8 Ways to Change Your Habits (And Actually Get What You Want)

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What does it take to make a goal or a dream come true?

You know the drill. You’re vowing to change your behavior. Tomorrow I’ll … start meditating. Start brushing my teeth. Finally get around to writing those essays you’ve been meaning to write. Make plans for the new book you’re putting together. Learn to code.

You vow that you’re going to do it. You know it. You have to do it.

But it didn’t get done today. So you wake up tomorrow and do the same thing you’ve always done. Yet your behavior doesn’t change.

When we make broad-sweeping declarations about our life, they don’t work.

In fact vowing to do anything, no matter how strong the vow, usually wears off as your willpower drains throughout the day. So how do you make a change in your life that’s actually effective? “Everyday people plan to do difficult things, but they don’t do them. They think, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow,’ and they swear to themselves that they’ll follow through the next day,” write Carol Dweck, researcher at Stanford and author of Mindset. “Research by Peter Gollwitzer and his colleagues show that vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. The next day comes and the next day goes.”

So how do you make a resolution that actually works? Here are a few of the best tips and tools we’ve read about, used, and know to work:

1. Make a concrete, vivid plan.

What works, writes Dweck, is making a vivid, concrete plan. Describe to yourself exactly what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and what steps you need to take, down to the minute detail. “Think of something you need to do, something you want to learn, or a problem you have to confront. What is it? Now make a concrete plan. When will you follow through on your plan? Where will you do it? How will you do it? Think about it in vivid detail.”

Increase your possibility of success by outlining when you’re going to do something, by putting it in your mind as a behavior — and on your calendar as an action.

These concrete plans — plans you can visualize — about when, where, and how you are going to do something lead to really high levels of follow-through, which, of course, ups the chances of success.

If you’re looking to write a book in the new year (which, full disclosure, I am), then break it down into its constituent parts. When will you write? What will it look like? What days a week will this happen?

Think about it exactly, not vaguely.

For me: I’m going to set an interim goal of writing on my book for at least ten days in January. More specifically, a writing session includes just opening the doc and working on a single page. I’m focused on making the habit of working on my book part of my regular routine.

2. To make change, visualize the change. Take time to imagine your behavior change in detail.

It turns out, detailed visualization is powerful enough to change behaviors even before you start. As I’ve written about before, the power of visualization is so important, it’s proven to change behaviors:

“In a famous basketball study, players were divided into groups that visualized perfect free throws, a second group that practiced their shots, and a placebo group that did nothing. At the end of the study, the players that visualized their perfect throws improved almost as much as the group that practiced — without ever touching a basketball. It’s important to note that the visualization involved the specific steps and actions it takes to perfect a free-throw shot.”

If you want to change what you do, you can begin with your thoughts.

3. Start small.

Habit change happens when you start really small. Want to learn how to run? Your first month might focus just on the first five minutes of each run, until you’ve mastered that first step. This includes mastering the steps of putting your shoes on, walking outside, and only then maybe adding a few minutes to walk to the corner or around the block each day.

What’s key is successive positive reinforcement, or rewarding the behavior you want more of. Too often we jump cold turkey into a brand-new routine only to find ourselves back in our old habits before we know it. Instead, focus on the smallest possible change that could build into a habit over time. For more on this, check out Stanford Professor B.J. Foggs’ Tiny Habits program.

“We often think that if you start with something so small, it won’t make a difference. But the truth is, because that momentum builds after you get going, you can often start with something really tiny, and it will blossom into something much bigger,” says writer and author James Clear.

If you’re stuck or overwhelmed with a new project, ask yourself: what’s the smallest thing I could do next to make this happen? It doesn’t matter how small it is — the trick is to make it small enough that you actually do something.

Tweet: “Even when you start small, it can make a huge difference.” — @James_Clear

4. Prime yourself.

New behaviors need an introduction, of sorts. Whenever I start to learn something new, I try to expose myself to the new context before actually committing to a new behavior change. Often the weight of how much is going on can be intimidating — researching a new location, mapping it out on google maps, looking up schedules, figuring out payment options, sticking to the plan — that enough friction in any of these steps and you don’t end up doing it.

