Changing an act or a behavior into a habit is a challenging task. Research shows that it takes about 21 days for a habit to form. Depending on the person’s learning curve, it can take as long as 66 days for a behavior to become a permanent and automatic response. This is true of both good and bad habits.

Many highly successful people such as Elon Musk and Warren Buffet credit their habits to their professional success. While habits do help in goal achievement, making a habit stick can be hard work. But by following these steps, you can condition your mind to form positive habits:

v Start with something simple

Don’t tackle your entire set of problems at once. Instead, start small. For example, if you hate answering emails, why not just answer one email every morning and keep the rest for later? Soon you will see your aversion to answering emails ebb away.

v Give a time commitment

It takes almost a month for a new habit to form. Be willing to put in the time needed to cultivate the habit.

v Remind yourself to follow through

Forming a habit can be an extremely frustrating task. It’s easy to forget the benefits that will come out of it in the long run. Remind yourself each day the benefits of your struggle.

v The buddy system works

It’s easier to get into a routine if there is someone else who is working with you. Say you need to cultivate the habit of reading. Get a colleague to work on developing the same habit. Give each other assignments to complete – such as paragraphs to read – and motivate each other to stick to the process.

v Seek help to handle withdrawal symptoms

When you wean yourself off bad habits, you are bound to experience withdrawal symptoms. If for example, you spend too much time on social media at work and you suddenly stop doing so, you are likely to get restless and irritated. Instead of stopping suddenly, restrict the time you spend on it. Reduce this time spent each day and replace the bad habit with a good one, for example, reading.

v Use visualization

Visualizing your goals will keep you more motivated while working towards achieving them. Visualize yourself having successfully formed the habit and think of the professional benefits that you will get, once you do.

v Do a trial run

Don’t start with a long duration in mind. If you intend to keep your workspace clean, start for a week. But remember to clean your workstation every day for that week. A shorter goal is easier to achieve and is more motivating.

v Accept the challenges and failures and persevere

You may face problems or fail in your efforts. But don’t let this stop you from persevering. Acknowledging that you may fail will help you be more aware of the problems involved and will help you chart out a game plan.