Want to Start a New Habit? Here are 5 Easy Ways to Build Habits

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 10/16/18 •  11 min read

Want to Start a New Habit_ Here are 5 Easy Ways to Build HabitsThe year was 2012, and I woke up one August morning to an email from a friend that said:

“Want to fly to NYC for free and go to a bunch of fashion week events?”

If you know me, you know I don’t belong within 100 yards of any type of “fashion” event, but how could I turn down an experience like that?

Easy, I couldn’t!

So I went and got to know the guy that invited me a lot better over the course of those couple days. A 48 hour period where we rubbed elbows with the fashion elite, sat next to celebrities at runways shows, and realized just how much we don’t belong in the fashion world.

You might be wondering what on Earth NYC Fashion week has to do with habits?

Well, you see the friend that invited me was none other than James Clear, one of the foremost experts in the world on habit building.

Since that time, I’ve hung out with James in numerous places across the country, and we hop on the phone every month or so to catch up.

During every one of those calls for the past 2 years, we’ve talked about his upcoming book, Atomic Habits.

I have a lot of author friends, but I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone put quite so much work into writing and refining a book as James did.

And the best part is? It’s out today.

Our Director of Content Liz is on the street team for the book and got an advance copy a couple weeks ago.

This was the exact message she sent to me:

“Holy S%&* this book is AMAZING. We have to write about this.”

As the most well read person I know, a response like this is saying something.

But honestly, I had absolutely zero doubt this would be one of the best books on habit building ever written.

And in this book we’re going to share 5 of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned from Atomic Habits.

How to Start a New Habit Using “Atomic Habits”

Reading James’ blog every week has led to countless improvements over my life and business, especially it comes to habits.

[Climbs on soapbox]

I think one of the biggest issues we have as a society is we push the quick and the fast way too much. Lose 15 pounds in 5 days, make $10,000 in 30 days, become a novelist in 4 hours.

There are some people out there who can do that stuff. But most of them can because they’ve put in countless hours of work over the years to make those seemingly ‘quick’ results possible.

The rest of us?

Welcome to I feel bad about myself city, Population: you.

I admit this is a hard lesson to learn. And believe me, I’ve learned it over, and over, and over again.

What I love about James’ writing is he breaks things down and makes it really simple. Building new habits isn’t about adding 15 insane things to your schedule or desperately trying to your improve willpower.

It can actually be a lot easier than that.

New (good) habits can be built over small little improvements done continuously every day.

How to make real lasting changes to your life…

atomic habitsSince Liz has already finished the entire book, I asked her to write a post about 5 of the most valuable things she learned from it.

And honestly, even if you don’t pick up the book (you should), if you implement these 5 incredibly easy habit strategies, you’re going to see significant improvements in your life.

Maybe not immediately, but much more importantly, you’ll notice them over the long term.

Take it away Liz….

James’ new book Atomic Habits, can help you break out of that get (rich, thin, strong) quick mindset. Instead, it helps you focus on the small actions you can take over time that leads to results for the long term.

Yes, this is the boring way to improve your life.

BUT doing things this way also means you’re making lasting changes. You’re developing new habits around good things which will help you stay improve for the rest of your life.

I devoured my advance audio copy of Atomic Habits in about 3 days. (James narrates the book, what can’t he do?!). I found myself frequently pressing the pause button to take notes.

There’s a ton to learn in here, so I’d highly recommend getting the book.

But in this post, I wanted to share five tiny habit lessons that really stuck out to me.

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1. Habit Stacking

Most of us already have a bunch of good habits we do. You brush your teeth when you get up, you make sure you take your dog out for a walk, you tell your kids you love them.

Most of the time, these super simple good habits are so ingrained you don’t even think that they are habits, they are just stuff you do.

This is the perfect place to start stacking other habits.

Habit stacking means taking a good habit you already do and then adding another habit you’re trying to build on top of it. These can help your habits become entwined.

You’re already doing something good, so why not add just one more simple new habit to it?

Habit stacking in action:

You brush your teeth in the morning. So how about flossing directly after you brush? You’re already standing there in the bathroom, have your floss right there next to your toothbrush ready to go.

