Forming Habits

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act. It is a habit.
– Aristotle


1. Know the Real Reason Why Your Habit Didn’t Stick Previously

Address the root cause of the issue, not the effect. Desperately battling with yourself every morning to wake up at 5:30am is to address the effect. Understanding why you keep failing to wake up at 5:30am is to address the cause.

For example, I couldn’t wake up early for the longest time ever, and all I kept doing is to keep trying and failing the next day. This would continue on for several months until I finally realized it was just going nowhere. I began to start analyzing my situation to understand why I couldn’t wake up early, through a self-questioning process. I probed into the situation, and asked myself “why” this was happening to drill down to the root cause.

Below is an example of the drilling process:

Keep asking why to drill down to the root reason. Once you get to the real cause, you can immediately resolve the issue.


2. Design Your Habits

2.1. Understand The Habit Loop

(The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg)

2.2. Adopt Mini-Habits

Shrink your habits down until they are “stupid small,” such that when you say the requirement out loud, it is so small that it sounds stupid.

  • Clean for 1 minute
  • Organize for 1 minute / get rid of 1 possession
  • Practice hobby (1 minute or small unit of practice)
  • Do 1 push-up (or another exercise Mini Habit)
  • Write 50 words
  • Read 2 pages in a book
  • Put on your gym clothes (seriously)
  • Turn off the TV at 9.00pm every day
  • Do jumping jacks or push-ups during commercial breaks on TV.
  • Drink a small glass of water every hour on the hour.
  • Ask yourself, “What value am I creating now?” every hour.

See more at:


2.3. Stack Habits

Use an already existing habit or activity to serve as the cue for a new habit, and that as the cue for another habit and so on. Caution, however, needs to be taken to not overwhelm yourself with change.

2.4. Change The Environment

Don’t change yourself. Change your context. We engage in habits because of “triggers” in our environment. Remove the triggers or make them more difficult to reach and you’re less likely to engage in the behavior. So get the tempting stuff away from you. Bestselling author Shawn Achor recommends “the 20 second rule.” Make bad habits 20 seconds harder to begin and you’re far less likely to engage in them. Here’s Shawn:
Watching too much television? Merely take out the batteries of the remote control creating a 20 second delay and it dramatically decreases the amount of television people will watch.
You don’t need to change yourself just yet. Change the things around you.

3. Track Your Habits

  • Use a calendar, an app, or simply a table filled with numbers cross each day out to keep track of how many days can you go without breaking your habit chain – cross out each day on a calendar/app that you maintain your habit, build your chain and keep it going. Remember, however, failure is only you setting yourself a record to break the next time, nothing more.

3.1. Tracking Apps

My preferred method of tracking habits is to place the app icon and the 1×1 checkmark widget from Loop next to each other as shown below:

Using checkmark widget from Loop and app icon next to each to track habits


4. Important Habits

The Monster List of Habits is one of the longest list of habits you will see on the internet as it has been combined using various sources (mentioned in the end) and my experience.

  1. Use the above three principles, choose a few habits you think are reasonably simple.
  2. Make them mini.
  3. Stack them. Insert them into your morning routine, evening routine or schedule them into your ‘dead-time’.
  4. Get started.
  5. Track your progress.

2 thoughts on “Forming Habits

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