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Develop a Habit

The best way to get started is to make a plan which specifies where and when you will perform the desired behavior. Fill out the X, Y and Z for one of the sentences below to start. I will perform X at Y time in Z location OR After I do my current habit, I will perform X.

Published on: April 23, 2021
Topics included: behavior | habits
man drinking water

Good Habits Start Here

Starting a new habit can be daunting. James Clear has done the research on how in his book Atomic Habits. This blog post will summarize what you need to do.

  1. Choose a habit you want to start.
  2. Choose a time and location for your habit. Complete one of the sentences in the yellow box below.
  3. Set up visual cues.
    An obvious signal to initiate the behavior
     Remember Pavlov?
  4. Link your habit.
    Think of something you enjoy. Can you pair that with your new habit?
  5. Make it easy.
    Start with just 2 minutes per day.
  6. Treat yourself.
    Use a visual tracker to record the completion of the action. Then add a rewarding activity. 
    It better be satisfying otherwise it won’t be worth the effort.

“Behaviors followed by satisfying consequences tend to be repeated and those that produce unpleasant consequences are less likely to be repeated.”

Edward Thorndike

Behavioral Psychologist

mother and daughter running

Link Example: Activity enjoyed (shopping) with new habit (running) from parking lot to store.

I will (perform habit X) at (time Y)  in location (Z).

After I (current habit), I will (perform habit x).


It is easier to start a new habit in a new environment. If you can, designate an area or room to perform your new habit. Make it visible, so the location itself can become a cue. The reason being  once you notice something, you will begin to want it.

stability balls

Habit: Exercise

After I make by tea each morning, I will exercise in my office.


The goal is to pair something you already enjoy with the action of the new habit. The expectation of getting to do what you want will motivate you to perform the new habit. The trick is to find a practical match.

father and son gardening

Habit: Gardening

I will weed by garden 30 minutes each Saturday after lunch. Link: Spending time with my son


Don’t get over ambitious. If the task is too hard, you won’t do it. Start with 2 minutes a day. Why? The frequency of the habit is more important with how well it is done. Also make the location convenient and prep the space for the action.

man playing drums

Habit: Drumming

I will practice playing the drums for 2 minutes each day before lunch in the basement. Link: Listening to music


Immediately after the completion of your habit, check it off on a visual tracker. This can be a calendar, to-do list, phone app, or putting money in a jar. Checking off the habit may be satisfying, but it you want more treat yourself.  Indulge in a preferred activity for a set period of time.

unfinished puzzle

Habit: Spanish

After I study Spanish for two minutes each morning in my office, I will stamp my calendar and enjoy 15 minutes of puzzling.

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Rewarding Goal Progress

Rewarding Goal Progress

You want to keep motivated to accomplish your goals. How? First, determine what motivates you. Then choose a reward that reflects that. Common motivators and examples rewards are shown below.

How to: Write Goals

How to: Write Goals

Consider the following questions when writing goals: What exactly are you trying to accomplish? How will you ascertain if you are successful or not? Is it a realistic goal? Does this goal fit into a larger, broader mission? How much time do you need?