self improvement tips

Habit Formation that Works even if You’re Lazy, Forgetful and Not Motivated

July is here! How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along?

Millions of people vow to change themselves for the better every New Year. After a few days of trying, most people fail and lose track after a few weeks—even if these are the same habits they listed last year.

Ask yourself, how many times have you promised to meditate, write a journal, exercise and eat healthy? Trying harder isn’t the solution. You’re failing not because you’re bad at forming new habits; you just haven’t found the right way to do it yet.

How to Create Habits that Stick for Life

The I-Really-Really-Want-it Test

Too often, people vow to start working on their habits without stopping to think about what they really want. So you want to start writing a journal? Okay, fine. But why does it matter so much to you?

It has to be something you want to do, not just some ‘nice-to-do’ activity you picked up from a friend. Keeping-up with the Jones’s is definitely not a good idea for choosing which habits to take on.  Choose something that excites you. If you’re not willing to lose sleep and sacrifice a few pleasures in exchange for it, then it’s not going to work.

Create a Specific Habit with a Specific Routine

Don’t choose new habits like “Exercise more” or “eat more fruits and veggies.” While those are good intents, they’re not clear enough for the brain to incorporate it as routine in your day-to-day life. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, says “a habit has 3 parts: a trigger, an action and a reward.” The above mentioned habits have neither of the three, so it has to be refined.

Stanford Psychologist and creator of Tiny Habits program, BJ Fogg has a good formula for this: “After X (Routine), I will Y (habit or action) then I will reward myself with Z.” In the example above, we can transform the vague ‘exercise more’ into a clear and actionable habit: “After having dinner, I will walk around the block for 15 minutes then reward myself with 1 game of Plants vs. Zombies.”

Bet Against Yourself

What if you still can’t change despite taking time to choose a specific habit you’re really serious about?

Clearly you need a stronger motivation to act. Situations like this call for stringent measures, like pledging to pay $5 if you fail. Services like and are perfect for procrastinators and rationalists who can argue themselves out of doing anything.

Just sign up for a free account, enter the habit you want to create and set the frequency of your target habit. If you fail to follow through, they’ll charge your account. It’s simple and frightening enough to get you moving.

Avoid multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is one of the greatest misconceptions about productivity and habit creation.  Early this year, I overheard a woman talking to a friend about her goals. She wanted to get a promotion, quit smoking, lose 10 pounds and pay up her credit card bills.

Whoa. Does she have more than 24 hours a day? Obviously not.  If you try to take on too many habits at once, you’ll lose track of your progress. You might even get discouraged trying to achieve too many things at once. Keep things simple by working on one habit at a time. Once the habit becomes a part of your everyday routine, you can move on to the next one in your list.

Do you have any habits you want to develop? Try these tips now.

Photo credits: Gwyneth Flickr Creative Commons


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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