Habits are a great way to live better lives. Habits are things that are so ingrained in your day that you automatically do them. Building good habits over bad ones can dramatically increase your health and the way you work.

Popular science say you need between 21 and 30 days to install a new habit in your life. That would be great, obviously, because that is a relatively short time and we can deal with that. Unfortunately a study by Phillipia Lally published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that the subjects needed anywhere between 18 to 254 days to acquire a new habit. On a positive note: repetition of a behavior in a consistent context increased the chance of success. So we better get going.

Personally, I have had great success by sticking to a new habit for 30 days. It is short enough to not feel like an enormous burden and long enough to build a solid foundation for a new habit. My findings:

  • Start small. If you want to take the next month to lose weight, floss every day, read more, skip the snooze button and leave work earlier, you’re not going to make it. Pick one small thing you want to change.
  • Keep track. This sounds obvious, but you want to make your progress really visual. Mark your progress on paper that you’ll see every day: stick it on your fridge or position it near your mirror you see every morning.
  • Daily rhythm works best. I’ve tried bi-weekly stuff, only weekday-projects and even though they can work, daily changes are far easier to stick to.
  • Involve someone. You can do these projects alone, but it gets way easier to keep going if you have someone that keeps you in check. It is harder to give up too, if you know there is someone you’ll have to answer to.

This is the last day of March. Why not start a fresh project in April?