The Stupidly Simple Hack to Build Better Habits

Don’t Break the Fucking Chain

Photo by Kaley Dykstra on Unsplash

We used to think that habits take 21 days (3 weeks) to form.

While the automaticity of doing something new can be formed anywhere from 18 to over 200 days, new research shows that habits take, on average, 66 days to actually stick as habits.

And it takes around 80 days for habits to stop drawing from the decision bank.

Every decision we make uses up one of the approximately 200 decisions we can make in a day before we start suffering from decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is when we start cutting corners on our decisions. Things like taking a phone call while driving home at the end of the day. Things like staring at the contents of the fridge and ordering takeout instead of cooking dinner.

We need to build habits in order to stave off decision fatigue.

Yeah, but Colleen, how do we even build habits??

Simple.

Don’t break the fucking chain.

Software developer Brad Isaac jumped at the chance to ask Jerry Seinfeld his advice for a new comic.

Seinfeld’s response was that he should write a new joke every day. The way to keep track of this was to get a large wall calendar, and put a big red X through each day he wrote a new joke.

After a while, a chain of red X’s forms.

Don’t break the chain.

Every Day Counts

When you do something every day, it becomes a habit.

When you create a habit, you stop drawing from the decision bank.

Every day counts. If you want to build a habit — any habit — you’ve got to do the thing every single fucking day.

The easiest way to do this is to build it into a morning routine — it’s got to be scheduled in, or else you won’t do it.

Generally we have more energy in the mornings, and our decision banks are full up to the brim with available decisions to make.

Working a new habit into your morning routine is such a stupidly simple way to make it stick, especially when you don’t break the chain.

I want to write at least 300 words every day.

It’s a measly amount, but it’s part of my morning routine now. And oftentimes I write much more than 300 words, because those 300 words are just the start of the flow that spills onto the screen.

300 words is just the start of creating content.

300 words is the habit that makes it possible to write a new blog post every Thursday on my website, and a Medium post every weekday.

It’s the habit that has me churning out the content and making me a better writer.

Don’t break the fucking chain.

When I write every day, every day that I don’t write makes me frustrated with myself.

Every day I miss — every link of the chain that I break — is a day that I’m not building my habit.

And it draws from the decision bank.

The goal is to make a habit stop taking up decisions. The idea is to get to the point that you don’t think about doing it — you just do it.

It’s stupidly simple.

When all you need to do is not break the chain, it becomes stupidly simple to build a habit.

This hack works for all sorts of things.

  • Writing every day
  • Eating a better diet
  • Exercising
  • Flossing/brushing your teeth/general hygienic things
  • Learning something new, like knitting, a new language, or playing an instrument.
  • Getting to appointments and meetings on time
  • Staying off your phone for [choose your time] a day
  • Reading a book
  • Spending intentional time with your spouse or children
  • Meditating
  • Waking up early
  • Going to bed on time

Doing the thing every day makes it into a habit.

A Challenge!

Pick a habit you want to develop.

Start doing it every day by scheduling a time for it, and mark off those juicy red X’s on the calendar.

Don’t break the fucking chain.