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How to Anchor a New Habit

I’ve spent years reading and studying the science of habits. I’ll save you some time and explain the most important thing I’ve learned about building new habits. It’s called “Anchoring”.

Here’s how it works.

The only way to truly build a new habit is to consistently perform it. Duh.. right? No seriously. To make something a habit, you have to do that action over and over again at a consistent time or moment.

The great thing about using an “anchor” is that it helps you stay consistent and also serves as a reminder.

So what’s an “Anchor”?

An “anchor” is an existing behavior that you will attach to the new habit you’re building.

For example, the habit of brushing your teeth is anchored to waking up in the morning.

“Every day after I wake up, I brush my teeth”

Great anchors are things you already consistently do each day or each week.

Waking up and going to bed are great daily examples. That’s why morning and evening routines are so powerful.

There’s a lot more:

  • Showering
  • Getting Dressed
  • Making Coffee
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Reflect on a typical day. You’ll be surprised how many habits you already have in your routine.

  • Getting in the car to go to work
  • Getting to work in the morning
  • Getting home from work
  • Checking the mail
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Checking facebook. — I bet that one happens more than you would like! 😃

So how do you use these existing habits as Anchors?

Take the new habit you want to build. For example, you want to get in the habit of making your bed.

Step 1 — Determine how often you want to complete this habit. Once a day, Multiple times a day, Weekly?

Step 2 — Make a list of existing habits that you already perform on that same frequency and around the same time of day.

Using the making your bed example: You want to perform that habit once a day and typically in the morning. You reflect on your existing routine and find the following options that match up to the frequency:

  1. Waking up in the morning
  2. Making my morning coffee
  3. Showering
  4. Getting Dressed

Step 3 — Pick your anchor. This is up to you. You know yourself best. Pick an anchor from the list of options you made in step 2.

Consider, your mindset around that anchor and other actions that also going on at that time. For me, I built the habit of making my bed by using the anchor of getting out of the shower.

I selected showering as my anchor because it fit into the frequency I needed and it also was in a similar “getting ready for the day” mindset that fit making the bed.

Step 4 — Write down your habit as a statement along with your anchor

  • “After I shower, I make the bed”
  • “After I wake up, I drink 1 glass of water”
  • “When I check facebook, I check my daily todo list.”
  • “When I get home from work on Friday, I tip myself for something positive that week.”

That’s it. That’s the secret of anchoring a new habit. It’s a powerful tool and can be used in so many ways.

Remember, the most important part of building a new habit is consistency.

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