Two Ways to Form Habits Effortlessly

By Leo Babauta

Forming new habits can be life-changing – if you start meditating, create a simple exercise habit, and eat more vegetables, you health and happiness can be transformed in a matter of months.

But sticking to a habit can be difficult, because life gets in the way. And we get discouraged when the habit gets disrupted.

How can we form habits without all the struggle?

I’m going to share two strategies that I’ve found to be priceless:

  1. Slipping into the habit; and
  2. Leveraging your smartphone

They’re so painless you will barely feel them. And your life can be changed as a result, with very little effort.

Slipping Into the Habit

The first strategy is not to try to create a full habit, but to slide into it effortlessly.

Let’s say you want to meditate every day. Instead of setting aside 20 minutes and a meditation space for your new habit … slip into it. When you’re getting out of bed, just pause for a few seconds and pay attention to your breath. That’s it, just a few seconds.

That’s so easy you will barely notice the habit. Don’t try to become the world’s greatest meditator, don’t try to master the habit, just do a few seconds of it, and get on with your day.

After this becomes something you do without thinking about, try doing it for 30 seconds, then a minute. But don’t rush into this, take a week or two before you increase. It will seem ridiculously easy.

You can try the same thing for exercise – instead of going to the gym or doing a 30-minute run, try just doing a pushup when you’re about to take a break from your computer. Just one pushup. Or try doing a plank as you watch TV, just for 10 seconds.

Make it super super easy to start with.

Leveraging Your Phone

This one is a version of Slipping Into the Habit … but it takes advantage of how often we check our phones.

It’s simple and obvious: put a photo with a message on your phone’s lockscreen. For example, put a message that says, “Breathe” on your lockscreen. Or perhaps “Get fit.”

Then, when you check your phone and notice this message, slip into your new habit. If the phone says “Breathe,” then pay attention to your breath for just a few seconds. If it says “Get fit,” then simply do a pushup or something like that.

Obviously you can’t do that every single time you look at your phone, but if you do it a few times a day, you’ll be slipping into a new habit effortlessly, and soon you’ll be on your way to a healthy habit that could change your life.