Habit Forming: 3 Habits I’m Trying to Break

candy jars

Do you have any bad habits? I definitely do. But I’m not talking nail biting or eating too much candy (did the picture fool you??). Mine are probably equally as common, but no less frustrating.

I recently read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businessand it was so fascinating to think about how these scientific studies that focused on rats actually mirrored my own life pretty well. The human brain, and the rodent brain — more similar than we’d like to admit, right? What really struck me about some of the studies discussed was how making the tiniest changes in one’s life can have an enormous impact on other parts. It’s all about changing up your cues, so that things become second nature.

Here are three habits I’m currently trying to work on:

1. Not drinking enough water. This is a big one for me. I’m really bad about waking up in the morning, and immediately diving into whatever I want to work on that day. I never eat breakfast, and a lot of days don’t bother making tea (and I NEVER drink coffee in the morning). I’ve realized that some days, I’ll go until noon or 1pm before eating or drinking anything. The eating part never really bothered me, but the liquid…I tend to totally dehydrate myself. The older I’ve gotten, the more I notice it, especially in how much energy I have, how well I sleep, and most (vain) of all, how my skin looks. I recently read in Cameron Diaz’s new health book that she started putting a bottle of water by her bathroom sink every night, so when she woke up in the morning and walked in, it was one of the first things she saw. That little change — the visual cue, really — is what caused her to change her habit, and begin every day by drinking a big amount of water. I’ve been trying something similar by using the time Lucy is eating her breakfast to challenge myself to chug an entire glass of water. It’s working about half the time, so I think I need a stronger cue. Cameron’s just might be the ticket.

2. Wasting time on the Internet. I mean, I’m not alone in this right? I’m in the middle of a project, working on something, and somehow get distracted and end up spending an hour dicking around and looking at nothing. So far, this has been one habit that has been hardest to break, because if you’re online doing other types of work, you’re already IN your browser, so it’s super accessible. Any tips on this? Does anyone know of any non-permanent website “lock out” apps or other good tools that can help with this problem? Similarly, the email vortex is a big part of this too. For a while I didn’t open my Inbox until certain hours of the day, just to avoid falling into an email time trap. But some days, you need your Inbox to reference past discussions, so not opening the tab didn’t work for me. I’ll keep experimenting with this one!

3. Leaving clothes around the house. I’m a pretty clean person when it comes to literal, biological cleanliness of things. Like, I can’t stand a dirty shower, sink, or toilet. But I won’t lie, I’m the messiest when it comes to STUFF. I’m pretty bad about leaving things around the house, and clothes are worst of all. I thought I had solved the problem by ordering a bunch of baskets from Serena and Lily to strategically place in my office, bathroom and bedroom…but then what ended up happening is I would let mounds of clothes get stuffed into these baskets, and not deal with them for weeks on end. They were out of sight, out of mind — until I was looking for one blouse or pair of pants in particular, and had to riffle through 5 different baskets! Recently, I changed cues by completely removing those baskets from the places that get the worst pile ups (like my bathroom…I would end up with a pile of clothes stacked up a couple feet high, which in a Manhattan bathroom DOES. NOT. WORK. Like I said, I’m really bad about this.). So now, I’ll actually move clothes into the hamper in our laundry (where they belong anyway), or at the very worst, back into one basket that’s in our bedroom, so they’re at least near my closet. Even if they still end up in a basket in the bedroom, I’ve found I’m more likely to put them away either on the spot or within a day or two, just because they’re all in a centralized location.

Those are the three habits I’m currently working on changing. They’re all things that will improve my home life, work life, and health, so I figure they’re worthwhile to address! I’m curious for you to read The Power of Habit and see what you think (check out the author Q&A on the Amazon page — that alone is pretty interesting). And more importantly, what are some habits in your life you’d like to adjust?

Image Credit: Chaz Cruz Photography via Style Me Pretty


  1. 2.12.14
    Katerina said:

    We are soul mates! Us and I guess the rest of the people that have clothes and internet access..Don’t get me started on the water thing..

  2. 2.12.14
    Abby said:

    Wasting time on the Internet is a biggie for me!! Need to study for a test… Oh just 10 more mins on Pinterest… Whoops!!

  3. 2.12.14

    I agree with wasting time on the internet… or my latest addiction. Instagram. I open my phone and just start scrolling! For no reason. lol It’s a love/hate relationship.

  4. 2.12.14
    Juliette said:

    #2 is often a problem for me and one thing that helps me is to keep work-related stuff to Chrome and all the fun, time-suckage stuff in Firefox. Logins for email, FB, etc. are NOT saved in my Chrome browser, so if I go to any of those sites I have to think about whatever my login might be (and I’m usually wrong, so then it’s a ‘request lost password’ thing, ugh). Doesn’t always help, but it’s a big deterrent.

