If you’ve ever struggled to start a routine, you’re not alone. For most people, the hardest part of forming new habits is sticking with them long enough for the behavior to become ingrained. Luckily, there are a few simple strategies and mental shortcuts that anyone can use to avoid roadblocks and achieve their goal of starting and sticking to a new routine. Here, Michael Evan Salley, a personal growth advocate touches on 6 tips to establish a new routine. 

Focus on One Goal at a Time:

While it may be easy to start several new habits at once, sticking to them for the long haul is an entirely different story. Research suggests that even people who consider themselves effective multi-taskers typically work more slowly and less efficiently than people who force themselves to stay focused on one thing at a time. Instead of trying to revamp every aspect of your life at once, focus on one general area at a time, such as improving your physical health, getting more organized, or being more mindful, and make an effort to stick with that goal until the related habits and routines have had time to sink in.

Identity Interconnected Habits:

Once you’ve settled on a key area that you want to focus on improving, the next step is to identify interconnected habits that work to reinforce each other and facilitate routine-building. For example, if you are focusing on your health, habits such as exercising, eating healthier meals, and getting more sleep all have synergy, and doing one makes you much more likely to do the others. By identifying these habits, you can create a behavioral domino effect, making you much more likely to stick with a new routine.

Work from Big to Small:

One of the most common reasons that people struggle with new routines is that they underestimate the time or effort they need to commit to each task, which can often result in scheduling conflicts, poor time management, and falling behind on goals. To help avoid these pitfalls, it is best to start each day by identifying the biggest, most challenging tasks for the day and focusing your attention on those first. Not only does this strategy ensure that your most important tasks get completed, it also reinforces beneficial behavioral patterns by creating a sense of progress and accomplishment that in turn creates momentum to finish up smaller tasks later in the day.

Assess Your Failures:

A key part of creating a successful routine is to make an honest assessment of the reasons why your previous attempts failed to stick. In many cases, people follow specific advice or behavioral templates that don’t necessarily apply to their lifestyle, personality, or values, and in those cases, it may be difficult to understand why habits aren’t forming. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for sticking to a new routine, so if you are experiencing repeated failures, it may only be because the strategies you are using aren’t tailored to your individual needs.

Make a List Before Bed:

One useful tool for sticking to a new routine is to create a basic schedule each night before you go to sleep. Put together a list of all the tasks you plan to do tomorrow and don’t be afraid to even assign rough start and stop times for each task. Creating a detailed schedule helps you work more efficiently and provides better insight into how to structure your new routine. It may seem unnecessary but keeping a precise schedule when you are starting outlets you see when you are getting off-track and makes it harder for you to subconsciously procrastinate.

Tell Someone Else:

Telling friends or family about the goals you’ve set for yourself has several psychological benefits. At the most basic level, it creates an additional layer of accountability, especially if you ask those people to check in on your progress periodically. Telling other people about your goals also provides opportunities for them to support you–if you tell your friends you are watching your diet, they will be less likely to suggest going out to eat a high-calorie meal for your next get-together. In some cases, you may even find that your friends or loved ones are interesting in working towards the same goals, allowing you to cultivate new habits together and help each other stay on target.

Forming new routines is always a challenge, and even people with plenty of willpower often struggle to make them stick. Michael Evan Salley stated, “by using the tips and tactics above, virtually anyone can overcome the common habit-forming roadblocks and ensure that their next attempt will be a successful one.”