You walk your dog every day. How about right before you take your dog out you do 10 push-ups. It won’t take more than a minute or so to do and it’s an easy way to add another fitness activity to your walk.

2. Two Minute Habits

A lot of people let good habits die because they make them too hard to start. It’s easy to say I’m gonna run 60 minutes a day when you’re super pumped to get out there and run.

You might do it for a few days or even a month, and then just give up.

And for a lot of couch potatoes, running for 60 minutes is a lot. It’s too big of a goal to start and that makes it hard to maintain momentum.

Instead, start small. Go for two minutes.

This sounds crazy, right? What’s the point of getting ready to run if you’re only going to do it for two minutes? Well, two minutes is simple. Lots of people can walk or jog for two minutes without a ton of effort.

James says the key here is to you should think about a time that will be under what makes something feel like work. When things feel like work our brain kicks in and tells us to forget it, be lazy, and keep watching the Real Housewives (maybe that’s just my brain…).

Counteract this by going small.

Two minute habits in action:

Do you want to become a writer? That’s a common, yet overwhelming, goal for a lot of people. Two minute habits can help you start. Get a pen and paper or open your computer. Set a timer for two minutes and write. Then do it again tomorrow.

After a while, it will become second nature. And when it does, up your time limit. Try 5 minutes a day. Then 7 minutes and so on. But always try to stick under that number that will make it feel too hard.

3. Automate habits that help lock in future behavior

Everyone is all about automation today. In the entrepreneurial world, we think about automation in terms of things like marketing or email funnels, it actually can help us build good habits too.

Automation is a little trick that lets you optimize the small choices today that can have big impacts down the road. Once you make a good decision, see how you can automate it to both continuously make it easy but also help you improve over time.

And with the technology we’ve got today automating good habits is actually easier than ever.

Good habit automation in action:

You’ve convinced yourself that you’re not good at saving money. So automate it.

Read Ramit Sethi’s book I Will Teach You to be Rich. In it, he does a deep dive on simple ways you can automate your savings, leaving only money you can spend on fun in your bank account.

Here’s an even easier method, sign up for Digit. It automates savings out of your bank account based on how much money is in there. I’ve been using it for a while and have over $6k sitting in my account, a nice little emergency fund that I put ZERO thought or effort into creating.

4. Go all in on what you’re good at and love

We all have things we love and are naturally good at. Maybe it’s coding or reading or jogging. All too often people will try to fight against the things that they’re good at and choose to create other habits instead.

It’s like swimming upstream doing this. We pick habits that we think we should be doing based on what we see online or what our friends do.

Approach habit building (and life) this way and you’re going to be in for a lot of disappointment and feeling like a failure.

Instead, think about your own skillsets and find habits that build on those and how to make them fun.

Connecting what you love to habit building in action:

If you love playing video games, gamify your habits. Find the apps or tools that track your habits like you’re the player in a video game.

Run 2 miles? You get 50 power up points. Hit your weekly budget? Add 50 more points. Use those power up points to give yourself a reward, another way to keep the positive feelings around this new habit flowing.

When I was a kid I hated jogging but I loved playing soccer. So I did tons of drills on the soccer field and played games that still got my endurance up and built my skills.

And guess what? I did a crap ton of running while doing those, but I didn’t care because it was fun.

5. Good habits are a long-term investment

You can’t create good habits overnight. Just like you can’t get rid of bad habits in one day.

These things take time, and that’s what we should be focused on, the right now, versus the down the road. Know that the work you’re putting in on your habits today are going to pay off if you stick with them.


building habits

You can see from this image from the book, it’s the long term building that results in a massive gain over time.


James says:

“It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”

This is a similar to a concept I learned from Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound EffectBuilding habits, learning a skill, wanting to get better at anything is all about investing the time now to get the results later.

Long-term habit building in action:

I’m a big reader. People ask me how I read so many books, and honestly, I never had an answer, it was just something I did. Now, I see that it’s the result of a long-term habit building investment that started with my parents.

My mom, a former teacher, would take my sister and me to the local library to check out books twice a week. She always framed it was a reward, something to look forward to. So we loved going and finding all sorts of new books to read.

Years of doing that built up so many skills I can’t even list them all. But my love of learning and reading can be directly traced back to all those hours spent in the library.

You can pick up James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, this week. 

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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