Tips to form a habit

Tips to form a habit

Our life is a result of our habits . For example:

  • How successful we are is a result of our work habits
  • Our weight is a result of our eating habits
  • How fit we are is a result of our exercise habits
  • How knowledgable we are is a result of our study habits

What is a habit?

“A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously”


The construct of a habit has been identified as a loop that consists of:

  • Cue – the cue is something that triggers the routine
  • Routine – the action
  • Reward – the enjoyment from the habit. This is the part that makes the action repetitive (makes it a habit).

Tips to form a habit

  • In order to form a habit:
    • Find your Cue or trigger
    • Change your routine
    • Be specific in its reward (find something that is a treat for you if you perform the habit, like a coffee from your favourite coffee shop)


  • Social relationships can help habits stick. If you start a habit in a group it can signal to the group that you fit in. So find a group that supports your habit.


  • However, everyone is different. Gretchen Rubin identified four personality types and each one is motivated differently.  Take the four tendencies quiz to find out what motivates you. Find out if you are Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.
    • Upholders want to know what should be done. They generally find it easy to form a habit
    • Questioners want justifications. They want to know what they are doing and why
    • Obligers need accountability. They meet outer expectations, but not always inner ones. Most people fall into this category.  They will be motivated by others
    • Rebels want the freedom to do something their own way. They meet outer expectations, but not always inner ones. Most people fall into this category


  • James Clear author of Atomic Habits suggests starting with a small habit and incorporating it into your life. He suggests the following 5 tips to form a habit:
    1. Make it small to start
    2. Increase it gradually (Clear suggests 1% each day)
    3. Break up the habit into chunks that fit into your day (for example, two 10 minute meditations or two 30 minute workouts)
    4. Never miss twice – everyone makes mistakes and slips up but top performers get back on track ASAP
    5. Be patient – trust the journey and results will come


  • James also recommends point and calling – This is when you verbalise what you are doing. For example “I’m going to the gym to get fit and healthy”. The theory here is that the process raises awareness and the task starts to become non-conscious and then habitual.


  • Habit Stacking – put a habit on top of another habit. For example, if you want to floss your teeth, do it right before or after you brush your teeth.


  • The 5-second rule by Mel Robbins can help if procrastination sets in.  The idea is that when you are procrastinating, count down from 5, then jump to it, and do it. For example, if you don’t want to get out of bed. Count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, then bounce out of bed


  • Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy – prioritise the thing on your to-do list that you don’t want to do.  Do this first.  This came from Mark Twain who said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”


  • Visualise your habit. For example post sticky notes or pictures on your computer or fridge


  • James Clear indicates that your physical environment and systems decide whether a habit will stick. This is what he recommends:
    • Make your habit specific – Specify your habit in detail. For example, I want to get up each morning at 6am and go to the gym for 10 minutes
    • Make it easy – have your gym gear ready in the morning
    • Optimise your environment – have your phone away from your bed so you to get up to turn the alarm off
    • Make it attractive – listen to music
    • Make it obvious
    • Make it satisfying – create a habit tracker so you can see your progress, check out James Clear habit tracker here or simply create your own. Or reward your progress by buying something that you like. For example, if you worked out for your allocated 5 days at the gym, buy yourself the handbag that you have wanted, or shout yourself a massage or facial.


Let’s take an example.  Let’s say you want to start an exercise routine.  Here is how you might approach this habit


Firstly what type of person are you?  Take the Gretchen Rubin Test. Are you influenced by people?  An Upholder or Obliger.  Are you internally influenced? A Questioner or Rebel. This may dictate whether you workout in the gym or at home.


Once you determine this.  You might decide to eat the frog and workout in the morning so you will need

  • Cue – set the alarm for 6am.
  • Routine – get up at 6am from now on
  • Reward – if you workout for three days a week, book a massage or buy that new bag you have had your eye on.


Things to make the habit stick

  • Obvious – put your phone in the bathroom so you need to get out of bed to turn the alarm off
  • Attractive – listen to music when you get up on your way to the gym
  • Easy – have your gym gear out and ready to put on
  • Satisfying – get a coffee at your favourite coffee shop at the end of your workout, meet new people


Try applying James Clear’s Atomic Habit principles:

  • Start by going to the gym for 10 minutes then work your way up in 1% increments to 30 minutes then break up your workout into a workout in the morning and a walk at night after work.
  • When you get up, say, “I’m going to the gym to get fit and healthy for my body and mind”

Give it a go!  Use these tips to form a habit and make it stick and let me know how you go!

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