The power of habits, and apps to help you stick with them

The most efficient way to change aspects your life is making a habit out of something. We are habitual creatures, after all; around 40% of what we do in our day is on autopilot. Once a habit is burned into our brains, we execute the process without thinking about it, and it feels weird when we don’t.

Ever miss an evening of brushing your teeth? Next to the obvious hygienic reasons, that feels off, somehow, like you missed something. Breaking a habit gives us a feeling of discomfort. This also goes for bad habits, which is why they’re hard to break.

It’s not only important stuff like brushing your teeth. Especially stupid little things that you don’t really think about are habit-based. The way you make a cup of coffee, the way you get into your car, the first website you check when you open your web browser, the order you put on your shoes, etc. Ever notice in a college lecture hall (or lunchroom/office cafeteria, whatever), everyone is free to sit wherever they want, and yet almost everyone picks the same seats every time?

Habits are a very powerful part of your system, and they can be used to your advantage. Want to get good at something or reach a goal? Make a habit out of it, and don’t miss a single point (no excuses) until you don’t know any better. That’s really the secret to learning things and changing your life.

I’m personally rather chaotic by nature, which is why I started using Google Calendar back in 2006 when it got its initial beta release. Today, almost ten years later, I put everything in there. I even make a calendar point when I’m going out for a beer with friends the next day, and it works! Thanks to that habit, I (pretty much) never miss an appointment.

The general consensus around how long it takes to make or break a habit seems to be 21 days, and that’s 21 days of actively pursuing it. In other words, if your goal is to work out 3 times a week, that’s 7 weeks before it’s a solid habit. It may be longer, it may be shorter, but just stick with it, and it’ll stick eventually.

Yes, there’s an app for that!

There are many apps on all platforms available to help you keep track of what you’re doing, which is a really great way to stick with your goals. I personally only have experience with HabitBull for Android, but the other ones listed below are similar in function.

The hardest part of creating a habit is the fist step, so start today.

Links, references, and tools

Habit apps

Android: HabitBull
iPhone: Balanced
Windows Phone: HabitChamp

Cloud calendar applications

Google Calendar
Outlook Calendar

These sync with your native smartphone calendar apps

Recommended reading

This is a fascinating, fun read. I’m not the only one who thinks so, as it’s been on every bestseller list for months.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg. (AP Photo/Random House)


Bad-ass shot by Guido Gloor Modjib, CC license

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