Instead, make one of the first steps a walk through. Whenever I try out a new gym or studio, I go in for a tour. You can learn the routine, see the studio, and practice the behavior of going to the gym. This makes it easier for you to repeat this action down the line because you already know how to do it.

Want to start flossing your teeth in the morning? Go right now to your bathroom sink and practice the behavior. Get out the floss, put it on the countertop, and floss at least one tooth. Even if it’s 2pm in the afternoon, even if it’s just one tooth. This will prime you for repeating the behavior the next day.

5. Look to the process, not the outcome.

Too often we confuse the reward of the outcome with understanding what, exactly, it’s going to take to get there. Sitting down to write every single day is a lot more boring than having a published book in your hand. So how do you create a schedule that rewards the small successes?

It’s actually psychologically difficult to conceptualize change. We don’t understand thresholds of small changes; instead, we’re biased to see big wins. The biggest change happens over time, however, when you enact small, consistent behaviors. Sometimes mundane acts over time add up to something more exciting, after all.

“It’s so easy to focus on this idea of one defining moment, or overnight success, or some massive transformation to flip a switch and become a new person — but it’s not that way at all,” explains Clear. To make a behavior stick, look closely at the process and whether or not you’re really willing to commit to the, at times, drudgery and slog that it’ll take to get there.

And be ready to surprise yourself. Entrepreneur Corbett Barr reminds us that “Not a lot will change in one single day, but a lot can change in 30 days.” It’s rare that I’ll have a breakthrough day to finish my book (and by definition, that will only be one day out of many), but if I keep showing up, that day will arrive.

6. Motivation doesn’t last long, so plan ahead for when you’re not motivated.

How do you stay motivated? Well, it’s not about motivation — it’s about habit. Stephen Pressfield describes Somerset Maugham’s relationship to motivation and writing:

“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” Maugham reckoned another deeper truth: that by performing the mundane act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration, as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with his.” — Steven Pressfield from The War of Art

In other words, the difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional doesn’t wait for motivation. They get to it, even if they don’t feel like it.

7. When you get stuck, reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.

This idea comes from 37 Signals, and I heard about it from Eric Zimmer and James Clear on “The One You Feed,” podcast. James writes every Monday and Thursday, and he explains that even when there’s a dud of a day, he still shows up and sticks to the schedule.

It doesn’t matter how you feel, it’s about shipping something. Rather than skipping altogether when circumstances get dicey (skipping your workout because you only have 20 minutes, avoiding your writing session because you’re tired), instead, find a way to do something, even if it’s just for a moment. Do jumping jacks for 6 minutes, then 1 minute of pushups. Write 200 words, or three sentences.

Whatever time you have is how much you do.

A little of something is a lot more than nothing.

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8. Behavior change requires… change.

In order to get a different outcome, change the inputs.

This might seem exceptionally obvious, but it’s worth pointing out: if you want a different result, you’ll have to do something differently than you’re currently doing. What you’re doing right now (and for me, it’s spending three weeks not writing, then a day stressing about writing) — isn’t getting you the result that you want.

If you aren’t getting what you want, then what you’re doing isn’t working. In order to get what you want, something about the process will have to change.

What are you willing to do differently to get what you want?

How can you change your habits to get more of what you want?

What Are the Best Project Management Software and Tools?

Whether you are a one-person show or running a large startup with multiple teams, project management is important. Good project management can ultimately mean the difference between joining the 10% of startups that succeed or the 90% that fail. There is no right or wrong tool when it comes to project management. Rather a right or wrong fit for your business and its needs. In this post, we’ll look at eight online project management tools.  All can be used to increase your team’s productivity and communication.

Things to Consider

Before we jump into the tools consider a few things you need in a project management tool. These are the things you’ll want to keep in mind when you are reading through the upcoming list.

