How to Always Do What You Intend: 10 Strategies

Imagine having the power to always do what you intend.

That’s what this checklist has done for me.

It’s a collection of 10 proven techniques I use when I want to create a new habit, break a bad one or just make sure I work on something.  

I hope you find it useful. 🙂 

1. Make your goal specific 

To make your goal specific, ask yourself these questions:

  • What should I do? Specify the exact things you should avoid/the exact steps you should follow
  • When/how often should I do it?
  • Where should I do it?
  • Until when can’t I choose to drop the goal?

Compare the resolution “I’ll exercise more” to “I’ll run 3 km in the park, at 7 AM every day until 17th January”.

2. Make it meaningful

Write down at least 3 benefits of achieving the goal, and tie it to your long-term goals. 

If you doubt its importance, do some research – you’ll either save yourself some serious effort or you’ll get more motivated. 

3. Make it achievable and challenging

Are you confident you’ll achieve your goal?

If not, make it smaller. If you don’t even think you can succeed, your motivation will collapse. Therefore, start by setting small goals that you’re confident you’ll accomplish. In a week when you proved you could accomplish your small goal, make it harder.

For example, if your goal is to run a marathon but you’ve failed several times to run a kilometer, start with a goal such as “Run 100m 3 days a week”. For each following week, increase the goal until you’re able to run a marathon.

The goal in the beginning isn’t to make dramatic changes, it’s proving to yourself that you can succeed. The more you’ll accomplish, the more things start to seem achievable. And your motivation will skyrocket. 

On the other hand, if you already are confident you’ll achieve your goal, remember to make it challenging. It’s difficult to get pumped up by the goal “Write a sentence every day”. If you already think it’s too easy, make it harder.

4. Add the goal to your goal-tracker

I use a simple Spreadsheet. I also suggest a paper with a 6×6 grid. Every day you stick to your goal, cross a box off. 

Tracking your goals reminds you of them, makes you able to see your accomplishments and heightens your motivation by making you think “I can’t break that streak!”

5. Make it impossible to do wrong and easy to do right 

Ask yourself if you can make it harder to do the bad thing, for example:

  • Throw away or make someone else store the things required to do the bad habit
  • Delete the app required
  • Install some app that makes it impossible
  • Go to a place where it isn’t an option

Also ask yourself if you can make it easier to do the good thing, for example:

  • Do the preparation in advance
  • Ask someone else to do the thing where your willpower usually fails

For example, if you want to get out of bed put your alarm at the other side of the room. If you want to stop wasting time online, install a website blocker. If you want to eat healthier, throw out all your unhealthy food and prepare healthy food in advance.  

6. Make it a strong habit (if you’re creating a habit) 

Every habit has three distinct parts: (I’ll use the example of brushing your teeth) 

  • The Cue: The trigger which sets the habit in motion (Walking into the bathroom)
  • The Routine: The actions the habit consists of (Brushing your teeth) 
  • The Reward: Something which motivates you to continue the habit (The delicious toothpaste) 

If you want to establish a new habit, you need to choose a clear and consistent cue, routine and reward. The best way I’ve found to do this is by using habit stacking. In summary:

  1. Choose an already existing habit that you do every day, like brushing your teeth 
  2. Put a reminder in the place you do the habit. The reminder could be a note, an alarm or the things you use while doing the new habit. Start doing the new habit after the old one every day.
  3. Place some reward there, like your favorite (healthy) food. Take the reward after you’ve done your new habit.

7. Make the bad habit easy to break (if you’re breaking a bad habit)

If you instead want to break a habit you can take advantage of replacement habits – to take the same cue and replace it with a different routine that has a similar reward. 

For example, when I quit sugar:

  • I identified the cue: Seeing sugary food 
  • Replaced it with a new habit: Eating a carrot (that I always had in my backpack)
  • With a similar reward: carrots are also sugary and delicious

It’s sometimes quite difficult to find a habit’s reward. If you’re not sure why you continue the bad habit, brainstorm reasons and experiment with different replacement habits.

8. Take a Threat Bet

(Also called “Commitment Contract”, but Boyinaband’s words are so much cooler) 

A threat bet is a bet on yourself to succeed. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a threatening amount of money, for example $100 
  2. Find the most evil organisation in the world and a way to donate to it. For example Scientology. 
  3. Find a friend and tell him to donate the money to the evil organization if you fail. Make sure he’s indifferent about your future excuses, but also trustworthy as hell.

You can also take a non-monetary threat bet. For example, tell someone to do an unpleasant thing to you if you fail. When trying to force myself into a consistent sleep schedule, Ice-Cold water would be used to wake me up if I wasn’t in bed by 21:45. Worked like magic.

9. Make it fun

While you shouldn’t rely on “feeling like it” to do important things, making the process fun really heightens your motivation. 

You can usually add something enjoyable to accompany tasks you don’t like. For example:

  • Listen to great music/podcasts 
  • Be with a good friend, if it doesn’t matter that you’ll get distracted  
  • Eat/drink a favorite food

A second way is to make a chore into a game. For example, see if you can do the unpleasant task:  

  • In half the time? Keep a time-log of the fastest times you’ve done it and try to beat your record
  • With one hand?
  • With eyes closed? 

10. Develop good habits that increase your willpower

If you’re full of energy you’ll have a much easier time being disciplined. These things will increase your willpower, and make everything else easier: 

Of course there are a lot of other things you can do, and I encourage you to think of other strategies for your personal goal.

But if you’re intrigued, just pick a goal and go through the list.

I hope you’ve found this useful, and good luck! 🙂