10 Steps to Growing Your Side Hustle Faster By Breaking Bad Habits

Some habits are good and easy to enforce, like brushing your teeth or making your bed. 

But other habits, like hitting the snooze button and procrastinating on projects, can be detrimental to your well-being and success. 

These types of habits can also be really hard to break.

When you’re a new entrepreneur building a side venture, squashing bad habits is key to increasing your productivity.

If bad habits are bringing down your business and holding you back from reaching your goals, read on.

With the tips below, you can understand how habits are formed and what you can do to replace negative habits with good ones.

How to Break Bad Habits

It takes more than motivation to break a bad habit. If you try to rely on self-control and determination alone, you’ll probably fail at kicking your weaknesses.

To succeed, you’ll also need a game plan.

1. Understand How Habits Form

Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, breaks down habit formation into a 3-part loop: cue, routine, and reward.

Your cue could be an action, emotion, or a part of your environment, which triggers a behavior. The more often you execute the behavior, it becomes a habitual part of your routine.

Your reward is the temporary satisfaction you get from carrying out the routine action.

Habits are so hard to break because each time you experience the reward, you reinforce the routine. 

Once you can pinpoint the rewards which drive your actions and identify the cues which lead to your negative routines, you can change your habits.

2. Pinpoint Your Triggers and Rewards

Figuring out the cues which trigger your negative habits can help you to avoid them, or at least to change how you react to them.

For example, say you fall into the habit of wasting time scrolling on Instagram when you should be working.

Next time you find yourself opening the app when you aren’t supposed to, jot down your answers to these questions:

  • What thoughts, emotions, activities, or impulses led to the habit?
  • What environment were you in?
  • What was the outcome? 
  • Was it really rewarding?

3. Identify Your “Why”

Your mindset plays a big part in changing your habits. 

Consider why you want to break a habit, listing out the benefits of making a change. 

Writing out your motivations for changing your behaviors can be highly motivating. You might also discover reasons for breaking the habit you weren’t even aware of before.

Once you’ve written out your reasons, keep your list close by. Tape it to your mirror, stick it in your car visor, hang it on the fridge… you get the idea.

Putting your list of why’s in plain sight will help keep you on track when the going gets tough and remind you why you should get back up again if you slip and fall into your old habits again.

4. Visualize Your Success

Once you’ve mapped out your why and thought about the benefits of changing your habits, visualize yourself succeeding.

In your mind’s eye, picture yourself in a triggering situation. Maybe you’re lying in bed on a Saturday morning when you’ve blocked out the next three hours for working on your side hustle.

Rather than hitting snooze again and cutting into your already limited time, picture yourself turning off the alarm, getting out of bed, and staying on task.

Feel the satisfaction of conquering your habit and crushing your goals, and think of how much more rewarding it will be than sleeping in.

Then, go do it!

5. Set Realistic Goals

Listing out loads of goals for yourself and your business can be inspiring, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.

When it comes to altering your habits, picking one or two habits and keeping them small to begin with is usually the best strategy.

Maybe you have a bad habit of relying too heavily on caffeine to power through your hours as a weekend warrior.

Instead of throwing out your coffee pot, which will probably lead to a nasty headache, exhaustion, and a whole lot of irritability, try cutting back by one cup a day and working from there.

6. Be Patient with Yourself

Contrary to common myth, it will probably take longer than 21 days for a new habit to stick. The same is true for breaking habits.

If you find yourself struggling to break a habit after a few weeks have passed, don’t beat yourself up too much.

While you may need to adjust your strategy and re-evaluate your cues and rewards, you might just need to give it more time.

Along those lines, don’t let one setback completely derail you. Breaking a habit you’ve reinforced for years takes time, persistence, and hard work.

If you hit snooze, start scrolling, or miss a deadline, don’t give up on yourself or your goals. 

Pick yourself back up, reflect on your slip-up, and focus on reacting differently the next time you’re triggered.

7. Replace Your Bad Habit with a Constructive One

If your plan is to simply avoid your bad behavior whenever a trigger comes up, your willpower might not be enough to get you through.

Let’s go back to the coffee example. When you get the urge to pour a hot cup of Joe, sitting still and typing away probably won’t quench your desire.

But if the reward you’re really after is a break spent enjoying a hot drink, a cup of decaf coffee or a hot tea might hit the spot.

Once you know your triggers, behaviors, and outcomes, think about rewarding alternatives and work them into your plan.

8. Build In Accountability

Sharing your shortcomings with other people, even those you trust, can be hard. 

But if you don’t let anyone in on your goals, you’re way less likely to see them through.

Knowing someone is counting on you and will be asking about your progress can motivate you to stick to your goals and consistently target your bad habits.

Bonus points if you can find someone on a similar path who can relate to your struggles and goals.

Finding another entrepreneur who encounters the same temptations as you and has a desire to quit the same habits can keep you both on track and build a sense of camaraderie.

9. Use a Habit-tracking App

Setting reminders, tracking your progress, and sharing your wins are all important parts of changing your habits and growing your business.

Luckily, there are a handful of creative apps designed to help you track your habits.

Here are a few of the best:

  • Habitica: Habitica gamifies your goals. As you stick to good habits/avoid bad ones, your Avatar builds stats and advances in the app-based game.
  • Habitify: Habitify is a clean, minimalist interface which lets you easily track your progress and see your habits through various data displays.
  • Streaks: Streaks allows Apple users to set daily (or less frequent) habits, sync with the iOS health app, and get notifications and reminders. 
  • StickK: With StickK, you make a contract with yourself, set your goals and parameters, then choose from optional incentives like a contract with a friend or financial stakes.
  • HabitShare: HabitShare combines accountability and social media, letting you share your habit tracking with friends. 

 10. Reward Yourself

Breaking a habit is no easy task, and it deserves to be rewarded! 

Habits are grounded in cues and rewards, so it’s important to replace the seeming reward offered by bad habits with an even better one.

In addition to knowing your actions will be more beneficial in the long run, give yourself more tangible prizes in the present.

Every time you say no to a bad habit, give yourself a reward.

Even if it’s just a pat on the back or a “good job,” take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments. 

For bigger wins, plan bigger rewards, like celebrating with friends or treating yourself to your favorite meal.

Instead of focusing on how far you still have to go, look at the distance you’ve come, and celebrate your progress.

Start Breaking Bad Habits Today

If you’re struggling to take your business venture to the next level and suspect your bad habits are to blame, you’re already on the right path.

Being mindful of your negative habits and what causes them is the first step to rooting them out.

Take some time to track your routines, with all the processes and systems that make up your day, and see what traps you’re repeatedly falling into.

From there, set some realistic goals for breaking them, factoring in the advice above.

I can promise the rewards of prioritizing productivity and implementing good habits far outweigh the temporary relief you get from carrying out a bad habit.

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon.

He created Part-Time Money® back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

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