Conclusion: 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation

Creating New Habits
The final three of TEN “Best Practices”

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series:
Habits, Decisions & Attention-7

Let’s Keep Moving . . .


This is the third and last of a three-part article
in the Habits Series:
The Top Ten
Best Practices for Habit Creation

In Part One we went over the first four of the Best Practices (listed below before we begin again).

In Part Two we went over the next three Best Practices — following a brief review of the relatively short introduction to Part One, where I reminded you not to get hung up on the word “best” in the term “Best Practices.”

The BEST “best practices” will be whatever works for YOU.

In Part One we covered the following practices:

  1. Identify the brush-fires and hose them down
  2. Identify what you already do
  3. Drive habits with Goals
  4. Work with sub-goals first

In Part Two we covered:

5.  Keep a record of some sort
6.  Grease the Slide
7.  Limit Your Options (not your life)

(You can read Part One HERE and Part Two HERE)

And NOW we’re going to take a look at:

  8.  Be Consistent
  9.  Think WHO, not what
10. KEEP getting back on the horse

(If on-screen reading is frustrating, take it ONE Practice at a time)

SO – lets get right back to it!

Be sure to checkout the sidebar for how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

The Final Three of the Habit Formation Basics

arrowgold8. Be consistent

keep-consistent-redUnless you do something the same way every time, you’ll never be able to put it on autopilot. Decide “once and for all” how you want to go about something and ritualize it so it CAN become a habit.

Write down the steps – even if it’s not that complex a ritual, and even if you feel silly doing it. Not only will this enable you to make sure you’re not undercutting habit formation with tiny changes you aren’t consciously aware of, it can help you stay on the horse.

Let it become part of your habit formation procedure to begin by “reading the directions.”  The next time you feel your resolve fading, you can at least READ, right? If you’ve installed direction reading as step one, you’re still linking CUE to ACTION.  Who knows, you might even autopilot your way into reading, then DOing.

Once you put a piece in place, the intention must be to use it consistently until you choose to replace it. If you can link it to a specific context, so much the better. (recall “Think specific context, not specific time” from Changing a habit to change your LIFE)

  • Habits form best through repeated actions within the same setting.
  • Put a sticky-note somewhere you will see it during the time you have decided to install your new habit, mark it on your calendar, set an alarm – overkill’s not a bad idea at the start of the process.  This is your LIFE we’re talking about here!

arrowgold9. Think WHO, not what

This Best Practice is a subtle twist on the affirmations technique, reframing who you are rather than what you DO.  It’s actually the development of a linguistics habit. The concepts are exactly the same where your brain is concerned: you need to hook a new thought to an old cue to develop new links and new pathways.

By default, most of us internalize limitations — and they become part of our identity.

“I have lousy vision” or “I’m not organized” or “I’m not very smart” — or any one of a great number of versions of “I’m a screw-up,” common among the ADD contingent.

  • These self-indictments make change all but impossible.
  • How in the world do people who have already convicted themselves convince themselves to try anything they already “know” they can’t do?
  • Nobody likes to play a game they can’t win!

No, you don’t argue with your self-assessment, you REFRAME it.

If you don’t know what to say, begin with “I am someone who . . .”  to get you started, then fill in the rest of the statement with your affirmative reframe. Make sure you don’t affirm anything you can’t embrace — all you’re affirming in that case is, “I can’t trust myself. I lie.” (your subconscious knows you very well!)

How about something like the following ideas to reframe the limitations above?

I am someone who . . .

. . . makes appointments with her eye doctor; with the right assistance I can see everything I need to have a great life (or “to run my life” or “get done what I have to” — or whatever you can embrace where you are right now)

. . . is not naturally organized, so I keep an eye out for tips from people who are, keep an open mind and try things out

. . . is maybe not the brightest bulb on the shelf but I may well be the hardest working (or most creative, or best/great at asking for help) — so I get the job done better than some folks who are super-smart.

Can you see how that opens things up to make change possible?  It also gives you a hint about a step to take to give yourself some evidence that will add velocity to the change.  Any time you catch yourself repeating an old and moldy indictment, reframe it immediately – aloud, if you possibly can.

Before long you will have changed how you think about yourself, and setting new habits into place will be easier as a result.  You’re mood will be a great deal more upbeat as well.  Try it.

The third unfortunate example, by the way, used to be part of MY internal monologue. (Catch the reframe?  “unfortunate” not “bad”)

Because of my Dad’s unfortunate habit of starting corrections with that word, I internalized a lousy habit of chastising myself with “Dummy!” whenever another ADD-oops reared its ugly head. (Did you catch that reframe?)

Here’s the statement that changed my self concept: “For a brilliant woman, you sometimes do the silliest things.”

James Clear’s article –  Building a New Identity – offers a GREAT discussion of this concept from a slightly different point of view.  Check it out.


Back on Horse

arrowgold10. KEEP getting back on the horse

EXPECT to fall off – while you’re picking up the habit skill, and almost every time you step up your game.  Normalize it, and recover as quickly as possible by developing a plan for when you fail (besides beating yourself unmercifully for whatever you did or did not do!)

