This Cross Calendar Approach Can Help You Build Habits That Stick

“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.

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.

This calendar approach to building habits is a great way to stay disciplined and committed when you start a new habit.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 2 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. 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.
  4. After a few days, you would have built 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.

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 calendar 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, mastered the chain and remaining 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.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.



This article was written by Thomas Oppong, writer, thinker, and creator at Curator at, Columnist at Inc. Magazine. Featured at Business Insider, Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc.

Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth

By Jason Selk

The habits of highly successful people allow them to consistently perform behaviors that breed success. Everything from eating well to responsible spending to task completion and beyond requires habits that make such behaviors part of our daily life. Michael Jordan spent his off seasons taking hundreds of jump shots a day. Cy Young award-winning Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay routinely does a 90-minute workout before practices. The young Venus and Serena Williams would wake up at 6:00 am to hit tennis balls before school. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits, and it takes discipline, courage and hard work on a daily basis to keep those habits in place. It makes perfect sense to adopt habits that will facilitate success, yet, why are some so difficult to adopt?

Most people believe that habits are formed by completing a task for 21 days in a row. Twenty-one days of task completion, then voila, a habit is formed. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The 21-day myth began as a misinterpretation of Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s work on self-image. Maltz did not find that 21 days of task completion forms a habit. People wanted it to be true so much so, however, that the idea began to grow in popularity.

Tom Bartow, who successfully started advanced training for Edward Jonesand has since become a highly sought after business coach, developed the following model of what habit formation really looks like:

The 3 phases of habit formation:


This phase of habit formation is characterized by the feeling of “this is easy.” As all married people will tell you, at some point even the greatest honeymoon must end. The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring. For example, a person attends a highly motivational conference, and for the first few days after the conference the individual is making positive changes in his or her life.


Inspiration fades and reality sets in. A person finds himself struggling with the positive habit completion and old habits seem to be right around the corner. The key to moving to the third phase of habit formation is to win 2 or 3 “fight thru’s.” This is critical. To win the fight thru, use the following techniques:

  1. RECOGNIZE: Recognition is essential for winning the fight thru. When you have entered the fight through, simply say to yourself, “I have entered the fight thru, and I need to win a few to move past this.” Winning each fight thru will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight thru, you make it easier to lose the next one.
  2. ASK 2 QUESTIONS: “How will I feel if I do this?”and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” Bring EMOTION into the equation. Let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight thru and the negative in losing.
  3. LIFE PROJECTION: If the above 2 techniques haven’t moved you to action, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in 5 years if you do not begin making changes. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if the changes are not made.


Entering second nature is often described by feelings of “getting in the groove.” Once in second nature, the following are 3 common interruptions that will send a person back to the fight thru:

  1. THE DISCOURAGEMENT MONSTER: An individual allows negative results discourage him or her into thinking, “This isn’t working, and there is nothing I can do.”
  2. DISRUPTIONS: An individual experiences significant change to his or her current pattern (e.g., vacations, holidays, illness, weekends).
  3. SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS: An individual begins to focus on positive results and begins to think, “I’m the special one. I have finally figured out how to have great results with not so great process.”

If a person experiences an interruption that sends him or her back to the fight thru, winning 2 or 3 fight thru’s will bring him or her back to second nature.

Most people want positive habits to be as easy as brushing their teeth. HELLO…LET’S BE ADULTS HERE…being great isn’t easy. In fact greatness requires sacrifice. It requires doing things that others won’t or can’t do. GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY. Truth be told, good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits. Make the commitment to make it past the fight thru, no matter how many times you go back to it, to reach new levels of success.