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Why Thursday Is The Best Day To Start A New Habit

Most people start new routines on Monday, but trying a different day might increase your chances of success.

Why Thursday Is The Best Day To Start A New Habit
[Photo: Flickr user Sarah Reid]

I’ve kept track of my time for several weeks over the years, but in April, I decided to try something new: logging it continuously. I wanted to know what trends I’d see over months, not just days. My timesheet starts on Mondays, but I made a strategic decision as I started this habit. I began tracking my time on a Thursday.

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This isn’t the usual approach. Data shared with me by the folks at Toggl, a time-tracking app, show that people are more likely to start tracking time on Monday than any other day: 10% more people sign up on Mondays vs. Tuesdays; 15% more on Mondays than Wednesdays; 27.5% more on Mondays than Thursdays; and 30% more on Mondays vs. Fridays. We look for new starts and clean slates for new routines—not surprisingly, Toggl also reports that they get a lot of new users in January.

Yet I thought that starting on a day other than Monday would give my new habit the best chance of sticking.

A new week doesn’t mean a new you

The impulse to start something new on Monday is based on faulty thinking. You know a habit will be difficult, but you assume that you will be a different, new person at the start of the new week. This new you will be more focused and disciplined.

Alas, this will not happen. You will not be a different person come Monday. You will have the exact same quantity of willpower you do any other day.

On the downside, you will also have this: a lot of other things starting up. The workweek starts on Monday. You have new projects, more meetings, new routines. If you want to start a new habit of, say, going for a lunchtime walk, if you wait until Monday, your new and fragile habit will be competing with all these other decisions and responsibilities. Your best intentions can get crowded out by the busyness.

If you truly want to start a new habit, you should start now, whenever now happens to be. But if you’re looking for a particular day of the week that sets you up for success, I do think Thursday has a lot going for it. Here’s why:

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The workweek tends to be slowing down by then. In my time surveys, I’ve found that Wednesday is the longest workday, and then the numbers fall off after that. One survey of HR professionals found that only 3% of people claimed Thursday was the most productive day in their offices. Fewer things are starting up, so you can concentrate your energy and focus on your new routine. You take your lunchtime walk with fewer competing priorities.

Friday lets you repeat the routine, reinforcing it, again with few distractions. Then over the weekend, you can evaluate (or keep going if you intend to). By the time Monday rolls around, you’re already several days into the habit. It’s not a new thing among other new things. It’s just part of what you do. When a new habit becomes just something you do, it has a greater chance of sticking.

About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.

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