Let yourself off the hook for failing.

  • It’s simply a failure to accomplish.
  • A person cannot BE a failure.

Nobody gets through life with an Easy-Pass.  Mistakes and set-backs, while unfortunate, are perfectly, humanly, NORMAL.  The trick to surviving the set-backs is to build up your resilience muscle.  Think of failure like pumping iron.

Resume using your structures the very next minute after you stumble.

Here are five strategies that can help . . .

  1. Normalize and endorse — borrow two of the foundational skills that every good ADD Coach needs to acquire.  Affirm yourself.  Replace that knee-jerk reaction to chastise.  Jettison the shoulds.
  2. Predict Domino Problems — and have a plan to prevent a particular “failure” from turning into a repair deficit situation (when things fall apart faster than you can put them back together)
  3. Never miss twice in a row — even every other day will help build the habit, and might disengage that thought that you’ve already blown it, so what’s the use NOW?
  4. START, even if you can’t finish — you probably will have a tough time talking yourself into resuming a behavior, once you have dropped it out completely.  Let it “count” if you rinse your plate after dinner (even if you don’t load the dishwasher).  That’s not a “miss” in terms of automation.  You’re still reinforcing the link from the cue to the behavior.
  5. BUILD — piggybacking on the never miss twice in a row idea, tomorrow you must rinse your plate AND put it in the dishwasher.  The next night you get the silverware in the dishwasher too.  Before you know it, you’re back on the horse and well on your way to automating ALL of the behaviors of your new habit.

Ready to go again?

Installing the next habit it will be easier, since you’ve primed your brain for the habit habit.  You’re almost ready for the next step – changing a habit.

Changing a Habit

Remember, UN-learning a habit isn’t really possible.  Our brain hangs on to old patterns in case we ever need to reactivate them.

What we must do to “eradicate” an old habit, is tweak the second portion of the Habit Cycle formula: linking a new action to the old cue.

Until we, effectively, “overwrite” old habits by setting up new ones, we keep acting in accordance with the past — even when we no longer benefit from old habits, or when they are in direct opposition to what we say we want to do instead.

Reviewing the Habit Cycle:

CUE (situation) ==> ACTION (behavior) ==> REWARD (reinforcement) ==> REPEAT!

REPETITION creates a subconscious mental association that develops into a “neuro-linkage” — otherwise known as a HABIT.

As a result of repetition, linked behaviors become practically automatic at the presence of the cue — an almost involuntary, “below-the-radar” control of behavior, scarcely available to conscious awareness.

 UNLEARNING and Relearning

Once we develop a habit, it becomes so well ingrained it might as well be hard-wired — in a part of the brain called basis ganglia. Apparently, unlinking – extinguishing a habitual response – is a process our brain resists.

  • When we encounter a CUE, we respond as readily as Pavlov’s dogs salivate at the ringing of a bell.
  • Unless, that is, we link something else to the cue — and repeat it often enough that it becomes a HABIT.

When we create a new habit, our brain creates new neurological pathways that allow us to more easily use the new response again because it requires less energy than recalling the old.  So, the most effective way to change your habits is to replace them with new ones.   Stay tuned to learn some ways to DO that.

Prior Habit Articles in the Growing Habit Series

  1. Habits, Decisions & Attention Intro 
  2. Brain-based Habit Formation
  3. Changing a habit to change your LIFE 
  4. Goals drive habit formation
  5. 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 1
  6. More Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 2


© 2014, all rights reserved
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

11 Responses to Conclusion: 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation

  1. Pingback: September is the BEST time for what activity? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Smoking: Additional reasons why it’s SO hard to quit | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: More Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 2 | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. Madelyn -I really like this!
    And just trying to institute the things you said on your recent comment on my blog,, which is very helpful. And will also tried to make a link to this on my blog. wwould be to look up the specific posts, you referred to.
    Thank you.
    on slips and failures, when I didn’t follow my habit:


  5. Steve Benson says:

    Dear Madelyn-
    As always, every time something comes up for me that is holding me up/back, I find an article that you’ve written that is spot on. Some sort of cosmic timing I suppose. Great article. Do let me know please about the Modular Success class. I also would be interested in knowing about personal counselling as an option. Glad you are back healthy with all your creative juices flowing.


    • Thanks Steve — I am only right this second reconnected after a sudden move at a particularly unfortunate time (that was NOT my idea). I’m still “moving in” — but have unpacked most of the boxes, finally have clean sheets, towels and slipcovers (along with a few clean pairs of jeans!) and have set up enough of my office that I can, once again, return to work for a few hours each day as I continue to make this new pre-war apartment a home. I haven’t located my good keyboard yet, so this “sticky key” version may result in a few missed typos. Please excuse if so.

      Yours is the first “real” comment of the 73 that have been languishing for approvals that I came across (blasted spammers!) – and BOY did it make me smile. THANK YOU! It’s nice to hear that what I do is useful.

