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How Long Does It Take to Create a New Habit? (and 6 Hacks to Help You)

Research shows that it takes an average of 21 days to establish a new habit- which is crazy because it definitely doesn’t seem to take that long to create a bad one. For some, no matter how hard they try, it takes longer to establish new habits.

So how long will it really take to establish new habits? The truth is it depends on several factors. First of all, it depends on your mindset and how drastic the change is from what you’re doing to what you want to do. For example, if you have a habit of eating a bowl of ice cream before going to bed at night, it probably won’t be that difficult to switch to frozen yogurt or low-fat/low-sugar ice cream. However, if your goal is to give up ice cream completely or to cut out all sugar from your diet- it may take a bit longer.

Typically, when someone asks how long it will take to establish a new habit, what they are really asking is how long they will have to tough it out before things get easier. They want to know if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel where they don’t have to push so hard anymore. Basically, they want to know when their new habit will become automatic, so they do it without even thinking about it.

Honestly, there is no standard answer for this. It will be different from one person to the next and even one habit to the next. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you with this process.

3 Things to Keep in Mind

Don’t Just Break a Habit- Replace it

First, it’s a lot easier to establish a new habit instead of breaking an old one. You will have to work a lot harder to give something up than you will if you replace that habit with something new. For example, if you have a habit of drinking coffee all day to keep yourself awake, consider switching to herbal tea or even water.

Same Time and Environment

Second, when you stick to the same time and environment every day, new habits will form a lot faster. For example, if you want to start walking more to get in better shape, instead of just walking when you feel like it, make an appointment to walk every day after dinner or every morning before work. You’ll get to the point where it will just become something that you do.

Determine Your Why

Finally, it’s a lot easier to establish new habits when you determine why you are trying to change your habits. If your goal is to exercise more, remind yourself every day that you are exercising to stay strong so you can play with your kids or grandkids. If your goal is to save money for your dream home, create a vision board and display it as a reminder of what your end goal is so you can stick to your frugal, money-saving habits. Always keep your “why” front and center to motivate you to stick it out.

Of course, it is going to take some time- but it will be worth it in the end. Keep reading to learn 6 hacks to help you build your new habits:

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6 Simple Hacks

You already know that it will be challenging to create a new habit. However, below are 6 simple hacks that can make it easier. Keep these in mind and lean on them until the new habit has become automatic and you don’t need them anymore.

Put it On Your Calendar/To-Do List

When you’re starting a new habit, it can be easy to forget because it is new. It’s not something you’re used to doing. For example, you want to start walking every day- but it’s easy to forget when you get busy with other things. However, if it’s on your to-do list or your calendar, you’re less likely to forget it. Therefore, when you make your daily to-do list, write it down and make an appointment with yourself so it becomes something that is important.

Make it Public

Tell others about your plans to establish a new habit. Tell them that they can call you out if you don’t stick to your plan and can help you get back on track. You may even want to consider sharing it on your social media or creating a blog to record your journey. When you know that others know about your plans and are following you may be enough to keep you going. Plus, you never know what motivation you might give others when they see how well you’re doing.

Add the New Habit to an Old One

When possible, you should piggyback your new habit on one that you already have in place. For example, if you’re trying to get in shape by going for a daily walk and you always fix yourself a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon, take your walk and reward yourself with your tea or coffee. It’s a lot easier to make an adjustment to an existing habit than it is to create an entirely new one.

Have Consequences for Slipups

When you slip up and fall back into an old habit or forget to practice your new one, give yourself some kind of consequence. Consider putting a jar somewhere prominent in your house so you’ll see it all the time. If you forget the new habit, you must put $5 into the jar. This will be an effective reminder to practice your new habit. For additional motivation, consider giving your partner or children the money at the end of the month to spend on themselves or donate it to charity.

Find an Accountability Partner

If you don’t want to make your journey public, at least consider getting an accountability partner. Find someone that has the same or a similar goal and partner with them so that you can keep each other motivated and encouraged. After all, it will be much harder to skip that evening walk if you know that someone is counting on you to be there.

Turn it into a group challenge

If one accountability partner can help keep you motivated and encouraged- imagine how much more a group can do. With today’s technology, they don’t even have to be local. You can find or create a support group online so that you can motivate and encourage each other. If you’re all trying to get in shape, many of the smartwatches offer the option to partner with others and challenge each other to do physical activities. When you don’t want to be the first one to flake out, it will make it a lot easier to keep practicing your new habit.


While experts agree that it takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit, the truth is that it varies from one person to the next and from one habit to another. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort. It won’t be easy, but if you can keep these 6 hacks in mind and use the ones that you find helpful, it will be a lot easier to establish new habits and you’ll eventually be able to practice them without even thinking about it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Krista Mounsey

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