How to Turn Anything into a Habit?

Anything? No can do. Not without some additional conditions. For example, if you want to make space trips a habit the only way to do it nowadays is to do those trips in your imagination.

And it applies to zillion other activities. Some things are just flatly impossible (yet) or much harder than others.

But here is how you can do most “things” a habit:

1. Write it down.

Writing things down processes information through the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for conscious thinking. If you write something down, it means you will take the thought through the thinking process. If you don’t, you have not such a guarantee.

2. Start small.

BJ Fogg, a brilliant behavior design scientist, recommends to start from something that can be done in 30 seconds, and it is easy. 30 seconds of burpees hardly qualifies here.

Why starting small is so important? Because then you can sustain your new habit. And a habit which can’t be sustained, is not really a habit.

You can maintain a habit of running 100 yards and then scale it up to running marathons. It doesn’t work the other way.

Repeating a new behavior is a matter of motivation and skill (difficulty level). We are absolutely, totally, completely, and utterly hopeless in managing our motivation. It is SO much easier to manage the level of difficulty.

Thus, start small!

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

A daily habit is superior to the bi-daily habit by an order of magnitude. Your brain creates the habit loop by scanning the environment and your actions. If you repeat your habit in the same place and time every day, it is easy for your brain to recognize what’s the cue and what’s the routine.

If you do it every second day or once a week, it’s much harder. If you can stuff multiple repetitions into one day, it makes it super easy for your brain to recognize and save the habit.

4. Track.

The easiest way of tracking

is just marking off if you have done or not your habit. It may be more elaborate, for example, I keep a writing log and note down when, what, where, and in which language I wrote, plus, I register the numbers of words I wrote.

However, don’t overdo. Your tracking should be always easier than the habit in itself.

Why tracking works? Again, it engages your conscious mind, so the tumultuous process of creating a new habit is not entirely in hands of your emotional subconscious mind. And it tells the subconscious mind that this activity is actually important. Tracking instills some subconscious routines around the habit which makes it stickier.

The additional benefit of tracking is that it feeds your motivation in an actually manageable way (in opposite to trying peep-talk yourself). You see your progress and it motivates you.

5. Adjust.

In 2006, I started a habit of doing a series of consecutive pushups as my daily workout. This habit morphed more times than I care to count.

I moved it around in my schedule till I discovered the perfect time for it: mornings.

For years, I trained pushups beyond my limit; each time I tried to beat the previous record. Then, around 120 consecutive pushups, the habit was taking too much of my time. So, I started doing harder variations: diamond pushups, leg-elevated pushups, one-hand pushups…

I scaled the habit up. For a few years, I was doing a few series of pushups a day.

I scaled the habit down. I injured my shoulders. When my right shoulder hurt, I did pushups only on the left arm. When both shoulders hurt, I finally resigned from beating records every time.

Nowadays, I do only 12 pushups a day. But I still have a morning workout and I do different bodyweight exercises – squats, sit-ups, lungs, or burpees.

My habit changed multiple times, but it always has been serving the underlying principle: to be more active.

I did pushups to become stronger and healthier. My current morning workout serves the same purpose. In the end, I realized I didn’t start a pushups habit; I started a workout habit.

So, stick to your habit, but don’t be rigid. Life goes on. Circumstances change. Adapt.


Habits, like most successful endeavors in life, come down to two simple rules: get started and keep going.

Points #1 and #1 help you to get started. Points #3-#5 keep you going.

If you break a streak, you can always go back to the first two points and start again. Nobody is invincible.

My friends nicknamed me Mr. Consistency, yet I still broke my writing streak a couple of times in the last seven years. I broke every daily habit (and I have dozens of them) at least several times.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” — Japanese Proverb

You don’t need to be perfect. Just stand up after every fall.

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