How to Create a Daily Habit and Actually Stick to It

Posted by Flatiron School  /  March 27, 2020

How to Create a Daily Habit Actually Stick to It

When you’re adjusting to a new lifestyle, consistency is crucial. Do something daily. Establish a schedule. Whether you’re coding for ten minutes, sticking to a new workout routine, or learning something new (or helping your kids learn something new), good habits and rituals will keep you positive and productive. But where do you start?

Flatiron School has been building communities of online learners since 2015. As champions of remote learning, we know how to help others build strong habits.

Take some pointers from our online educational coaches: 

Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

  • Getting 1% better every day makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Small changes appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. It typically takes 21 repetitions to cement a habit, so it will often take  6-12 weeks to see results. Be patient.

  • The most effective way to change your habits is to focus on who you want to become, not necessarily what you want to achieve. You are what you repeatedly do, and tiny wins help reinforce your identity. Think:

“I am a web developer, I code every day!”

“I am good at technology, I debugged 3 error messages yesterday.”

To form habits, follow these four steps:

  • Make it obvious. 

  • Make it attractive. 

  • Make it easy. 

  • Make it satisfying.

James Clear in Atomic Habits suggests these four laws of behavior-change to create a good habit. Let’s pretend your goal is to eat more fruit:

  1. Make it obvious. Don’t hide your fruits in your fridge, put them on display front and center.

  2. Make it attractive. Start with the fruit you like the most, so you’ll actually want to eat one when you see it.

  3. Make it easy. Don’t create needless friction by focusing on fruits that are hard to peel. Peaches and apples are super easy to eat, for example.

  4. Make it satisfying. If you like the fruit you picked, you’ll love eating it and feel healthier as a result!

Conversely, do the opposite for bad habits. Make them invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying. Now, let’s apply these tips to creating a daily coding habit.

Step One: Make It Obvious

  • Plan For It: If you make a specific plan for when and where you will code, you are more likely to see it through. Make coding appointments with yourself, calendar them.

“I will code at [time] in [location] for [this many] minutes.”

  • Habit Stacking: An easy way to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.Your new habit should have the same frequency as the habit you are stacking it on.

“After [current daily habit], I will code.”

  • Design Your Environment For Success: If you want to make the habit a big part of your life, make the reminder to do it a big part of your environment. What could that look like? Making sure your environment makes coding easy: temperature, a quiet space, having the right tools, and minimal distractions. Plus, creating a space (however small) just for coding, so your brain learns to equate this space with studying. 

Step Two: Make It Attractive

  • Reward: Link it to an activity that you already find rewarding. Earn the old rewarding activity, by having to do the new habit first.

  • Community: Join a community where the activity is already the norm. Spend more time with those who are doing this habit. Check out our free prep courses.

Step Three: Make It Easy

  • Repetitions: If you want to master a habit, the key is repetition, not perfection. If you are struggling to do something consistently, create more repetitions, not necessarily more duration.

  • Appreciate Progress: If you’re learning a language. Language acquisition takes immersion, frequent practice — consistency creates fluency. Compare one day of French class a week to a week in France without a dictionary.  

  • Get Rid of Friction: Eliminate friction for habits you want to add to your life and add intentional friction to your bad habits. What are some examples of friction that might be getting in the way of your coding?

  • Crush Procrastination: Just Do it! You have to show up before you can master it. Here is an easy tip – the “Two-Minute Rule.” Just do it for two minutes and then commit to doing it for 2 minutes again later and again later (repetition over duration).

Step Four: Make It Satisfying

What short-term immediate rewards can you align with your habit?

  • Habit Tracking: Create a visual record of your progress (check boxes, gold star stickers, etc.) What else could you create to track your adherence to your new habit? Our Online students love Toggl to track their coding time!

  • Keep the Streak Alive: Commit to never skipping two days in a row.

  • Ensure Accountability: Tell someone about your habit and keep them updated. Our team of Educational Coaches are particularly good at both supporting and challenging you to meet your goals. 

Your “Creating a Daily Habit” Checklist

  • Define your new good habit to adopt.

  • How will you make it obvious?

  • How will you make it attractive?

  • How will you make it easy?

  • How will you make it satisfying?

  • How will you add accountability?