a sunday?

5. Stack them

Habit stacking consists in using one habit as the trigger to the following one. Its very simple formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Fortunately for us, about 45% of what we do every day is out of habit. Thus, it's very easy to find one habit we currently perform and try to attach a new one to it.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do is to identify spearhead habits. Spearhead habits are automatic choices that influence the conscious decisions that follow. Habits that may take a few seconds but which will continue to impact your behaviour for minutes or hours afterward.
An obvious spearhead habit is waking up, which leads to the most famous habit stack: the morning routine.

After months of doing push-ups before going to sleep and having a strong automatic habit, I felt confident about it being a spearhead habit. I then decided to try to do a set of 30 crunches after it. Since I started doing it 2 months ago out of the blue, I've only missed one day! I was so happy that 2 weeks ago I've also started doing a minute of plank after the crunches. It's like the latter additions just piggyback on the very low mental load starting the first habit requires.

This is why it is particularly interesting to track habits you are already successful at. They are good potential trigger candidates.
In Everyday, we use a color for each habit stack and place each habit in a chronological order right after the spearhead habit.

6. Track them

Well, we assume that's what you are using Everyday for :D Also, viewing your progress is hugely motivating!

Even if Everyday doesn't work for you, make sure to find an alternative or even do it on paper.

7. Experiment with triggers

Habit stacking works very well when we already have formed habits to ride along. However, we cannot count on this technique for many of our new habits. This is where experimenting with triggers, the cue that will lead us to perform a certain habit, becomes relevant.

Remember that cues mostly fall into one of the follow categories: location, time, emotional state, other people, immediately preceding action.

A very basic example is to have a bowl of fruit in your kitchen if you want to eat healthier, or, related, to walk a route in the supermarket going through the fruits department that prompts you to buy some!

It's super important that you pick a fixed anchor that occurs only once in your daily routine. Trying to use repeating anchors as cues (for example every time you take a break from work) is very hard to commit to because they take too much mental awareness and thus, they require too much will to follow through.

8. Celebrate your successes

As we have learnt, our brains are all about the reward. For many good micro habits, such as brushing our teeth, the reward is not immediate, and that's why we have a hard time building them.

Thus, it's very helpful to find a meta-reward to fool our own brains. These little rewards are not so much about the real good long term benefits (i.e having a healthy mouth) but about instant gratification. A simple smile in the mirror when we are done can release enough dopamine to make us feel good about it and ourselves. Social media is very good at instant gratification and that's why we are all hooked even if we feel bad afterwards.

Some good habits have instant rewards in themselves, such as the taste of a sweet apple, or the release of tension after a little run. However, it's still good to acknowledge our efforts with little gestures such as doing a small fist pump, a victory sign or maybe even a little victory dance. All of these actions will help cement the feeling of accomplishment and help your brain note that this is a good habit to remember. Next time, it will be easier!

These little positive gestures and thoughts help us build confidence that we are on the right path to become our better selves.

9. Pursue extraordinary habits.

Our goal with habit tracking is not to make people feel more miserable about the amount of chores they have to do, day after day. We seek to enlighten them into automating their most boring tasks and make time for new formidable behaviours that make our everyday life a little better and interesting to live.

Habit trackers can easily become daily chore lists, and thus, boring. But that's wrong, your beauttiful Board on everyday is a window to the person you are soon to become: Is the person you are becoming, boring? There's room for everything ;)

Thus, we recommend to keep a balance in your habit list and try to pursue extraordinary habits too. These habits are super important for our mental health. Extraordinary habits might mean something different to every person, but they are always in the category of interests that help us transcend: discovering new things, being creative, learning and being social. They make us unique.

One of the habits that really got me into habit tracking was "talk to a stranger", every day. I felt my world was very small and that I was constantly getting more isolated. While roadtripping around Europe I realized my mindset had reached a new level, I'd be talking to new people from complete different worlds to mine, every day. I wanted to take that back with me to my everyday life. At home, and without an everchanging context, it grew much more difficult, but this habit has led me to meet awesome people.

Some ideas: spend 20 minutes on a sideproject, draw, learn to play a rare instrument, or why not? create a new instrument!, write an email to a random stranger just saying hi and appreciating their work, randomly click through Spotify to find the most obscure and awesome band ever,...

Extraordinary habits are those that make you grow as a person, they help you get out of your comfort zone, spark your curiosity and make a difference.
These habits, if defined well, tend to be easier to form too. They become one of the reasons we rise and shine in the morning! But a word of caution, this discoverability is also what hooks us to social media. So, don't forget about finding the balance!

Give them a try! They always make for memorable stories to share :)

10. Reflect on your identity

We have already learnt how habits can reshape your mindset. Since each habit repetition teaches you to trust yourself, you start to believe you can actually accomplish these things. You become more confident because the outputs of your actions align with your beliefs about yourself.

For example, I was telling you about my habit to talk to strangers. I had always seen myself as an introvert. By getting used to talk to strangers in awkward situations I started to hesitate whether I was really an introvert. Maybe my introversion was just a product of my early environment?

This is the power of habit, it can reshape the way we think about ourselves.
You shouldn't be concerned about eating healthy food. You should be focused on becoming the type of person who cares about their nutrition.

If you have trouble forming a habit from your board, constantly, maybe you need to reevaluate how important it really is to you. Make sure you are pursuing such habit because YOU want and not because it's what's expected from you.

Finally, note that we are all victims of our own complexes. Wrong beliefs about ourselves based on past sloppy experiences. "I'm terrible with directions", "I'm not good at maths". Research proves that some people are innately more inclined to be good at this or that thing, but they do still struggle against adversity which is at the center of their relationship with success. Don't put barriers on the way you think about yourself.

Bonus: Breaking bad habits

We'd like to add a couple of specific tips to getting rid of bad habits:

1. Identify negative triggers

If we can say one good thing about bad habits is that it's relatively easy to identify the cues that trigger us to perform it. By identifying these little triggers, we can regain consciousness of the action that follows it.
For example, when I get stuck with coding, I tend to start mindlessly browsing on social media. Now, I'm ever increasingly becoming aware of this and can take action.

2. Substitute bad habits

Once we have identified the cues that lead us to a bad habit, we have the power of decision on what to do next. Note that the cues cannot be removed, we simply use them as triggers to a new action of our choice. Hopefully, a good habit!

Now, when I get stuck coding and find myself opening the browser, my consciousness kicks in and I decide which habit to substitute it with: I take my jew's harp and jam for a minute before getting back to work!

3. Limit them in time

Some habits aren't that bad that we need to completely get rid of them. As with most of things in life, balance is the key. We just need to control habits that can become vices.

For example, social media sites aren't necessarily bad since they get us informed about the world around us and help us discover new things and ideas. What's bad is the uncontrolled use of social media. Social media is so short-term rewarding that the most ancient parts of our brains are under engineered to handle it. It's the path of least resistance when on a device with internet. Thankfully, our brains equip us with consciousness, that allows us to realize this. By putting strict limits to potentially harmful habits we can control them. For example "max 20 min instagram", seems more than enough per day.

Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

James Clear

3 days to go!

See you tomorrow ;)