    Repeatedly setting a timer is also a good way for me to catch myself in terms of time spent on X/time gone by.

    #3 is sort of a problem for me in that I manage to keep everything on one folding chair by my side of the bed, but it quickly turns into Mt. Everest (husband is total neat-freak and hates that I have a ‘pile’, ha). I end up having really wrinkled stuff at the bottom and deciding to just wash it again (wasteful) instead of iron it, etc. I’m thinking I need to invest in one of Ikea’s valet stands (Mulig or Grundtal) to reign things in even more.

  5. 2.12.14

    I have a horrible habit of moving Frankie’s things in the apartment and putting them away then forgetting where I put them.

  6. 2.12.14

    Ugh, I am the WORST about leaving clothes lying around. Between my husband and I, half of our wardrobe is draped over chairs or dressers. That’s a habit we’re trying to break, especially as we move into our new house. Oh, and I’m trying to floss more too! :)

  7. 2.12.14
    Kara said:

    I just started to read The Power of Habit. I’m about 60 pages in; so far it’s really interesting! I’m pretty bad at drinking water, too. I try to keep a glass on my desk so that I look at it often when I’m working.

  8. 2.12.14
    Alex said:

    I used to never drink water but I now keep a BKR water bottle on my desk at work and I drink so much more water now! the bright color of it makes me happy and reminds me to fill up often! I have also tried a reusable water bottle that had a straw which worked wonders with getting me into the water drinking routine!

  9. 2.12.14
    Jourdin said:

    Haha I do all of these! Bad habits are unfortunate, but what do they say–after 3 days you can break anything!

    • 2.12.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Ha, that’s funny — I had always heard it takes 60 days! :) I WISH it was 3!!

  10. 2.12.14
    Jasmin said:

    I’m in medical school and I definitely had a hard time breaking the habit of internet browsing (hello Pinterest, blogs, Facebook, buzzfeed, etc.). My solution was to use a Mac app called Self Control (http://selfcontrolapp.com/) which allows you to block access to certain websites for a specific amount of time. If I wanted to power through a lecture, I’d set an hour timer and “treat” myself to some browsing afterwards. During exam week, I’d set the timer for 20+ hours and allow myself a once per day browsing session. Over time, I didn’t need to use the app anymore because it helped me train myself to focus on my work and reward myself at appropriate times with fun on the interweb. :)

    • 2.12.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      OH EM GEE. I am so going to try Self Control! And ha — I LOVE the name of that app!

    • 2.13.14

      I use SelfControl, too! It’s an amazing tool. I also use FocusBooster, which is a timer. I tell myself I only have to work for 45 minutes, set the timer, and go. Then I spend my 15 minute breaks playing on the internet after the SelfControl stops it’s blocking.

  11. 2.12.14
    Kayla said:

    I totally feel you on the drinking water habit.. I swear I TRY but I need to be better. I need to kick the diet coke habit and just focus on drinking more water.. ugh. I KNOW the benefits of it but it’s just so hard to do for me!


  12. 2.12.14
    Caitlin said:

    I keep a cold thermos of water on my desk all day so I can reach for it at any time. The water is cold and fresh, and it’s easy to refill.

  13. 2.12.14
    Chelsea said:

    I have heard a lot of really great things about that book. All three of these habits could definitely stand to be broken for me as well. I think I’ll have to add the book onto my Kindle for a next read.

  14. 2.12.14

    Sugar and desserts are my bad habit! I’ve been trying for years to break it, but I haven’t yet…One day, maybe ;)

  15. 2.12.14

    I need to stop working from bed in the morning. I’m not as productive as I’d like to be, and it just sets the day on the wrong foot. I’ve been forcing myself to make my bed the second I’m up so I’m not tempted to fall back in. I also need to start drinking more water too! I just invested in a Soma water filter, which is both functional and pretty. I leave the carafe of filtered water right next to my desk, with slices of lemon and leaves of mint floating inside, to make the exercise of staying hydrated pretty. And tasty.

  16. 2.12.14

    I am much better at drinking water when I’m in the office compared to when I work from home. When I’m in the office I can use the restroom, pop into a coworker’s office to follow-up on an email, and refill my water. At home, I fail miserably at drinking water! I just might follow Cameron’s tip!

  17. 2.12.14
    Kristin said:

    Great post! The water one for me is easy…I use one of those reusable plastic glasses with a straw from Starbucks and add lemon concentrate to my water every time I refill it. Makes me want it all day long! For some reason I don’t like drinking from a water bottle unless it’s at the gym. The internet one I can definitely relate to…I can pin hours away. Definitely going to try out that Mac app that Jasmin mentioned!


