How to Build Habits & Routines

Our world can be overwhelming.

It is hectic, fast, and full of information overload. We have more options than any other generation before us – which is incredible. But it comes at some cost.

We have to make also more choices than ever before. And we get tired when we need to make too many decisions.

Some statistics say any one of us is faced with around 35.000 decisions every day.

Other statistics say that the quality of our decisions declines after a certain threshold. (even in court!)

The situation: We face a sheer amount of decisions every day, knowing that every added decision will be worse than the latest.

How to conquer this circumstance in our exciting world?

To stay sane, we have to create our little place of calmness.

One way to do it is to create habits.

What are habits anyway?

In my understanding, habits and routines are the same.

A habit is defined by a trigger and an action we repeatedly perform.

Our brain uses habits to protect us so that we don’t have to make too many decisions a day. (Do you think about in which direction you want to brush your teeth every morning?)

Habits can be good and evil.

As soon as I have to wait anywhere, I pull my iPhone out of the pocket and check SOMETHING. Often, I don’t even know which app I want to open. Because I had to wait (trigger), I pulled my phone (action). Instead of talking to someone or just taking a quick break, I stupidly look at a screen. Sometimes without any reason.

The exciting part: To pull out my phone was no conscious decision. It was a habit, and I did not have to think about it.

We definitely should be aware of such bad habits.

Instead of unconscious bad habits, we are looking for ways to develop good habits that help us do the right actions consistently.

Condition yourself

One of the most famous habits is the Pavlov’s Dog. Every time the bell rang, the dog has a watering mouth ready for food.

What Pavlov did was to condition the dog on the sound of the bell.

Now we shouldn’t condition ourselves to wait for a bell to eat.

We can do use actions that are already part of our routine (like brushing the teeth) and add something to it.

Example: If I want to gain muscles, I could add a set of pushups right after brushing my teeth every morning.

It is called habit stacking.

Once established, this method helps to achieve a goal on autopilot.

How long does it take to form a habit?

There is not the answer in science.

It depends on the person and other circumstances.

If you want to form a new habit, you should aim for around 30 days to fully build it.

You’ll need 30 days of willpower to consistently perform your desired action to get yourself on autopilot finally.

When you get this done for 30 days straight, doing pushups after brushing your teeth is as automatic as your morning walk to the coffee machine.