Use This Cross-Calendar Approach to Build a Healthy Habit in Just 21 Days (Hint: Don’t Break The Chain)

Track your habits, change your life.

nicodemos/Getty Images
nicodemos/Getty Images

Track your habits, change your life.

“I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

Charles Dickens said that.

Building great and consistent habits is difficult.

Breaking bad habits and sticking to new good ones over a long period of time can be insanely hard.

Some studies show that it can take anywhere from 18-days to over 200-days for a habit to become automatic!

The originator of the 21-day rule, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, states that it takes a minimum of 21 days to change a behaviour.

The key here is to keep up your small changes, keep doing them every day until they become part of your routine.

And 21 days is an excellent attainable target to start with!

It’s easy to get motivated but it’s hard to stay disciplined.

Jim Rohn once said, “motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going”.

If you’re trying to build a new habit, chances are you’re going to break it.

Most of the time, “getting started is the hardest part”.

And staying consistent is even more harder.

A significant part of habit formation is having the mental energy needed to actually commit to the new habit.

The cross calendar approach

Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.

If a whole year calendar is too much to handle on your wall, stick to the monthly calendar. And get yourself a red marker.

Choose your habit, starting today.

To achieve consistency, choose a habit that’s really easy to start.

Focus on an easy start and pick up the intensity as you progress.

For each day you write even half a page of your next ebook, make even the smallest progress on your passion project, eat something healthy, read two pages of your favourite book, or do something insignificant to advance your meaningful work, you get to put a big red X over that day.

Make it highly visible.

Keeping track of what you achieve and keeping it in your face creates a psychological snowball of inertia.

You don’t have to join a gym yet if you want to exercise.

Or change your entire diet at the very beginning.

You can start with something small.

Micro steps. Small wins will keep you going.

That way you can actually do something.

Keep doing it for at least 21 days to build a consistent chain.

Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day.

When you get a few weeks under your belt, it will feel good, especially if you stay consistent. Your only job is to not break the chain.

Get the satisfaction of crossing something off your to-do list while tracking the small habits that make a huge difference in your life.

Create behavior chains

The more consistent your habit, the easier it will be to stick.

To maintain the consistency you expect: Choose tasks that are simple to maintain and capable of producing the outcome you want!

Don’t break the chain, and you will build consistent routines that helps you achieve your long-term goals.

With a small amount of initial discipline, you can create a new habit that requires little effort to maintain.

James Clear explains: “Don’t break the chain on your workouts and you’ll find that you get fit rather quickly. Don’t break the chain in your business and you’ll find that results come much faster. Don’t break the chain in your artistic pursuits and you’ll find that you will produce creative work on a regular basis.”

Whatever they may be, you will probably have a couple of false starts — but don’t let that get the best of you.

Sustained effort over time makes the real difference.

The idea of the cross calender approach to building consistent habits is to prove to yourself that you can stick to something small for the next 30 or more days.

Once you are on a roll, have mastered the chain and remained consistent over time without a break, you can start increasing the difficulty.

Don’t aim for performance in the beginning. Focus on sticking to the chain.

Once you have a few check marks in a row, you won’t want to break your streak. That’s why picking something easy helps.

Because you can get it done without breaking a sweat. Doing something impressive once or twice won’t matter if you never stick with it for the long run.

Micro gains, small wins — that’s the goal.

It’s the best way to stay accountable to yourself.

Ready to start a new habit?

I’m creating a habits mastery course to help you master the kaizen principles for starting and maintaining great habits. Kaizen Habits will teach you how to make any change in life, one small habit at a time. Sign up to be notified when it launches.

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