  18. 2.12.14
    Kajal said:

    Great Post! I’ve definitely put the drink more water habit on lets do this mode. I find it when I drink a 32 oz mason jar full of water first things in the morning, I’m more likely to drink it throughout the day. Something about my insides feeling hydrated wants me to keep it that way. I’ve also noticed when we focus on just one key stone habit, i.e. for me getting up early every other habit you want to fix seems to fall in place without much though. Best of luck on your new changes! xx

  19. 2.12.14

    I’ve been making a really concerted effort to break out of habits in the new year — always doing dishes right away, putting away clothing that I tend to leave lying around (just like you mentioned)… but you’re right, my tendency to waste time aimlessly on the internet is SUCH a problem. I think because my day job and my blog both involve spending so much of my time online, it’s tempting to say, oh I’m just taking a break, or I’m just researching sort of, but blocking off separate time for random Pinterest perusing and such is a must for me!

  20. 2.12.14

    It is so great to hear that enjoyed The Power of Habit, I just picked it up from the book store last week but I haven’t started it yet because I was in the middle of Anna Quindlen’s new book a Still Life with Bread Crumbs (a great read!) When I read the Happiness Project a few years back I really started to realize how simple changes can make big changes in our life. I’m looking forward to learning more while reading the book. Good luck with your goals!

  21. 2.12.14

    I am so glad to hear I am not alone on the eating/drinking thing. I do this literally almost every day and I think you are right… it affects energy and general productivity. I am totally going to work on this with you!

  22. 2.12.14
    Raquel said:

    I’m horrible on the internet too… in between tasks I probably waste 4 hours a day & I justify it by saying “well I work 12 hour days”. I try to keep my to do list right next to me & cross items off as I go or some days I give myself a “quitting time” & usually I end up spending my time more productively.

  23. 2.13.14

    Tengo algunas cosas que ajustar, pero poco a poco lo voy logrando, solo hay que hacerlo, besos,ana.

  24. 2.13.14

    Habits are so interesting. I just learned that Gretchen Rubin’s next book will be about habits, and I’m really enjoying reading her blog posts on the topic leading up to the pub date.

    I have so many bad habits that I won’t bore you by listing them here. Suffice it to say that I’ve found apps to help with a lot of those!

    Re: wasting time on the internet — I’ve found the Pomodoro Technique to be really helpful. You focus on ONE task for 25 minutes, set a timer, and go. I tend to get sucked into an online vortex and then I forget what my original intention was, so this technique has helped me to stay focused and finish one thing before moving on to another.

  25. 2.13.14

    I’m really working on 2 right now (she says as she’s leaving a comment on a blog instead of working). I notice that I tend to be the worst about wasting time on the internet when I’m not paying attention to time, so I work using the Pomodoro technique — 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break. I use the Focus Booster app to track (http://www.focusboosterapp.com/). Then, if that still isn’t working, I use Strict Workflow, a Chrome extension that follows Pomodoro and blocks websites for your working period (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/strict-workflow/cgmnfnmlficgeijcalkgnnkigkefkbhd?hl=en). Or, if things are really bad, I turn on Self Control app (http://selfcontrolapp.com/) and block for longer chunks of time. I also recently started using Toggl to track time per project, and I tend to focus better when that’s on because I want to get an accurate time for how long things take me.

  26. 2.13.14
    Iris said:

    I waste a lot of time on the internet as well. I’ll start looking up birds or another topic and before I know it, I’m reading or watching 5 different articles or videos on the subject. Meanwhile, I have personal messages and posts to respond to and lots of television on a backlog.

    All the best for your goals.

  27. 2.13.14

    We must be book twins bc I listened to the audio version of that book last year and loved it! Another brilliant pop psych book is Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct. It’s incredibly thought provoking!

  28. 2.13.14
    Bethany said:

    Um, I totally agree on #2. It’s an addiction!! I am working on being better about this. Also less obsessive photo-taking/instagramming and more living in the moment. Good luck with these!

  29. 2.13.14
    Alyssa said:

    Ugh! All of your bad habits are exactly mine! Not to mention not exercising enough (or not at all) and my recent horrible diet (I promise I normally eat healthy)! Love this post!

  30. 2.15.14
    Jen said:

    I am SO with you on this– especially the lack of water and waste of time on the internet.

    I think my number three would be sweets though–and I think it relates directly back to the lack of water.

    Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one with bad habits I’m trying to break!

  31. 2.17.14

    I just adore your blog! I think we can all relate to #2! THAT’S MINE HEHE. Keep up the wonderful posts.


  32. 2.18.14
    Stacia said:

    I think the wasting time on the Internet part is applicable for everyone in the modern-day society. I’m guilty for one. Pfft.

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