How many sprints does it take to build a habit?

Building a productive habit can sometimes be a struggle. One of my previous clients asked me recently — “How many sprints does it usually take to build a habit?”

I usually divide my habits into two groups. The first one involves those habits that you do on a daily basis, and the other group is for habits you do in a regular cadence: multiple times a week, weekly, bi-weekly. Based on experience, it’s easier to build a daily habit (or a habit you do every workday). 

Building a daily habit

A client of mine was building the habit of waking up at 6 AM. It took him two sprints to build that goal. Another client wanted to incorporate intermittent fasting into his life – another daily habit. Again, it took 2 sprints to build this goal. 

Years ago, my colleague told me that it’s easier to go to the gym every workday than to go 3 times a week. Man, was he right! If you do something as a part of your workweek routine, than you don’t need to think and negotiate with yourself every single morning. If you do something every day or at least every weekday, then it becomes a part of your routine, and it’s much easier to build such habits.

Set the daily habit as a goal for one sprint. Then look at the results during your sprint review. Your statistics will tell you how successful your sprints are. If you’ve stuck to your goal for more than 75% of the time, set it as a goal for the second sprint to solidify the habit. If the success rate is less than 75%, make the habit smaller for the next sprint. 

Building a non-daily habit

The second group of habits my clients want to build are usually done on a weekly basis. These habits tend to be artistic endeavours, side hustles, or other creative projects. Whatever it is, I recommend starting with The Rule of 10: When starting a new activity or project, commit to completing 10 attempts without analyzing the results.  

As for myself, I applied this in building my podcast. I’ve committed to creating 10 podcast episodes. I recorded them without looking into what people said or how many subscribers I had. 

You might be asking, “How many sprints will it take to get to the number of 10?” Well, it depends on the creative projects that you choose. For me, it took two sprints to record 10 podcasts episodes. If it was something smaller, you can probably batch things and do it in one sprint. If it’s something bigger, it might take you three sprints to get to the number of 10.

Anchor up

Another thing is I recommend is using the concept of an anchoring up. This is something that I’ve learned from Seth Gordon from his book “The Practice”. These anchors transform your desired behaviour from “It would be nice to..” to “I have to”. 

For example, I always say at the end of each podcast episode, “Please subscribe if you want to get a freshly baked episode delivered to you next Monday.” More than an invitation to my listeners, it is also a promise to myself. I use that promise as an anchor to deliver that podcast next Monday. Whenever I have resistance or confusion about should I record an episode or not, I always remember my promise, and then that alone forces me to go and record it. 

Another example is when I hire people to help me with the Monthly Method. I set proper expectations of important dates beforehand, so nothing happens at the last minute. It forces me to do my part on time. I keep my promise, so they can keep theirs. I do this to maintain a consistent, healthy relationship for a long period. Ultimately, I don’t want to look bad in front of people that I made promises to. 

Connect your creative habit with “me time”

Another recommendation for these creative projects is connecting them with some sort of pleasurable “Me Time” activity. When I first started doing my podcast, I was living in the UK. Long walks were an integral part of my thought process. While walking along the streets, I thought about different ideas I wanted to cover in my podcast. I made a mental outline of an episode, and when I came home, I was ready to record it. Plainly put, I was using my walk-in time, which is my favorable Me-Time, as my brainstorming time.

With my full-time job, I can’t commit to such long walks on a daily basis anymore. So what I do instead is I go for a long walk to a nearby forest every Saturday to brainstorm the podcast episode I would record that day. 

Study your resistance and delegate accordingly to build a habit

If you still find it difficult to build consistent habits despite applying the Rule of 10, anchoring up, and pairing your creative hobby with a nice me-time, then maybe you need to study your resistance and delegate accordingly. 

My favourite part of content creation is brainstorming and then recording the podcast. Everything else that comes after that was the part I dreaded the most: editing, cleaning up the transcript, creating a blog post, etc. And these parts often prevented me from doing the parts I do enjoy. TO address that, I hired a podcast editor and a writer. This way, I am relieved of doing all some of the things that I dislike, and it lets me focus more on things that I enjoy. 

If you’re not making any money from your creative projects yet, just treat it as a hobby. Just think about it. Most hobbies require financial investments: art supplies, sport equipment, passes, etc. And people are happy to pay for those because these hobbies bring them joy. Why not treat the financial investments in extra help on your creative projects the same way?

Read next:
    1. What I’ve learned about Scrum from being a Product Manager
    2. Your goals are simply experiments
    3. Winter: The Time to Build Productive Habits

If you prefer an audio format, please consider subscribing to the Monthly Method Podcast.

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