When people talk about productivity they often talk about routines or habits.

“Professionals” tell us that it takes 21-repetitions of an action to form a habit. This means that after twenty-one repetitions of an activity, it will be engrained into your mind and body so that you do it automatically. Here’s what I wonder, once you have a habit in place, why are good habits so easy to break and bad habits so hard to break?

There are good habits and there are bad habits. In my life some of my current good habits are: Going to the gym regularly, flossing my teeth, and journaling each morning. I have some good habits in my business too. I process expenses and receipts quickly, I write an ezine weekly (usually on the same day) and I delegate things to my assistant that I can easily do but recognize are not my “job”.

I used to have other good habits. I ran regularly and I tracked what I ate. I didn’t check my email first thing in the morning and I stayed away from Facebook during the bulk of the “workday”. These were habits. I used to do these things without thinking of them. I was in the “good habit” zone. Then something happened and I stopped and almost instantly the habit, that I had worked so hard to instill, disappeared. The good habit went away.

Why is it that it’s simple to stop a “good habit” and so hard to stop a “bad habit”? For instance, what would happen if you run out of dental floss and forgot to get it for a week? How easy would it be to re-establish that habit? And even though I’ve been exercising regularly for over 10 years, I know I could stop in an instant. Just one week, or honestly a day or two’s worth of excuses, and it would be gone.

Wouldn’t it be great if bad habits were as easy to break as good ones?

Imagine if the bad habit I have of checking my email first thing in the morning would disappear with a day or two of excuses? Or if I could simply rid myself of the bad habit of seeing what’s going on on Facebook instead of writing copy for an email?

I don’t have any insights on why this discrepancy exists yet I know how important it is to establish good habits so here are five steps to help you establish GOOD habits.

1. Decide exactly what habit you want to establish. Be VERY clear. For instance, exercise daily isn’t clear enough. Instead identify the class you will take at the local gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8am.

2. Dig down deep inside to figure out what about the activity is so important to you. Understand why you want to bother creating this habit or doing the activity in the first place.

3. Outline the exact steps you will take to accomplish the habit. And try to refrain from using the word “not”. Instead of saying I will not check my email first thing in the morning say “Review to-do list” or “Journal” before anything else when I sit down at my desk in the morning.

4. Make sure you have the tools or supplies you need. If taking a class at the gym is important make sure you know what class you’ll take. If you want to establish new eating habits make sure you have the proper foods available to you and that the wrong foods are gone.

5. Get a support structure. Be accountable to someone. Do the activity with people and share your successes and challenges with them.

Looking back on this list I realize that keeping a habit going is really the same as creating one. I’ll just add one more piece. Forgiveness. When things go off track … and they will… forgive yourself. And then as quickly as possible work to get back on track.

Author's Bio: 

Carrie Greene is a speaker, author and business coach. She is a business strategist and productivity expert for entrepreneurs. Carrie helps entrepreneurs get clear on what they want and create simple and straight-forward plans to get there. She is the author of "Chaos to Cash: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Eliminating Chaos, Overwhelm and Procrastination So You Can Create Ultimate Profit!" Free resources at http://carriegreenecoaching.com/