How to Form a Habit that Sticks

A habit is a much deeper concept than something you do often and regularly. Habits affect us every day: when we wake up, do our hobby, walk home in a familiar way, etc.

A girl is creating a system to build a habit that sticks

In the article "Habits — A Repeat Performance" published by researchers from Duke University, it was found that more than 40 percent of the actions people perform on a daily basis are habits. Our neurological activity literally decreases when a habit is in place. This is why behavior seems so automatic, almost unconscious.

So we want to share key steps and tips on how to form a good habit.

Routine Vs Habit

To start, we want to unveil the difference between habit and routine. As this confusion is quite common and understandable. At first glance, they seem very similar, but if you look into the details, the differences become obvious.

A habit is an action that you do almost on autopilot because you've done it many times before. Brushing your teeth every morning is a habit. You don't think about it, you just do it.

A routine requires a little more effort. It is a set of actions that you consciously perform in a certain order. Think about your morning ritual, which may include brushing your teeth, morning yoga, showering, and breakfast. You have planned this sequence of events and consciously move from one task to the next.

At the same time, a routine can help you form a new habit, and a habit can become part of a routine. For example, if you start a morning routine that includes a 10-minute meditation, this meditation can become a habit over time. In this way, both can help you build structure in your life and lead to a fairly smooth and efficient daily flow.

How to Create a Habit

The process of creating a habit is painstaking and interesting at the same time. It will be unique for everyone. Therefore, to ensure that your experience of creating a new habit is successful, we suggest that you form a personal method. We have identified key steps based on our experience and 2 popular books on how to form good habits: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and “Tiny Habits” by BJ Fogg. So, find out how to form a habit!

Start Small

Start with something small and manageable. As Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits blog, says: "Make it so easy you can't say no." Imagine planting a small seed in your garden. You wouldn't start with a giant oak tree, would you?

For example, if your goal is to become more active, start with a five-minute walk every day rather than a 30-minute jog. Such tiny actions will be part of your daily life, before you even notice that, becoming stronger and more automatic.

Focus on Who You Want to Be

When we concentrate solely on the outcome, we lose the feeling of the process. Ultimately, goals can make us feel limited. And even disappointed in ourselves if things don't go as planned. Focus on the system and person you are building. Ask yourself: “Who do I want to be?” and allow your daily habits to paint that picture. This change in mindset will help you improve your habit-building process and help you enjoy your progress.

For example, instead of setting a goal to read 5 books, think of yourself as a reader. This shift toward identity encourages a deeper connection to your activity, making it more meaningful and aligned with your core values.

Practice Consistently

Regular practice, no matter how small, is more effective than large irregular efforts. Let's look at this with an example: reading a book. You read a book for 15 minutes on Monday, then all day on Saturday, and the next week you had no time at all. Then, first of all, you will hardly remember what you have already read. Second, you won't form a habit. After all, it is the constant and regular performance of a certain behavior that strengthens the neural pathways associated with this action, which eventually makes it more automatic and easier to perform.

That is, it is better to plan reading sessions that will be comfortable for you and possible to follow. For example, read for 15 minutes every morning, or on certain days. It is not necessary to start a new habit even every day. The main thing is that you do it regularly, so that you get used to it and it becomes your routine.

Track the Process

And in order to track the regularity, you need to track the fulfillment of the habit. You can use traditional printed trackers for this purpose. Or you can use habit tracking apps, such as the ones in our “ Best Habit Tracker Apps” collection. Try both options and decide which one is more convenient for you.

Work on Environment

The trick is to organize your environment so that good habits are in sight. If you want to drink more water, keep a filled water bottle on your desk where you can easily see it. Want to be less distracted by social media? Put your phone in another part of the room. The habit stacking method also works great – link new habits with established routines. James Clear offers the following formula:

After I did [part of routine], I'll do [new habit].

For example, after I've brushed my teeth, I'll drink a glass of water. Or after I wake up, I'll do some yoga poses. If you combine the two principles, namely the “accessibility” of the action and the binding to the routine, you will get a unique combo.

Make It Attractive

Change your mindset from what you “have to do” to what you “want to do”. This engages the emotional part of your brain that loves rewards and pleasure. For example, if you're trying to develop the habit of waking up earlier, you can set your favorite upbeat music to your alarm. Or, if you're trying to spend less time on your phone in the evening, replace it with the pleasure of immersing yourself in a good book in a cozy corner of your home. This approach turns a habit from a chore into an enjoyable activity, which greatly increases the chances that these habits will become a natural part of your daily life.

Celebrate Successes

Reward yourself and motivate yourself to move forward. For example, buy a book you've been wanting to read for a long time. Or a pair of sneakers to make it more comfortable for you to exercise. Such small improvements to your environment will signal to you: “You're doing great!” Love yourself and celebrate your small victories.

Adapt Your Habits

Last but not least, be flexible. Life is unpredictable, so you should immediately realize that things don't always go according to plan. Moreover, maybe the method or system you chose to create a habit just doesn't work for you, and you need to try something new. For example, I tried reading for 30 minutes every day in the evening and it didn't work. I just fell asleep after the first page. So I changed the system and now I read for 10 minutes every morning and it works. Thus, adapt your habits as needed. If a habit isn’t sticking, tweak it until it fits seamlessly into your life.

How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit

In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found that it takes an average of 18 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Maxwell Maltz, in his book “Psycho-Cybernetics”, claims that it takes 21 days.

However, in practice, the time it takes to form a new habit can vary greatly. After all, even in the above-mentioned study, some participants needed only 5 days, while others needed as much as 254 days. Because the time it takes to form a new habit depends on many factors, including your behavior, frequency of repetition, motivation, etc.

Therefore, focus on yourself and your feelings. And as we emphasized earlier: it's not just the fact of building a habit that matters, but the methods you use. Don't let myths distract you from the process.


In order for a habit to stick, you need the incentive to start (motivation), the means to do so (work on your environment), and a nudge at the right time (a habit-stacking cue). Take a holistic and mindful approach to the process of creating a habit. And you will succeed and improve your well-being!