      By the end of the month (Aug 2014) I hope to have a game-plan in place so that I can announce the dates for upcoming classes – and I will put your name FIRST on the list for contact for Modular Success Systems. If you are still interested in some sort of coaching relationship let me know. For the next few months I will have to strictly limit my private coaching time to put everything back together that I was forced to put on hold to manage the unfortunate events of the first half of this year — but I inkle that you would be someone who would be a pleasure to coach.


  6. Pingback: Internet habits that teenagers should control | Palchoice

    • Thanks so much for linking to this post — and my apologies for taking SO long to approve the notification. I’ve been forced to remain “off the grid” as I recovered from a gang mugging and a sudden, unanticipated need to move. As soon as my new digs are in better shape for living, I’ll pop over to see what YOUR site is all about — and comment THERE. Thanks for reading here – and for linking.


  7. Joel Colley says:

    Hi Madelyn

    I just listened to one of your podcasts on adhd support where you referred to people with add as your add-ers and also talked about them using pornography as a g up to help them focus etc and that it’s okay because we are animals after all. Well as a person with add if like to say I think you referring to yourself as the add poster girl, calling people with add your add-ers and voicing no concerns around the use of pornography is insulting and damaging. I believe people are not animals and can be people of integrity and strength that do not make decisions based on bodily impulses. That’s how I live as a person with add and it’s great. I don’t use my diagnosis as a reason to settle for anything less than I am truly capable of. Your point of view about sex and adhd is is a low standard and settles for the stays quo. People feel shame about sex because society does not teach us much but they also feel shame because pornography use is damaging especially when a spouse does not know about it. And as an add coach to make no attempt to encourage them to be honest is not good and .Your no expert just someone trying to make a buck and giving really damaging, immoral advice.


    • WOW, Joel – that was rough – and mean! It’s really not necessary to be disagreeable when you disagree. You make some good points, but they get lost in the vitriol.

      Before you close your mind about the extent of my expertise and the intent of my sharing, READ THE BLOG — more than 400 pages and posts of info explaining what’s going on with ADD and Executive Functioning disorders and encouraging those who struggle that “they can do it!” despite their diagnoses. Posts for which I make not a penny — each of which have taken four or more hours of my time to create and post (more than 1,600 hours in three years alone, not including the considerable time it takes to read and respond to comments)

      I have always given away more than I have sold (for 25 years, by the way). Please don’t insult me by lumping me in with individuals attempting to get rich off the backs of people who struggle – I did nothing to deserve it.

      That accusation activates MY “oppositional piece,” making it difficult to continue to be generous with the minutes of my life. Fortunately, I rarely hear it aimed my way, and I have taught myself HOW to rise above it when I do (which does not include “eating it” – I RESPOND). I’m not a rich woman, nor is it my goal or I would BE a rich woman.

      You really hurt my feelings with this comment, Joel – and I encourage you to think about WHY you felt it necessary to do that. I encourage everyone (ADD or not) to avoid “settling” for less than they can be — check the tagline in the header — and I extend that encouragement to you.

      I’m sorry you got “hooked” by the podcast AND I believe you misunderstood the intent of my conversation with Tara as well as my attempts toward affinity.

      * “my adders” referred to the many hundreds I have coached (even informally) who have ADD (to differentiate them from the many I have coached who do NOT have ADD).

      * “ADD Poster Girl” means simply that I struggle with almost everything in the ADD profile myself and have found ways to work around the struggles that I’m willing to share (for free, by the way, here on the blog — private clients pay me for my TIME as well as personalized expertise – just as most working people expect to pay their bills with payment for their time and experience).

      * re: low standard re: pornography. Not at all. I simply don’t believe it ever works to shame and should people into compliance. I jettison “judgmental labeling” in favor of taking a look at what’s REALLY going on, taking a fresh look at why you do what you do, and working from there.

      There are MANY posts and podcasts about so called “pornography addiction” with the come-from you seem to prefer. Although I don’t believe we are THAT far apart in our thinking, it would seem from your comment that we disagree about what’s going on and what works to help people make kind and healthy choices (those that serve THEIR goals and lives – NOT those that someone else has decided are OK or “moral”).

      NONE of those I have spoken to who worry that they have a “pornography addiction” actually did – but BOY has society beaten them up about it! That did little to make a dent in what was going on, and shut them down – actually increasing their browsing activities, btw. Does. Not. Work.

      “Normalizing” is one of the core skills in the ADD Coaching toolchest. What they had, to be clear, was an impulsivity problem, along with problems with activation, transitions and hyperfocus.

      Paradoxically, examining what’s so without demonizing it with harsh labels is the FIRST step toward choice and change. The behaviors concerning them actually decreased once we identified what was really going on, by the way.

      I hope this encourages anyone else who wondered to take a second look and to take a few deep breaths while you reframe your thoughts before firing off invectives (even to Joel, btw. Make-wrong never ever works!!)


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