This is the fifth in our series about habits. If you want to check out the others, you can find them here, here, here and here.

Ever heard of “Snapchat Streaks”?

Does Duolingo email you to tell you you’re about to lose your streak if you don’t practice Spanish right now? (Oh, wait, is that just me?!)

Have you ever marked off the days of your calendar every time you went for a run?

If so, you’re familiar with our next habit building strategy: Don’t break the chain (aka streaks).

Many apps, not just Duolingo, reward you for coming back day after day. These apps are all tapping into this powerful psychological strategy. Like all strategies for habits, YMMV. This one works really, really well for some people, those who LOVE to see the progress in the form of an unbroken chain.

What types of habits does this strategy work best for?

This strategy typically works best for daily habits; those habits you want to do every single day.

Things like:

  • Exercise/movement
  • Flossing your teeth
  • Reading
  • Drinking water
  • Taking meds

How can you try out this strategy?

  • For some people, it works really well to use a pen and paper method.
    • You could use a bullet journal, or simply cross off the days on physical wall calendar.
  • For others, a digital method work best.
    • If you’re using TickTick as a task management tool, there’s a habit tracker already built in. I highly recommend using this feature because keeping things all in one place is easier for your brain.
    • Some folks really love the apps Habitbull, Habitica and Habitify

What if you don’t care about breaking the chain?

Even if you don’t care that much about breaking the chain, this strategy may be a useful strategy for simply tracking how often you are doing the habit.

For instance, while breaking the chain doesn’t particularly bother me, I don’t like to see HUGE gaps in the chain. So, I use TickTick to track my habits.

This way I can see that (real talk to follow) I’m doing pretty well when it comes to exercise and TERRIBLE when it comes to sunscreen. Seeing my progress right in front of my eyes helps me to figure out if I need to employ different strategies. For instance, I just moved my sunscreen right next to my toothbrush (using the strategy of convenience!) to see if that helps me be a bit more compliant.

A couple more pro-tips:

  • Whatever method you choose, make it convenient!
    • If it’s an app, see if you can use an app you’re already in every day (like TickTick) vs. starting something new.
    • If it’s paper and pen, put it right next to your bed, or on your desk, somewhere you can’t miss it!
  • Praise yourself every single time you do the habit
    • It can be tempting, when tracking habits daily, to beat yourself up on the days you don’t make it happen. Resist that urge.
    • Instead, congratulate and praise yourself every time you do it. This will keep your brain coming back for more instead of slinking off into avoidance mode.

Have you used this strategy? What habits have you been able to build?

Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: If you purchase something after clicking on one of the links above (some are affiliate links and some are not) I might earn a few bucks from it. However, please know that I only join affiliate programs AFTER I’ve already been recommending the products for years.


  • Alexis Haselberger

    Time Management and Productivity Coach

    Alexis Haselberger Coaching and Consulting, Inc

    Alexis Haselberger is a time management and productivity coach who helps people do more and stress less through coaching, workshops and online courses.  Her pragmatic, irreverent, approach helps people easily integrate realistic strategies into their lives so that they can do more of what they want and less of what they don't.  Alexis has taught thousands of individuals to take control of their time and her clients include Google, Lyft, Workday, Capital One, Upwork and more.