5 practical strategies to make good habits successful

If you are someone who is looking to achieve your goals by developing good habits, I have listed out some of the techniques I use to stick to new habits I am trying to implement.

In January 2020, I decided to challenge myself to 31 days of rowing. My motivation to do this was: 

  • To be healthier
  • To see if I could stick to it
  • To use that rowing machine that is sitting there

Previous times I tried to stick to this habit, I managed a week before giving up. The reasons why I gave up were:

  • The temptation of extra 30 minutes in the bed was too tempting
  • Distractions in the morning which disrupted my routine
  • I kept renegotiating with myself. Saying I will do it later on the day or start again tomorrow but never did.

To help, I read Atomic Habits by James Clear. He provided advice on a 4-step habit plan, making habits easier and how tracking habits helps improves your ability to stick to it.

I took all that advice, and this is what I learnt.

Cue, Craving, Response and Reward

James Clear broke down habit forming into 4 step process: Cue, Craving, Response and Reward.  

The cue step is the trigger that starts the habit. For rowing, I incorporated it as part of the morning routine. So when I wake up the first thing I think of is getting changed and working out.

Next step is craving. Craving is the motivation behind every habit. When I wake up what is the reason to make to row. The reasons I have come up with are:

  1. I feel good for the rest of the day
  2. I feel healthier long term
  3. I think I have achieved a task for the day

The third step is the response. The response is the doing of the habit. James Clear believes if there is too much friction in making the habit than you won’t do it. To reduce the friction of doing 20 minutes of rowing every day, I did the following:

  1. I had my gym clothes ready to wear when I wake up
  2. I have a bottle of water available to drink when I wake up and after
  3. I had my AirPods nearby with my music list ready to be played.

The final step is the reward. In this step, you should reward yourself for completing the habit. My favourite award would be to have a doughnut, but that is counteractive to do the rowing.

I wanted to do something that would incentivise me and bring me immediate gratification.

At developgoodhabits.com website, they have provided a list of 155 rewards to choose.  

In the end, I opted for a £3 deposit for my fun fund. Each time I complete a habit, I put £3 aside to buy any gadgets, games and books I wanted. If I completed the 31-day challenge, I would have £93 to spend on anything I wanted!

Habit Tracking

James Clear believes that if you can track your habit, the more likely you will stick to it. The reasons for this is it reminds you to act; it motivates you to continue and brings immediate satisfaction.

He proposed the best way to this is as part of a journal. I do not journal every day, so I decided to use an app.

The best app I found was one call Strides. The features I like about Strides are:

  1. It has a simple user interface to help see my progress
  2. It has templates to help setting up different types of habits with different ways to track them.
  3. It captures notes on why you couldn’t complete the habit. Keeping records proved useful when trying to stop incomplete habit days.

By using strides every day, it helped motivate me to continue the challenge and ensure I don’t break the chain of completed days.


One area that never gets discussed sufficiently in Atomic Habits is routines. The reality of life means waking up, and rowing are not the only two things I have to do that day. I have to get clean, dressed, have breakfast and get out of the house in time for work.

So I needed to make sure rowing was part of my morning routine.  

I have found using the Seconds app lets me list out the tasks I have to do in the morning and tells me what the next task should be.

Listing out my morning tasks has proved useful in three ways:

  1. In the morning, I am half asleep and fail to remember what the morning routine tasks are. So having something tell you makes life easier.
  2. By following the routine, I avoid being distracted by other activities such as reading social media or watching youtube.
  3. Setting a timer to tasks ensures I am sticking to the routine, and I have plenty of time to leave the house to get to work on time.

Having a good routine made sure that I was able to incorporate rowing into the mornings without having an excuse that I did not have enough time to do it.

Habit stacking

To create a good routine, it is a good idea to stack it with other positive habits, and you are already doing. Habit stacking suggests linking habits together will compound the benefit you get from it and acts as cue between habits.  

So when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is drink a glass of water. This act as a cue to get changed and row which acted as a cue to have breakfast.

By linking the rowing to an existing habit, it was easier to incorporate rowing into my morning routine.

2-minute rule & 2-day rule

Now I had a plan, tracker and a morning routine. So it’s time to execute. As usual, I have a good start; the first few days are easy because I am highly motivated and full of energy. But after a few days waking up when the weather is cold outside, it was a struggle. Staying in bed was tempting.

So I applied two rules from Matt D’Avella, a popular productivity YouTuber.  

His first rule was the 2-minute rule. He believes if you tell yourself to do the exercise for just two minutes; once you are doing the exercise for two minutes, you find yourself drawn to doing more. You have already done the hard bit which was waking up and getting changed and sitting on a rowing machine.  

The second rule was the 2-day rule. Matt D’Avella explains sometimes we screw up. Sometimes life doesn’t know about our goals, challenges and habits. When things don’t go to plan, accept it and don’t beat yourself about it. If you miss one day of exercise, make sure you don’t miss two. Commit yourself to make sure you do it the next day.


Using all these techniques and tools helped me achieve 28 days for rowing out of the 31 days in January.

I did this by having a plan of implementing the habit using James Clear Cue, Craving, Response and Reward strategy

I tracked the progress using strides app to ensure I can see how well I am doing and motivate myself to continue.

I used Seconds app and habit stacking to create a morning routine that I knew would work

I used the 2-minute rule to keep going when I wanted to stay in bed and 2-day rule to keep going when I missed a day.

Hopefully, these tips and techniques will help you implement your systems of habit management.

What other tips do you recommend?  Let me know via the comment below or via Twitter!

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