Build a Good Habit in 30 Days

by Ramesh Natarajan on November 1, 2010

If you are like most people, you would love to develop good habits that stick with you for your life time.

For example, reduce the time you watch TV, run (or exercise) every day, spend enough time with your kids, eat healthy food, learn something new in Linux every day, read books regularly, etc.

Building good habits takes time. If you practice a good habit for 30 days straight, you are most likely to follow it for a long time.

30 Day Habit Building Strategy

Over the years, I’ve build several good habits using the 30 day habit building strategy. It is very simple. Here is how it works for me.

  • I created a “good habit list” document (in google docs), that contains all the good habits I want to build.
  • On the 1st of every month, I pick one habit from that list, and do it every day for 30 days.
  • At the end of the month, I evaluate how I did on that particular habit in the past 30 days.
  • If that habit is something I enjoyed doing, and improved my life, I follow it. I might make some adjustment to the habit based on what I’ve learned during the 30 days. For example, I might not follow this newly learned habit every day, but might do it once a week.
  • If that habit is something that I didn’t enjoy doing it, or didn’t improve my life, I’ll drop the habit and not follow it. This rarely happens, as most of the habits that I add to my good habit list document is something I really want to build and follow it for the rest of my life. Occasionally, I try out something for fun for 30 days, even when I know that I would not follow it after the 30 day period.

Few Good Habits I developed Using this Method

Following are few good habits I developed using the 30 day strategy.

  • Stopped watching TV. Not long ago, I was giving the typical “I don’t have enough time” excuse for not completing any of my personal projects. At that time, I was watching all sitcoms, reality shows (including dog eat dog), and sports (including curling) on TV. As part of the 30 day habit building, I stopped watching TV for 30 days, and I completed all my pending personal projects during that time, and still had enough free time to mess around with additional projects. I don’t watch TV anymore, and I’m enjoying life more now than before when I used to waste several hours a day sitting in front of the TV.
  • Playing tennis regularly.
  • Reading books regularly. I keep one technical book and one non-technical book in my reading queue all the time.
  • Checking personal email only once per day.
  • Cleaning up the living room and putting my daughter’s toys in the appropriate place before going to bed.
  • Getting things done using GTD framework.
  • etc.

Keep the following in your mind when you plan to build a new good habit.

  • In your “good habit list” document, don’t list very vague things. “Read a book for 15 minutes before going to bed” is better than “Read daily”.
  • Be very realistic on the habit you want to develop. “Run every day for 1 hour” probably is not realistic, if you’ve never ran before. May be you might want to start with “Jog every day for 15 minutes in the evening”.
  • Don’t confuse habits with goals. Once a goal is achieved, there isn’t much to do on it, on an on-going basis. On the other hand, once you build a good habit, you want to continue doing it on an on-going basis.
  • During the 30 days, if you miss a day, don’t be hard on yourself, just continue the habit from the next day.
  • Once you pick a habit to try out for 30 days, tell your family and friends about it. Ask them to check with you regularly to make sure you are doing it.
  • When you start building a new habit, plan it out properly. If you are planning to run every day, decide when you want to run, how long you want to run, and block your calendar accordingly for that time for 30 days.
  • Develop good habits that you enjoy doing it. If there is only one thing you should remember, this is it. Most people try to develop a habit, which they hate. If you hate running, don’t run. Try some other physical activity that you enjoy.

My Nov 2010 Habit

Run for 30 minutes in the evening after work.

After 30 days, I’ll keep you posted on how I did on this habit building.

What is Your Nov 2010 Habit?

Join me in this on-going 30 day habit building. For you, there is nothing to loose, but everything to gain.

Pick a good habit you would like to build this month and do it for 30 days. If you do this regularly, you might develop all the good habits that you always wanted.


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pranav November 1, 2010 at 5:40 am

excellent. highly motivating!!!!!

2 Jerry November 1, 2010 at 8:09 am

Probably your best tip yet!

3 Pete November 1, 2010 at 9:04 am

Thanks for sharing this tip.

4 Joe Klemmer November 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

In my nearly 48 years on this planet I have never been able to discipline myself enough to follow through on something like this. But this article gives me hope. It is quite possible that I can build some good habits with this technique.