  • Scalability. Sure, you may only have just yourself or a few employees to manage now. But what about a year from now? Five years from now? If you choose a tool that only works well with five people, and you need to manage 50 down the road, you’ll end up having to migrate all of your data to a new platform.
  • Ease of Use. You can’t manage your projects productively if you spend most of your time just trying to manage the project management software itself. If you and your team don’t like using something, it will never be useful to your business.
  • Accessibility. Are you only using this tool for yourself? Will your employees need access to it? What about freelancers or contractors outside of your office? Will clients need access to it? Will people need access to it on their desktop? On mobile? These are all things to keep in mind when looking at a project management tool’s permissions, user pricing, and ap options.
  • Client Familiarity. For some businesses, a project management tool needs to be somewhat compatible with what their clients are used to. If a majority of your clients are using Basecamp, that might be a good choice to ensure ultimate efficiency. Or, if your clients use a variety of project management tools (Trello, Basecamp, Slack, etc.), you may want to choose one that has integration opportunities. One with multiple project management tools through third-party services like Zapier.

Before you commit to any tool, take advantage of free accounts or free trial periods. This will let you see if they are the best project management software for your business.

8 Popular Project Management Tools

Here are some great project management tools with a variety of features to choose from.


Basecamp offers everything you need in terms of project management: to-do lists for task assignment and management, message boards, chat rooms, project check-ins, calendar-view scheduling, a place to upload documents and files, and the ability to toggle features on or off based on your specific needs.

Pricing for Basecamp is simple. You can start with a free account to play around with Basecamp’s features for one project.

From there, you can choose a $29 per month plan for businesses using Basecamp for their own internal projects or $79 per month for businesses using Basecamp for client project management. The $79 plan includes a client management feature that allows clients to see what you want them to, but nothing else. Neither have any additional per-user costs or fees.

There is also an enterprise level plan for $3,000 per year that includes 1TB of storage, a personal account manager, guaranteed uptime, and the ability to pay by check with NET 30 invoicing.

Zapier offers Basecamp integrations so that you can automate tasks between Basecamp and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. For users on the go, Basecamp has a mobile-optimized browser interface so users can login and get the information they need. They also have apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android users.


If you are already using accounting software like FreshBooks and you just need project management in the form of time tracking, you will be happy to know that it is built in to their platform. FreshBooks allows you create projects and tasks. You can then have your employees, freelancers, or contractors login and enter their time for billing purposes. Your clients will also be able to view time entries if you allow them to.

To access the time tracking feature, you will need the $39.95 plan for up to 250 clients and 1 staff member. There is also a $79.95 plan for unlimited clients and up to 5 staff members. So while this isn’t a very scalable solution, it can help for simple project time tracking for 1–5 employees.

Zapier offers FreshBooks integrations so that you can automate tasks between FreshBooks and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. FreshBooks has a mobile-optimized browser interface and apps for iOS and Android users that includes access to the time tracking feature.


For software programmers and coding projects, there is GitHub. GitHub offers project management features specifically designed for collaboration with people who manage code. Their features include issue tracking, collaborative code review, team management with different levels of access (read, read-write, and admin), syntax highlighting, and access to their public repositories.

Pricing for GitHub is based on the number of private repositories you will need to manage with unlimited collaborators. You can start by trying out their features with a free account and unlimited public repositories. Then choose personal plans starting from $7 per month for five private repositories to $50 per month for fifty private repositories.

For businesses that need team organization and permission administration, you can choose organizational plans. They start at $25 per month for ten private repositories to $200 per month for 125 private repositories. For those who want a GitHub environment on your own server, you will need an enterprise plan that starts at $2,500 per year.

Zapier offers GitHub integrations so that you can automate tasks between GitHub and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. GitHub has a mobile-optimized browser interface so you can access repositories, issues, pull requests, blogs, and more without having to download an app.

Google Drive

If project management means file management and collaboration on documents, spreadsheets, and slides, then Google Drive is the solution. Google Drive is cloud storage combined with cloud-based software that rivals Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Powerpoint. It also offers the ability to create Forms (surveys with answers stored in a Google Sheet) and Drawings (flow charts).

