3 Steps to Make a New Habit Stick

An often heard theory of habit-building is the “21/90” rule. 21 days for a habit to form (0-1), and another 90 days for that habit to stick (1-100). Apart from these two key stages, the initial decision to commit to a new habit is also important. 

Deciding to commit to a positive change

A ritual of starting

Before jumping into a new habit, a good way to get yourself mentally ready is a ritual of starting. Telling yourself and maybe also people around you that you’d like to make a certain change, is establishing an invisible “flag”. It’ll not only psychologically remind yourself, but others can also play the role of a supervisor if needed. 

A reason behind the change

It is essential while always neglectful to identify what drives you to make the change and where your initial motivation comes from. It seems determined that your habit won’t last for long if the reason behind it is self-punishment. This means that an intrinsic motivation of establishing a habit should develop from what you love, instead of hate.

A clear goal and steps to reach it 

Once you’ve thoughtfully committed, it’s important to set a clear goal and detailed plans. The goal can be big but also achievable, which can be segregated into everyday tasks. For example, you’ve decided to “eat healthily”, the goal can be “to half the frequency of eating out and double the intake of vegetables in the first month”. Based on this, plans for weekly meal plan and daily calaries intake can then follow.

A tool to help you track the habit

Keeping a habit with a useful tool can save a lot of troubles, and TickTick is one of the options. With the Habit feature in TickTick, one can create a new habit in the way they like by setting its frequency, customizing the habit icon, as well as adding quotes to the habit to motivate you. All of these can be done in one second to help you prepare for a new habit.


Programing behaviors as habits from 0-1

Time block your habits and get reminded

Once the new habit has been created, the next thing is to schedule it. Plan it out with a specific time and get yourself reminded. Easy work with the help of TickTick, because you can view your habits in TickTick Calendar and see when you need to do it. You’ll also get reminded, multiple times a day. For example, if you’ve decided to “Drink 8 cups of water a day” - You will be reminded 8 times at different intervals asking you to drink water. 

Visualize the process of doing instead of the results

A very common pitfall that people usually fall into when forming a new habit is fantasizing too much about the results. For example, When starting to learn a new language, what beginners imagine is the scenario they are fluently interacting with native speakers in that language. This indeed sounds inspiring from the surface but is no help in the actual accomplishment. Therefore, instead of visualizing the far-reaching future, putting the process of doing it into visualization (i.e. imagine practicing that language after work every night) is much more practical, which can help take actual actions.

Check-in habits and reflect on your behavioral path

It is more structural and reflectable if you can check in your habits and be aware of your behavioral path. Instead of doing maths yourself, in tools like TickTick, you can always keep track of how you did on a habit and get some cool insights for reflection. Two main features are especially handy in terms of this: 

Habit Log -- Record a Habit Log by writing down what you did and how you felt.

Habit Statistics -- Reflect on what you’ve done well and what still needs improvement.

Get rid of the guilt and allow flexibility

One fact that you may have to accept is there are always ups and downs in the habit-building process, which means no one can do it perfectly to never miss a check-in. It is not necessary to feel guilty if you’ve missed one because you need to give yourself time to breathe. In TickTick, you can mark your habit as “unachieved” because compared with burnout, balance and consistency are more important. Guilt is perhaps the most destructive emotion. Although it may encourage you to take quick actions to compensate, it can also demolish your willpower in one second afterward.

Identify unconscious excuses and eliminate them

Normally, we’re very good at finding excuses for our behaviors. For example, “I would skip the workout today because I ate less than yesterday”. That is an excuse because what you ate yesterday can’t offset the workout you need to do for today. When the “No” voice is spinning in your head, maybe you have to think twice whether it is the truth or just an unconscious excuse that will pull you back.


Making habits stick from 1-100

The buddy scheme  

As mentioned ahead, having someone in your habit-adopting process is a way to enhance your execution power. It could be someone who joins your plans as a buddy to complete things together. Or, just a person who knows your plans can also give you a little push if he/she senses abandonment from you. A role model could also be a “buddy” in another sense because he/she is someone you look up to and wish to be, even though you don’t know them in real life.

Enhance the extrinsic motivation 

To continue to do something as a habit, besides the intrinsic motivation (initial passion), extrinsic motivations are also a huge source of willpower. Binding rewards with actions is what people usually do to enhance motivation from outside: instant rewards (small treatments) for small progress and future rewards (big leisure) for big improvements.

Avoid rush decisions 

Nothing can change overnight, so is your behavior. Even though you’ve seen some progress, it may not be the right time to jump to the next level. Make your habit consistent, not evolutionary, and the key is always stickiness and sustainability. Therefore, remember to take baby steps and make sure you won’t lose your new habit because you rush it.


Extended from the “21/90” principle, there should be 3 stages in the development of a new habit: 0, 0-1, and 1-100. Take those tips above for every step and embrace a new change! Start a new habit in TickTick!

Feel like learning more? Read about How I Finally Stuck to My Habits by Going by Joseph.

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