Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard

See the new post Tip the Scales To Master Motivation: Visual Strategies to Overcome Procrastination. Download the Habit Infographic.


habit infographic

Oh, we humans. We can be pretty amusing at times. I recently read about how Google decreased the amount of M&Ms employees were eating, simply by making it a little more difficult to see them. Actually the article I originally saw (which I can’t find now) said they just put a lid on an open container which led to a dramatic reduction.

Then I read the article New Harvard Research Reveals a Fun Way to Be More Successful at Barking Up the Wrong Tree. In this interview with Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says:

If you can make a positive habit 3 to 20 seconds easier to start, your likelihood of doing it increases dramatically.

The 20 second rule: lowering the barrier to change by just 20 seconds can make the difference on establishing a habit.

Make good habits easy, and bad habits hard

Want to exercise more often? Set out everything you need to exercise ahead of time to reduce the amount of activation energy required to get going. Want to watch less television? Remove the batteries from the remote.

Shawn makes five points in the article, and number two ties in with the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.

See problems as challenges, not threats.

Read the article to find out how stress was reduced simply by watching a video, and the other points.

The words “resolution,” “habit,” and “goal” are sometimes used interchangeably, but we will see there are differences.

Goals are an end toward which effort is directed. They add value in a life area, and they have a clear end-point.

Resolutions are a declaration of our firm decision to do or not to do something. A typical resolution is not very SMART.

Habits are acquired behavior patterns that are regularly followed (for good or ill.) While creating or changing a habit can be a goal, habits have no clear end point. Once a habit has become well established, they no longer have a place on your goal master list. Consider them complete and move on to other goals rather than letting them linger. Some of the goal plans would be considered habits.

The benefit of a goal must exceed the resources required to obtain it. – read more at my post on The Economy of Goals.

How Long Does it Take to Establish a Habit?

How long it takes to establish a habit likely will vary depending on how difficult it is. One study showed on average, it took 66 days to form a new habit.

Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain Strategy is one well-known method for creating a habit. Each day that you do the task you have set for yourself, simply mark a calendar each day with a big red x. Then keep it going and don’t break the chain. shares a video on how to use a Seinfeld Chart. Read more about Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain Strategy from Entreprenuer. You can use the printable Daily PlanIt Seinfeld Charts (pdf) or goal charts (pdf) to track progress. Or a printable habit tracker from Clementine Creative.


Many Habit Tracker apps are available for smartphones and tablets.

Tiny Habits

B J Fogg advocates Tiny Habits in his TED Talk, “Forget big change, Start with a Tiny Habit. It’s about the power of baby steps. He also has created a helpful tool called the Behavior Wizard.

3 Steps of Habit Change from “The Power of Habits.”

Charles Duhigg shares a flowchart from his book “The Power of Habits,” at his website that outlines the 3 steps of habit change: Pick the cue, choose a reward, execute the routine. Learn more about the Science of Willpower at the Science of People.

Pairing and Personality Type

Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before,” describes how personality type can effect our approach to changing habits in Breaking Bad Habits from Parade Magazine. Take her quiz here. Pairing is a strategy that couples two activities, one that you need or want to do and one that you don’t particularly want to do. Hear her talk at 99u on The Four Ways to Successfully Adopt New Habits.

What techniques work best for you? Do you respond to accountability by social sharing? Do negative or positive incentives work well?

See also: How to Build Good Habits at Sparring Mind, Habit Stacking from Farnam Street, 6 Best goal-tracking apps that will kick your butt from

The Science of Goals Infographic and What’s the Motivation? from the Daily PlanIt

Delicious Links on habits

I enjoy finding great information, combining it in new ways, and packaging it creatively. I'm highly interested in the areas of goal setting, time management, and skills to improve life.

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Ideas That Work
11 comments on “Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard
  1. […] In his book and TED Talk, Peter Bregman uses an example to illustrate this. His family thought they would eat outdoors at a table, but found they never used it…until they moved it a little closer to their door. Make good habits easy, and bad habits hard. […]

  2. […] first two examples are resolutions, or habits. There is no end point, they are on-going actions you intend to continue. Once they become a habit, […]

  3. […] also Game On! The Rules of Setting Goals, Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard from the Daily […]

  4. […] types of goals. Pick the right Goal Chart (pdf) to keep track of your progress, or you can track habits with an app or a calendar to implement Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain […]

  5. […] now show that habit change takes an average of 66 […]

  6. […] establish productive habits, use a to-do list, plan a […]

  7. […] relationship building. Perhaps there are small Daily Disciplines that you want to develop into habits for a daily routine to maximize your […]

  8. […] Many resolutions involve establishing habits, so learn strategies at Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard. […]

  9. […] In the afternoon, check that all daily routine items have been done. Check off completed daily goals, on the habit chart. […]

  10. […] also Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard | The Science of Goals […]

Comments are closed.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Receive your free copy of 25 Quotes & Affirmations to Finally Defeat Procrastination (plus 10 more to Overcome Fear)

Flipboard Review
Blog Stats
  • 465,841 hits
%d bloggers like this: