How to make your new habits stick in 2020

Roos N Shine

Authored by Victoria Roos-Olsson, FranklinCovey Senior Leadership Consultant and author of The Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices For Leading A Team (

By Victoria Roos Olsson (adapted from

We are now a month into a new year and decade. How are you doing keeping up with the intentions you set for yourself for 2020? Have you managed to turn any of those intentions into new habits? Or perhaps there is a bad habit you’d like to break? Ultimately, it will be your habits that will make you succeed or fail with the intentions that you set for yourself.

During the holidays, I spent time reviewing my mission statement and most important roles. I created a 2020 vision board, created my goals, and set a mantra for myself, “Inspired Focus.

Then, I returned home from the holidays and reality kicked in. My two daughters starting a new semester in high school and I started travelling across the country, delivering workshops and keynotes for FranklinCovey.

It wasn’t long before I had to take a deep breath and revisit my goals. I realized that maybe not everything needs to happen in 2020 and that I needed to stop focusing on achieving my goals at the end of the year and instead focus on the habits that would allow me to achieve my goals. It was a relief to break my goals down into simple habits, rather than constantly feeling that what I wanted to achieve was impossible.

Thinking others might feel the same way, my sister and I immediately began researching the topic and decided it would be the theme of the month for our Roos&Shine podcast. And, after all I work at FranklinCovey, (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)and habits are an area of expertise for me and a subject in which I have been interested in for a long time. I want to deliver much more than just an inspirational keynote or workshop. I want to help my participants to build and sustain the habits they need to make a difference in life.

So here are a few things you may to consider, so your habits stick in 2020:

It’s a myth that it only takes 21 days to form a habit. That theory came from a plastic surgeon in the 50s (Maxwell Maltz), who noticed that it took his patients about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. Then, he studied his own adjustment period to make changes and acquire new behaviors. He noticed it took a minimum of 21 days for a behavior or habit to dissolve and a new one to stick.

But, more recent studies show that it takes more than two months before a new habit becomes automatic, even though it can vary widely, depending on the habit, the person and the environment. This is reflective of I see in both my clients and myself.

For example, I have my own struggle with finding time for writing. And, as you may know, I released a book this October with my two co-authors, Everyone Deserves A Great Manager. And, I have so many ideas for new books that my initial goal was to write my next book this year. But my life is more intense this year than last year and it only took a few weeks into the new year before I felt like a failure and that I would never achieve my goal. So, I decided to change my perspective. Rather than focus only on achieving that goal, I thought of my mantra, “Inspired Focus,” and decided I will make time for writing in my weekly schedule.

Additionally, I also reviewed some of my favorite authors on the subject of “habits.” And, one of those “habits gurus” is James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. He gives us five steps to use to make our habits stick, which were very helpful to me and I hope they are to you:

1. Make it so small you can’t fail. I reviewed my week and realized there was not much time to designate for writing. I decided I would be able to fit in three hours per week (I can always use an early morning Uber drive to the airport for some quality writing, such as now!).

2. Apply the compound effect to your habits. While some authors spend far more than three hours per week to write, three hours per week is still 156 hours in a year. So rather than thinking that three hours will not make a huge difference in achieving my goal, I could see the compound effect of those hours. Apply the idea to saving money. If you had begun 10 years ago to set aside a small amount in your savings account, imagine what your balance would be now. Then, it seemed too small to make a difference. But now, it would make a huge difference.

3.Break big habits down. A block of three hours for writing might be difficult to squeeze into hectic week. But if I break it down into smaller pieces, such as six sessions of 30 minutes, it’s not so overwhelming and it’s easier to get into my calendar.

4.Never miss twice. Have you ever tried to start a new habit and failed, even in the first week? I have! And, it’s ok if I miss one 30-minute writing session, because I have not failed, yet, to reach my end goal. But I don’t want to skip two sessions in a row. As my old middle school teacher, Mrs. Anja, used to say, “Once is nothing, twice is two times too many.” She said that usually in reference to mischiefs we made. But still. Same principle.

5. Be patient and find a sustainable pace. Life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon and you are in it for the long run, which means it’s important to have a long-term perspective. Forget the “2020 beach diet!” You want to feel and look good not only this year, but throughout your life! And, as it relates to my writing goal, many authors release their best work much later in life. Everything does not happen right now, I have many more exciting years to learn, to grow and to write!

Well, that deep breath I took made all the difference. I revisited my goals and identified what it would take for me to achieve my goals. I reviewed all my important roles again (mother, wife, facilitator, author, podcast host, friend, taking care of myself), and quickly realized that all the things I needed to do in order to achieve all my goals would not fit into my calendar, unless I cut out sleeping all together. I reminded myself that life is not a sprint but a marathon. I don’t need to make it ALL happen in 2020. Once I revisited my goals, it was easier to identify what habits I needed to practice on a weekly basis to achieve my goals and how to fit them into my schedule. And yes, it’s still a pretty packed week for me. But there is room for the 5 Energy Drivers from Everyone Deserves a Great Manager, (see blog and listen to podcast), as I know I will not make anything happen without them. Determined to keep the habits, I will achieve my goals in 2020. And, you can too!

To listen to the episode on habits, go to

— Published on January 23, 2020

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