You can upload most file types for others. This allows them to download, view or edit. They can also comment on documents, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and drawings. Some businesses use Google Sheets for simple project management purposes, such as managing editorial calendars.

Pricing for Google Drive is based on the storage you use. You get 15 GB of free storage. Pricing then starts from $1.99 per month for 100 GB to $299.99 per month for 30 TB. You can also explore Google Apps for Work, which adds in additional features for organizations using Gmail, Google Drive, and other Google tools for business starting at $5 per user per month.

Zapier offers Google Drive integrations so that you can automate tasks between Google Drive and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Google Drive has mobile apps for the Drive itself along with individual apps for Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.


Podio is a project management tool that describes itself as an open-plan online office. It allows you to keep your project content and conversations in one place with at-a-glance views and detailed drilldowns. You can have meetings via chat, audio, or video. And you can manage your projects with classic tasks, recurring tasks, and calendars.

Podio offers a free option for limited features for up to five employees.  Then you can choose pricing plans that start from $9 per month per employee to $24 per month per employee. It all depending on the features you need. Unlimited storage, e-document signing, and priority support comes with the enterprise level pricing, which is unlisted on the site.

Zapier offers Podio integrations so that you can automate tasks between Podio and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. For users on the go, Podio has mobile apps so that you can always access your workspaces.


Redbooth is a project management and collaboration tool that allows teams to work together effectively internally and with clients. Their software includes task management, video conferencing, team business chat, the ability to turn chat messages into tasks, built-in accountability reporting, project view workspaces, and much more.

Pricing for Redbooth is $5 — $15 per user per month (billed annually). This is based on the features you need for your project management. You can try Redbooth for thirty days for free to see if it is a good fit for your business. A private cloud-based version of their software on your own servers for highly-regulated industries is also available for an unlisted price.

Zapier offers Redbooth integrations so that you can automate tasks between Redbooth and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Redbooth has mobile apps so that you can always access your projects, tasks, and team.


If you need less project management features, but more communication options, then check out Slack. This tool allows you to communicate with your team through the use of file sharing on private channels for your organization. It also had the option to direct message individuals.

Small teams and those who want to give the tool a try can use it for free. Pricing for premium features, such as an unlimited searchable archive, usage statistics, guest access, and two-factor authentication is $8 per user per month. Premium support and uptime guarantees are included in plans for $15 per user per month. Enterprise level plans are expected to be introduced in 2016.

Zapier offers Slack integrations so that you can automate tasks between Slack and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Slack has mobile apps so that you can always access your projects, tasks, and team.


Trello is a project management tool that allows you to organize projects using lists and cards within boards. Cards can be moved from one list to the next to mark completion of specific processes.

Within each card, you can create specific checklist items. You can add member assignments, set due dates, share files, and communicate with others working on the same task or project.

Trello is free for unlimited members, boards, cards, checklists, etc. Pricing for additional features, such as larger file attachments, priority support, and premium integrations is from $8.33 to $20.83 per user per month.

Zapier offers Trello integrations so that you can automate tasks between Trello and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Trello has mobile apps so that you can add and update cards, lists, and boards.

Honorable Mention: Knock Knock Pads
For those of you shaking your heads because you prefer to write things down and need less of a project management tool and more of a to-do list, Knock Knock pads should do. You can get the This Week Pad to write down your tasks for each day of the week, plus tasks you want to complete next week. Or you can get the Random Notes Pad that gives you pages with a blank space block, grid block, dots block, and lined block to outline your task or project notes as you see fit.

This should only be an option for those who work alone at a dedicated desk and rarely (if ever) need to refer back to previous project notes. You may also want to use a backup method of keeping track of things. This could be taking a snapshot of each page of the notepad. Or something like using another of the above-mentioned project management tools.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are lots of great project management tools. They all allow you to organize your work, your team, and your communications. We’ve shared some of the best project management tools. Be sure to check out each one to see which one fits your business now. Plus you will want one that will scale with your business as it grows.