Build Habits that Stick
Heidi Zwart
build habits that stick

Have you ever struggled to build a new habit? If so, you’re not alone. Building a new habit requires that we work with our brain’s natural wiring. The good news is that behavior scientists have uncovered some clues to help us build habits that stick.

If you want to build habits that stick, think EAST. This simple acronym looks like this:

  • Make it easy
  • Make it attention-grabbing
  • Make it social
  • Make it timely.

Each of these steps remind you to partner with your brain to help you reach your goals. Within each of these categories are more specific ways to build habits that stick. The recommendations are attributed to behavior scientists in general, but specifically Stephen Wendel, author of Designing for Behavior Change

Make it easy 

Making it easy means reducing friction, energy, or thought. Our brains like easy, not hard. It’s constantly scanning our environment and looking for ways to survive, thrive, and preserve calories. To build habits that stick we can: 

  • Make it the default choice – make it automatic, like setting your bills up for autopay 
  • Remove “hassle” features – eliminate roadblocks that prevent you from taking action
  • Start small and celebrate wins – choose one thing and lock it in with celebration
  • Plan out “implementation” contingencies – decide what you will do when (fill in the blank)
  • Align choices with identity –  start with “I’m the kind of person who…” and do what aligns with that statement

Make it attention-grabbing

Make your preferred choice appealing and visible to build habits that stick. Keeping things at eye-level and in the places you naturally go about your day are more likely to work in your favor. 

  • Set up clear & powerful cues – keep triggers in the place you are most likely to see them
  • Use reminders – alerts and alarms on your phones or sticky notes 
  • Go where your attention already is – use a specific time of day to trigger action 
  • Build on existing habits & routines – “stack” desired habits onto things you already do
  • Remove distractions – out of sight out of mind is the principle here

Make it social

Embrace community to build habits that stick. You are more likely to follow through on your commitments when others are part of the experience.

  • Set a new reference group – watch and learn from others who are trying to accomplish the same thing
  • Join others or create the community – be part of a group where others are moving in the same direction
  • Raise the stakes & create social commitments – build in accountability by putting financial skin in the game or agreeing to show up for another person

Make it timely

Setting deadlines are important if you want to build habits that stick. We don’t naturally like to delay gratification, so this can be a tricky one to navigate. 

  • Create deadlines or schedule – ask someone to hold you accountable or set a “finish” date for a project or goal
  • Imagine your future self and align choices to meet that future self – image the best outcome and the worst to help you make short term actions more appealing

If you want to build habits that stick, consider which part of EAST you can start experimenting with today. BetterYou is here to help you maximize your time and stay focused on goals that matter most to you, so feel free to reach out if you want a partner in the new year!

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?