Skip to main content

3 reminders you can use to start any habit

I am going to start going for a walk

I have told myself this several times in the past. Guess what happens? I forget to go for a walk the next day. I enjoy walking. I know the many benefits of walking. I have good walking shoes. I have some great paths to walk on within minutes of my house. So why don’t I go for a walk? Its because I don’t set myself a reminder.

The 3 parts to every habit.

Every habit consists of 3 parts:
  1. Reminder.
  2. Routine.
  3. Reward.
The reminder (or trigger) is what initiates a habit.

The routine is the habit itself.

The reward is the desirable consequence of doing the habit.

You can pick a perfect habit with an awesome reward, but if you don’t have a reminder you will never do it. Its like having a light bulb without a light switch or a power engine without an ignition. Unless you have something to make it start, the rest doesn’t matter.


Time is the most common habit reminder. For example waking up in the morning reminds you to have a coffee, get in the shower, and eat breakfast. Your tummy may tell you its time to go get a cookie for an afternoon snack at 3.00pm. Or you may sit down to watch American Baking Challenge at 8.00pm every Thursday.

If you want to change a bad habit, its good to identify the “time” (or “times”) you normally do the routine. Then replace the “bad” habit for a “good” one. For example if you eat a whole bag of chips while you watch American Baking Challenge, replace it with an apple, or do jumping jacks.


Locations are often overlooked reminders for habits. For example, when you walk in the kitchen do you always check the snack cupboard to see what’s in it? Or when you are at work do you get something from the vending machine every time you walk past it? Or do you start singing to yourself when you get in the shower?

When you have a location change forced upon you – for example getting a new job or moving to a new house, this is the perfect opportunity to create new habits.

Also, if you successfully start the habit of going for a run after work every day but aren’t losing weight as you wanted to, look at some of your location reminded routines like eating 3 candy bars a day because the vending machine is right by your office.

Existing habit

Habits do not live in isolation. One habit often triggers another habit. For example brushing your teeth can remind you to do the habit of flossing. Or a new text message reminder on your phone may trigger you to also check facebook. 

Linking a new habit to an old one is a fantastic way to increase your chances of success. This technique is called “habit stacking.” For example, if you do your grocery shopping every Saturday morning and there happens to be a gym next door, you could use the grocery shopping habit to get you to go to the gym. Or if you take your kids to baseball every Wednesday at 4.00pm, you can use that to start the habit of going for a run.

As you think about the next new habit you want to build, make sure you pick a strong reminder for it.