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Habit Strategies

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This is Part 3 of Sabrina Joy’s column series. Need to catch up? Check out Part 1 and Part 2

One of my favorite habit books is “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. In it, Rubin writes a lot about different strategies she tested along her own journey with improving her habits. 

Habit strategies are essentially different tools and approaches that can be helpful when implementing a new routine or pattern  (or breaking an old one). Intentionally leveraging these can make all the difference in successfully getting a new habit to stick. 

Below are a few of my favorite strategies, but keep two things in mind: 1) There are many, many more so I encourage you to explore other ones that might speak to you, and 2) No one strategy is inherently better than the other. 

The key is to use the strategies that complement how you’re naturally wired. 

Now, back to my favorites (and to be clear, by favorite, I mean most effective for me):

Clean Slate

For some people (like those of us who are “starters”), leveraging the motivation that a new beginning brings can be helpful. That could be the start of a new year, a new month or a new season. While this won’t help you stick to a new routine over time, it can be a great motivator to begin so it works exceptionally well when combined with other strategies to keep it going.

Habit Stacking

Inserting a new habit into a routine that is already established is what helped me conquer my challenge of consistently taking my daily vitamins. For many, many years I struggled with this. I tried keeping the bottle of vitamins on the kitchen counter. I tried setting a daily reminder on my phone. Both of these worked for a bit, but inevitably I would fall out of this pattern after a week or so. I didn’t fully conquer this challenge until I added it to my morning routine of drinking water immediately after waking up (I had previously established the habit of placing a full bottle of water on my bathroom counter as part of my night time routine). Habit stacking can be very instrumental. It allows you to draft off previous successes by connecting a new desired behavior to a series of actions you’ve already conquered. 

Make it Easy

This particular strategy is so simple and SO effective. When people come to me with a habit they are struggling with, I almost always encourage them to think through what possible friction could be removed to make the desired task the easy thing to do. This might look like placing your running shoes by the door the night before you want to take a morning run. Or, having your journal and pen already out and in place on your desk waiting for you to get those thoughts down on paper.

Next week, we will talk about the two frameworks I like to use to self-assess and why knowing how you’re wired is so important!


Sabrina Joy is a Habit Coach and 20+ year marketing professional. She is the founder of Tending Habits, a consultancy dedicated to helping organizations and individuals build better habits. You can also follow her on Instagram.

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