#196: Habits to Improve Your English [+ FREE Habit Tracker]

Feb 3, 2021 | Free Resource, How To Develop Skills, Motivation to Practice

Like me, you may be a creature of habit.

What that means is to prefer and feel comforted by the predictability of a routine. And there’s nothing I love more than a great morning routine that includes my perfect mix of hot coffee and milk.

So, if we like routines and habits so much, why is it difficult to start a new, healthy habit (or to kick a bad habit)? Particularly when you know a good, daily habit can help you achieve your goals, like becoming confident in English.

On top of that, why is it so challenging to know if we’re actually making progress?

Today, you and I are going to find answers to those questions so that you can:

  • Easily create an effective English habit that helps you meet your English goals
  • Know — without a doubt — that you’re making progress
  • Use common collocations when talking about habits so you can communicate naturally on this topic with friends and coworkers

I have 5 simple steps to help you get started PLUS 8 English collocations and idioms for how to talk about habits.

Not only that, but you’ll find out why I’m super envious of basketball players AND I’ll tell you about a free download I have for you to help you start a successful English vocabulary habit and track your progress.

Start an Everyday Habit to Improve Your English with Just 5 Steps (Plus, Measure Your Progress!)


Most of us are creatures of habit.

What that means is that we prefer to have routines. We find comfort in having a routine.

Think about what you do every morning after you wake up, do you follow the same routine every day? Why?

Because we like having the routine. We like the predictability of what’s going to happen.

And not only do we enjoy the comfort of routines, but having effective daily habits allows us to make progress to meet our goals.

But as you and I both know, starting a new habit is really tough. Even if we have a goal we really want to achieve like becoming more confident in English.

Not only that, but it can be difficult to know if you’re making progress

This week you and I are going to answer those questions so that you can easily create an effective English habit that helps you meet your English goals and know, without a doubt, when you’re making progress.

Plus get a variety of common expressions, collocations and phrases English speakers use when talking about habits so that you can incorporate them into your English conversations with friends and coworkers.

In the end, you’ll discover five simple steps you can take to build an effective daily habit and get eight common expressions to use as well.

Not only will you get all of that, but I’m also going to tell you why I’m super envious of basketball players. And I’m going to share with you a free download to help you get started in building a daily English vocabulary.

The first step toward building an effective habit to help you meet your English goals is to connect the new habit you want to create with an existing habit.

That sounds more complicated than it really is. In English, we call this stacking your habits.

Think about how you stack plates or cups in a cupboard. Why do you stack them that way?

We do it because, of course, plates stack on top of each other or they fit together perfectly. The same thing is true with cups and bowls.

So how does this apply to habits?

Well, to answer that first, let’s talk about the habit that you want to create to help you meet a goal. For example, maybe your goal is to read a book in English. The habit you would create is to read something every day.

Or perhaps your goal is to increase your English vocabulary. So the habit becomes taking time every day to practice specific vocabulary.

In both cases, you’re attempting to add something new to your daily routine, which might be time to read or time to practice vocabulary.

Usually, when we want to start something new like that, we simply say, I’m going to start studying for 30 minutes every day, or I’m going to read for 15 minutes every day, but we don’t really identify a specific time when we’re going to do that. As a result, we don’t commit to it.

A more effective way to build in a new habit is to think about your current routines, maybe your morning or evening routine when you already have time alone without distractions. And you can commit to some focused time.

If you can identify a current habit that you have and connect it to this time that you want to practice vocabulary or spend time reading, you are stacking your habits. You’re finding an opportunity where your new habit fits perfectly with your existing habits.

Let me give you an example.

I’m certain that in the mornings and the evenings part of your routine includes brushing your teeth. I know that sounds kind of strange, but I’m serious. You spend a few minutes every day, brushing your teeth. It doesn’t really take a lot of focus to do that.

So perhaps you could add another habit while you’re brushing your teeth. For example, you could put a sticky note of vocabulary words on your mirror, and while you’re brushing your teeth, you build in a new habit of practicing those words.

When you do that, you’re stacking your habits. You’re incorporating a new habit into an existing one. As a result, it’s much easier to start that new habit and do it consistently.

Now the second step to building an effective habit is to start small, really, really small.

In English, we have the expression bigger is better, which means that something big or large is more valuable, but that isn’t always true. Sometimes bigger means more pressure and stress, a feeling of being overwhelmed.

And when you’re trying to create a new habit, bigger is definitely not better.

A smart way to think about building a new habit is to follow the advice of Desmond Tutu, who said “there’s only one way to eat an elephant one bite at a time.”

When we aim to implement small, bite-sized habits, they’re more likely to stick.

To make a habit stick or alternatively to stick to a new habit means to do it consistently so that it eventually becomes automatic. Just like brushing your teeth every day is automatic. You don’t think about it. You don’t stress about it. You just do it because it’s what you do.

And the goal of creating a new habit is that it follows the same pattern. It just becomes something you do every day.

So let’s go back to those ideas of building a habit, to meet an English goal. For example, reading every day so that you can read a book in English, a small habit would be to read one page every day or read for five minutes every day.

Similarly, if your goal is to increase your English vocabulary, a small bite-sized effective habit is to practice just five words a day. Again, maybe while brushing your teeth or driving to work or walking your dog.

Step number three is do it daily.

Several years ago, British researchers found that it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to make a new habit automatic.

Now, automatic is a word I’ve already used, and that’s the keyword here. Last year, I did a lesson on how to master your English confidence. And in that lesson, I introduced the word automaticity.

