How to Successfully Build a New Habit Into Your Daily Routine

What if I told you that you could become a morning person, read more books, and learn a new language all in under a year? Sounds pretty unbelievable, right? According to Fast Company’s Belle Beth Cooper, you can do just that by making a few simple changes to your daily routine. And she’s speaking from experience: In 2015, she read 33 books, taught herself basic French, and woke up early on most days. “I’m a big fan of working smarter, not harder and finding small ways to make my work more efficient,” she explains. “From a habit of practicing French for just five minutes a day, I can now read, write, and speak basic French. From a habit of reading just a page every night, I managed to increase my reading list by five times over the past couple of years. Basically, I used small, everyday habits to build up into big, long-term outcomes.” Cooper says there are four principles that she sticks to whenever she’s building a new habit. Find out what they are below.

  1. Start small. One of the biggest mistakes people make is asking too much of themselves from the get-go. If you never read, it’s going to be practically impossible for you to read a new book per week. However, if you start by reading one page a day—just one page—you’re more capable of accomplishing that goal. In order to not set yourself up for failure, start small. Repeat a tiny habit daily. Small wins that clearly illustrate progress, like reading one page per day for a week, will help you create new routines that you can repeat every day. Before you know it, one page will turn into two, two will turn into three, and so on.
  2. Focus on one habit at a time. If you decide you want to quit smoking, wake up early, workout daily, and eat a vegan diet all at once, you’re not going to be able to make such drastic changes all at once. This is why people so often fail at New Year’s resolutions; they are trying to make too much changes at once. Instead, focus on one habit at a time. Cooper says, “I was reading every night before I started focusing on French. And I was easily doing a French lesson every day before I started focusing on getting up early.” Note that it could take time to build the habit into your daily routine. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if it takes you two months to finally start reading for 30 minutes per night.
  3. Remove barriers. Have everything that you need at hand. Cooper kept her book right next to her bed, so she had no excuse not to read it when she climbed in to go to sleep. Make it easy for you to take action and follow through with the habit. If you want to floss every night after you brush your teeth, put the floss right next to your toothbrush. If you want to wake up and work out first thing in the morning, wake up and put on your workout clothes. You’ll be more likely to exercise if you’re dressed and ready for it.
  4. Stack habits. Build new routines onto existing ones. Think about the habits you already do on a daily basis: You get out of bed, drink a glass of water, and grab your iPhone. Those are habits that you can stack new habits onto—i.e., making each habit a trigger for the next. For example, want to eat more fruit? Why not get out of bed, drink a glass of water, and eat a banana before checking your email?

To learn more about creating positive habits in as little time as possible, read The Healthy Habit Revolution.

What healthy habits are you trying to add to your daily routine?