Habits are the actions you do subconsciously every day. Once you do something enough times your brain turns it into a habit so that you don’t need to waste brainpower every day to think about it. Imagine having to think about how to walk home, open a door, or drive a car every time you need to do something. This mechanism is very powerful and can either be incredibly useful to make long-lasting positive changes in your life or could cripple you into the same harmful actions every day. Mastering habits can really help you increase your productivity. There are plenty of books out there discussing habits, but I’ll just briefly go over a couple of ideas on how to build healthy, persisting habits.

Firstly, instead of trying to break habits, focus on keeping the same cue and reward, but changing the action. Instead of focusing on not going on YouTube, try to instill a habit of listening to a podcast whenever you have the urge to open YouTube. The reward is similar, and the cue is the same but you’re doing something more productive. This will mean that the habit is more likely to stick and it’ll be easier to comply with your plans for change.

Secondly, try to associate a new habit you want to set up with an old one. This is one of the easiest ways of staying consistent with something. For example, if you already shower in the evening, you could tell yourself that every time before you shower you’ll do 5 push-ups. Then it’ll be easier to remember, as you have a consistent cue that’s associated with the action. This also leads to the next point.

When starting off, make sticking to a habit as easy and simple as possible. It’s easy to try and be perfect from the beginning but it’s much easier to improve on a consistent but easy/small habit than being consistent at the action of the end goal. Make it so easy that there’s no way you could not feel like doing it. If you want to create the habit of flossing, tell yourself that you’ll floss one tooth before brushing your teeth at night. You’ve associated it with another habit and it’s so easy that you’ll not feel like doing it. Overtime when you feel it becoming automatic start to increase the difficulty of the habit. This is the most consistent and effective way of developing healthy habits and having longer-lasting results.

The alternative to these tips is what most people do. Tell yourself that you’ll go to the gym 4 times a week for an hour when you haven’t stepped foot in one for months. Then maybe do it once or twice and forget about it until new years. It might seem stupid and like you’re not making any progress in the beginning but if you stick to it in a couple of months you’ll be miles ahead of anyone using the common sense methods that most people do.

Finally, try to list out different aspects of your life that you want to improve. Think about small habits that you can implement that will bring you closer to your goals in those areas. Don’t add any more than 2 or 3 habits at a time. That’ll decrease the likelihood of you staying consistent and that is the number 1 key to habits.