Five Steps To Making A New Habit That Will Actually Stick

Recently, we discussed five helpful habits to implement for the school year, AKA the what. Today, we’re covering the steps to take to actually build these new habits – the how. And the how is important! Proudly proclaiming you’re going to start incorporating helpful habits into your daily life is great, but having an action plan for cementing your new routine is what will make you successful

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. He’s the guru of habit making, and he’s outlined a simple five-step method for creating new habits from the ground up. The five steps to creating “new habits that actually stick” are:

  1. Start with an incredibly small habit.
  2. Increase your habit in very small ways.
  3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.
  4. When you slip up, get back on track quickly.
  5. Stick to a pace you can sustain.

Now, let’s look at how you’d put Clear’s method into practice using one of the desired habits we discussed in our previous post: creating an enjoyable morning routine.

When you start, you need to start small. As Clear writes, “New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning.” If you’re used to waking up at 8 a.m., don’t suddenly set your alarm for 6 a.m. with an extensive to-do list to accomplish before heading off to class. Start small! Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual, and pick something small to start incorporating into your morning: washing your face, stretching, eating breakfast, etc.

Next, it’s time to start increasing your habit in small ways. As your 7:45 a.m. wake up starts to feel second nature, set your alarm 15 minutes even earlier and add something else to your routine. Instead of simply waking up in time to shower, you’ve got time to shower and eat a decent breakfast. You’re well on your way!

Now, as your new habit gets more elaborate, it’s time to break it into chunks. If your goal morning routine is to work out, shower, eat breakfast, and do 30 minutes of homework before class each day, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Instead of getting overwhelmed with the final goal, break it in two. The first goal is to shower and eat breakfast. The second goal is to also work out and do 30 minutes of homework. Don’t worry on conquering both at once.

An important thing to remember during this process, Clear reminds us, is that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. In other words, if you snooze your alarm one day until 10 a.m., all progress is not lost. The only thing that matters is that you get back on track as quickly as possible. Consistency is much more important than perfection.

Finally, stick to a realistic pace. Don’t worry about becoming the most productive early riser on the planet within a week. If waking up 15 minutes earlier every morning is all you can handle for a few weeks, that’s fine! The only way to create a habit that really sticks is by staying realistic and self aware, and taking your sweet time to get to the eventual goal.