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The 3-Day rule for creating or breaking habits

By October 16, 2017October 21st, 20192 Comments

“It takes 3-days to make a habit and 3-days to break a habit.”

I can’t remember when I first learned about the 3-day rule, but as I was navigating my way through life as a new mum I used this rule – A LOT.

It takes 3-days to make a habit.  If I wanted my 2-year-old to break the habit of, for example, having a big glass of milk before dinner, I knew that I had to be strong and enforce stopping this behaviour for 3 days solid (despite any objections). After 3 days, the objections from my 2-year-old subsided and this new habit was being formed. At the same time, I knew that if I gave in and allowed him to drink milk before dinner again for 3 days in a row I was basically back to square one.

This technique miraculously worked for me in almost every parenting challenge I faced. I knew if I could consciously persist with a new routine for 3 days it would become a new pattern.

****Disclaimer: For some reason this rule never seemed to work when it came to getting my children to hang up their wet towels. This still kills me!

The 3-day rule works just as well for big people as it does for little people.

I soon found that if I wanted to end any of my own negative behaviours, I needed to discipline myself to resist indulging for 3 days straight.

If I was trying to establish a new habit of ending my workday by a certain time each day, I set an alarm and logged off. Then I would do something I enjoyed with that pocket of time I had created – went for a walk for example.

If I wanted to establish a new habit of not taking my phone to bed with me at night, I wouldn’t let myself take my phone to bed for 3 days. I would leave it in another room where I couldn’t conveniently and absent-mindedly reach over and start scrolling.

Do you have a new pattern or habit you would like to create? Commit to 3 days. Observe what happens.

I believe if you truly want to make positive changes in your life, you need to form new habits, rather than break ‘bad’ ones.

This applies to the way we manage our family schedule as well. Sometimes we keep doing what we’ve always done purely out of habit – even when we know there is a better way.

Before I started using the Life Sorted app, I relied on Post-it notes. Occasionally now I still catch myself writing a shopping list item or reminder on a Post-it (force of habit) instead of using the app.

I do this because at the time I think it’s quicker than hunting down my phone, but it doesn’t work effectively because; I can’t see wall-mounted Post-its when I’m out and about, I can’t re-arrange them, I can’t add extra notes, I can’t delegate them to anyone else and, if I do remember to take them with me, I lose them into the black hole that is my handbag!

So, what does this have to do with the 3-day rule?

Changing the way you manage your family schedule requires a conscious mindset shift. First, you need to install the Life Sorted app on your devices. Then, you need to make the effort to start using the app consciously. The best approach I have found is to specifically allocate time to transfer ALL your activities, events and to-do lists out of your head or paper diary into the Life Sorted app.

Then for a minimum of 3 days (it may take longer if you the paper diary type), consciously remind yourself to use the Life Sorted app rather than revert to your previous way of doing things.  If you pick up the Post-its, put them away and go and find your phone instead.

Using the Life Sorted app will soon become second nature. Comfortable. It will add value to your day and simplify your routines.  If you would like to join the beta program click here to get started.

Remember, it’s ok to occasionally take a day or two off doing something.

But once you hit that magic ‘3 day’ threshold you will find it is less of an effort. It’s a new pattern. And, once you establish a pattern, you are just a hop, skip and jump away from forming a new habit.

Have you ever noticed how it feels when you jump into your usual workout routine after a day to two of rest compared a longer break of 3 or more? One or two days – not a problem! But, after 3 days you are feeling a bit rusty – right?

And here lies the power of the 3-day rule:

  • If you want to break a habit, stop doing it for three days straight.
  • If you want to continue a positive habit, make sure you don’t skip it for three days straight, because if you let it lapse it’s hard to start again.

If you do break the 3-day rule, remember that you are human. Shrug, reflect on what you could do differently and try again with renewed energy and determination.

X Jo

PS. Remember to drop me a line to let me know how you go!

Jo Burgess

Jo is the creator of Life Sorted, one of the highest rated family organizers on the app stores. She’s proud to be helping thousands of families live a happier life together, by giving them a way to keep their family’s events, birthdays, to-dos, shopping lists and reminders in one place.


  • Sidiq says:

    Hello Jo,
    This article is amazing and very useful.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I’ve always read and tried to follow the common 21 days rule but each time I’ll stop after a day or two.
    I’m reading about 3 day’s for the first time, and believe it will work for me.

  • Hello Jo: Joanie here with a serious bad habit of buying Paparazzi jewelry. I must have 1000 or more pieces. They’re still in their wrappers/containers, never used or worn, etc. My husband complains, asks what am I going to do with all this “bling”! I’ve decided to become a consultant to sell it online & at events. I must stop buying it ($5 each piece.) I’m going to get serious & start tonight at midnight with your 3-day rule. I’ll let you know how I do. Joanie Brewster, Paparazzi Comsultant.. 7/23/20

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