An October 16, 2007 post by Scott Young contains excellent suggestions regarding making and breaking habits. Here’s a summary of them.
One Habit For 30 Days – (or many say 21 days) You focus on one change for thirty days. After that time it has been sufficiently conditioned to become a habit.
Use a Trigger - a short ritual you perform before a habit. If you wanted to stop smoking this could be snapping your fingers every time you feel the urge for a cigarette.
Replace Lost Needs You can’t just pull out habits without replacing the needs they fulfill. Giving up television might mean you need to find a new way to relax, socialize or get information.
One Habit at a Time Multitasking between three or four often means none become habits.
Balance Feedback The difference between long-term change and giving up on day 31 is the balance of feedback. If your change creates more pain in your life than joy, it’s going to be hard to stick to. Find diets, exercise, financial plans and work routines that are fun to follow and support you.
“But” to Kill Bad Thoughts Anytime you feel yourself thinking negatively about yourself, use the word “but” and point out positive aspects. “I’m lousy at this job – but – if I keep at it I can probably improve.”
Write it Down - Don’t leave commitments in your brain. Write them on paper.
30, 90, 365 Habits go through a series of checkpoints in terms of conditioning. The first is at thirty days. Here it doesn’t require willpower to continue your change, but problems might offset it. At ninety days any change should be neutral where running the habit is no more difficult than not running it. At one year it is generally harder not to run the habit than to continue with it.
Get Leverage - such as: Give a buddy a hundred bucks with the condition to return it to you only when you’ve completed thirty days without fail. Make a public commitment to everyone you know that you’re going to stick with it. Offer yourself a reward if you make it a month. Anything to give yourself that extra push.
Keep it Simple Your change should involve one or two rules, not a dozen. Exercising once per day for at least thirty minutes is easier to follow than exercising Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays with yoga the first day and mountain biking the third day, except when it is raining in which case you will do… Simple rules create habits, complex rules create headaches.
Consistency is Key The point of a habit is that it doesn’t require thought. Variety may be the spice of life, but it doesn’t create habits.
Mix around with key habits until you find ones that suit you. Don’t try to follow habits because you should,
but because you’ve tested them and they work in your life.