Thank you for this.

5 Arnau November 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Nice post! I’ll try.

Thanks a lot!

6 Varun November 1, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Very Motivating, Thanks for the tip. :-)

7 jpdurai November 2, 2010 at 12:39 am

I thing these tips are practically tested. So leave everything which we can not hold practically
I love more than 100% this tips because of following lines.

1. ” I might make some adjustment to the habit based on what I’ve learned during the 30 days. For example, I might not follow this newly learned habit every day, but might do it once a week. ”

2.”If that habit is something that I didn’t enjoy doing it, or didn’t improve my life, I’ll drop the habit and not follow it.

3.”Be very realistic on the habit you want to develop. “Run every day for 1 hour” probably is not realistic, if you’ve never ran before. May be you might want to start with “Jog every day for 15 minutes in the evening”

4.”In your “good habit list” document, don’t list very vague things. “Read a book for 15 minutes before going to bed” is better than “Read daily”.

8 Barbara November 2, 2010 at 1:48 am

Thanks! This will definitely groom some good habits in me. I have for longed wanted a motivator and here you just did! Thanks again.

9 yvan November 2, 2010 at 5:15 am

thanks for this article !

10 Vladimir November 2, 2010 at 8:07 am

It’s very interesting – not enough to plan we have to depict somewhere our list of plans to see some dynamic. Thanks a lot for your post.

11 Pushpraj November 3, 2010 at 12:56 am

Excellent….

12 purva November 3, 2010 at 11:54 am

really motivating………

13 MentorLog November 6, 2010 at 5:22 am

I used to spend most of my time in social networking sites..Thanks for sharing Great tips..

14 Hamilton Jimenez November 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I really love this article, I shared this article with many friends who are always asking me about how can i be so discipline with myself all the time and had so good results? i always say them the same: “i just put attitude and determination in your life and every going under absolute control”

15 Gopal D November 9, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I really appriciate you that you have done very good job for people who are really want to do something in their life. It is very usefull tips for Human beings.

16 Arul November 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I got a workout peer!

I’m starting to run today. Will see how it goes.

17 Mohana January 5, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Wonderfu l….

18 Zia November 18, 2011 at 10:06 am

I have made my list, i am motivated and there are 9 habits that i want to develop and i am on it. I Will thank you after i am done for 30 days. :)

19 Gabriel kiir December 7, 2011 at 7:52 am

you make me wanna run now!

20 Amanda January 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I had to backtrack to find this article again, but I wanted to see again what inspired me to jog every day.

I started on December 14th, and now have one more week left. It is a huge commitment but I am glad I am doing it. I started from no exercise so I try not to be too intense about it, I count it for the day even if I only jog a couple minutes and walk the remainder and that way I can have strength for the next day to do a good job. I feel confident that this is establishing a habit for me. The days that really tested it were Christmas, and New Years. I have incorporated jogging into my routine by jogging home from work, and taking my sisters with me when they were over for a couple days.

Thank you for your wonderful motivation

21 Mahi April 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Thanks for the discussion, it would certainly motivate people who believes they are doing something wrong with their daily habits. I would like to further discuss some of my habits that I believe ‘good’ based on my experience.

1. I sleep for exactly 6:30 hours everyday, most of the time it is enough for me. I can’t sleep more than that. If I do, it hurts my back.

2. Without skipping any day of the week, I do headstand (a yoga posture called ‘Shirsasana’) for 5 to 15 minutes a day immediately after my bath. It helped prevent the hair loss (I am 30, but still) and I don’t freak out for anything. It helped me remain calm and focused no matter what the situation is.

3. Eat less oil, sugar and alcohol. Do some cardiovascular exercise for 40 minutes after my work followed by some stretching exercises.

4. No TV watching all day long. In the night, before I go to sleep however I watch one good documentary (like Cosmos, Life After People etc.). It is addictive though.

22 Joseph December 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for this article, it is very inspiring!

My new habit will start on January 1st, 2013 and it will be to read 15 minutes each from a technical and a non-technical book every night before bed.

I will also have another I will start which is, writting down and tracking all expenses.

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