In language, automaticity is the ability to use the language without having to think about it too much. In other words, without having to stress and search for the perfect word or trying to remember the right grammar structure.

Instead, you just say it, it just happens. It’s natural, which is exactly what we all want when it comes to communicating in our second, third, fourth or fifth language.

So how does that automaticity happen?

It happens through daily consistent practice. And again, that may take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days.

Daily practice guarantees that you get the repetition you need to be successful and make progress, eventually reaching your goal.

And that brings me to step number four, you have to track your progress and you need to celebrate your successes.

Now here’s where I want to share with you why I’m envious of basketball players. Not only are basketball players tall, which if you don’t already know, I’m not someone you would describe as tall, but also it’s so easy to know if you’re getting better at basketball. It’s so easy to know if you’re making progress.

When you throw a ball at a basketball hoop, either it goes in, or it doesn’t. A basketball player who practices consistently is going to see that ball go in the hoop successfully more and more. Their progress is clear.

That isn’t always true when we’re starting a new habit, particularly related to language. We don’t always see what we’re doing.

You know you’re practicing English regularly. You know that you’re going to classes, but you still feel stuck, frustrated, nervous, or shy. Why do all that work if you don’t know that you’re making progress?

I recently told some of my students about a huge mistake I made in my own language learning. When I first started language learning, I was extremely diligent in writing everything down grammar structures. I was learning new words I wanted to remember.

And the benefit of doing that was after some time passed, maybe a week or two, or maybe even a few months, I could go back, look at my notes and say, Oh my gosh, I’ve done so much. I remember when that grammar structure was difficult for me.

I remember when conjugating that verb was difficult for me, but it isn’t difficult anymore.

My progress was clear.

The mistake I made was at some point I stopped doing that. I no longer had a written record. I no longer had demonstrated proof of my progress. And as a result, I lost motivation. I got frustrated and I wanted to give up.

So the key to knowing if you’re making progress is to track your habit, keep track of what you’re doing.

And to make it easy. I’ve got a free download to help you do that. I’ll tell you more about it in a moment, but first —

Here’s why a habit tracker is so useful:

Number one, it’s a visual reminder to help you complete your daily habit. This makes it easier for you to get into your new habit. And second, it becomes your visual proof of progress.

Every time you mark a day of completing that habit, every time you write down what you did, what you learned, what you want to remember, you’re documenting another step toward your goal. You’re creating a written record of your progress.

And on those days, when you feel frustrated that nothing is changing, you can go back, take a look at that documented record and say, Oh my gosh, actually a ton has changed. I have accomplished so much in the last few months.

That is an amazing feeling. And when you get that, celebrate it.

And step number five for building in a new effective habit to meet your English goals so that your habit becomes second nature (in other words, it’s something that you do instinctively) is to use two of my favorite words in English: yet and but.

No matter what our goals are, no matter how successful we are at implementing a new habit, we all have days when we feel discouraged.

Those two words — yet and but — can be helpful when it’s time to shift your mindset from something negative to positive.

For example, if you start to think, I still haven’t reached my goal of reading a book in English. What’s the point? You can shift that statement to, I still haven’t reached my goal of reading a book in English yet, but I will. If I continue my daily habit of reading one page every day.

Or I’m not making any progress in increasing my English vocabulary again, using those two simple words yet and but we can shift that to, I haven’t made any progress in increasing my vocabulary yet, but I will, if I keep practicing every day.

And the best way to know that you have is to use that habit tracker a written record.

So now let me tell you about a free download I have for you to make all of this easier.

This download is available on my website. So I’ll leave a link to that just below this video, in that download, you’re going to find two things:

Number one, you’ll find a habit tracker where you can write down what is the new habit that you want to start? What month is it? And you can track it every day that month, all you have to do is write a simple little X or a checkmark every time you do it.

Again, by doing that, you’re giving yourself a visual reminder of what you should do every day and you’re tracking your progress.

Two, I’m certain that one of your goals in English is to build your vocabulary. So I want to help, you know, how to do that effectively with this download.

There’s a place for you to write down the new words, collocations, or idioms that you want to remember and practice for one week, then every day, there’s space for you to write down some example sentences or different ways that you might use that new language.

Following this pattern gives you that repetition to create automaticity, the ability to use that new word or collocation automatically.

There’s a new page for every week, during the month. And then at the end, there’s an opportunity to reflect on what you learned that month.

When you complete those documents successfully, you’ve developed concrete proof of how you’ve increased your vocabulary that month. And then you can do it again the next month and the month after and the month after.

So if you want to get started on increasing your English vocabulary and build an effective daily habit to help you do that, simply go to my website, get the free download, and immediately start using it.

Once you’ve done that, I would love for you to tell me how it’s going, the best place for you to do that is in the comments at the end of the lesson.

And with that, you have five simple steps that you can take to build an effective habit. Plus you have eight English, collocations, and idioms to help you talk about habits in English.

If you found this week’s lesson useful to you, I would love to know. And you can tell me in three simple ways, number one, give this video a thumbs up here on YouTube and subscribe to this channel so you never miss one of my Confident English lessons. Number two, share this lesson with friends or coworkers by email or Facebook, and finally, go to my website, download the habit tracker.

And tell me about what you’re learning or share with me the progress that you’re making. I would love to celebrate with you.

P.S. Don’t forget!

I’m so excited to help you build your English vocabulary through an effective daily habit!

If you haven’t already, download the 30-Day Vocabulary Habit Tracker and get started. Then tell me about it!

Share your progress so I can celebrate with you. And share what you learn so others in the community can benefit from your experience.

The best place to share with me is in the comments below.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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