By Leo Babauta

In the Getting Started article, I asked you to do a couple things:

  1. Pick a habit.
  2. Create a starting plan.

Today, we’ll review those two steps and I’ll show you my recommendations. Compare them to what you’ve done, and correct any mistakes. Again, as we discussed in the last article, trying something without guidance, failing, and then getting corrections, is the best way to learn new skills. That’s what we’ll be doing this week: trying something without guidance, and then I’ll give you the answers.

Let’s look at my recommendations for both of your action steps.

Pick a habit

What we want for the Mastering Habit Skills module is a very easy habit. Harder habits like writing your master’s thesis or starting a business or quitting smoking are not good ones to start with, because the difficulties that surround them (fear, strong urges, complications) make them less likely to last through the month. And if you’re not doing the habit, you’re not learning the skills. So pick something you’re very likely to do all month.

Don’t pick any habit you’ve struggled with in the past. After you get good at these habit skills, you can tackle harder habits. Be patient!

Here are a few characteristics I recommend for starting habits:

  1. One habit.
  2. Very small version of that habit (2 minutes of meditating, for example, not 30 minutes).
  3. Something you’re likely to stick to.
  4. Something you can do every single day. Even on weekends.
  5. Morning habits are probably best, because we get busy and tired later in the days. You can do almost any habit in the morning. If you’re not a morning person and have no time in the morning, don’t do a morning habit, and definitely don’t try to wake earlier to do the habit — then you’re doing two habits (the first habit, and waking early).
  6. A new, positive habit (instead of trying to quit a negative habit).
  7. A physical habit (not a mental habit like thinking positive).

A few habits I recommend for this module:

Yes, these are exceedingly easy. That’s what we’re looking for in this module. If you chose a harder habit, I highly recommend switching to one of these. It’s not too late!

Make a Plan

What is a habit plan for? It’s a starting point, to get you committed and starting the habit. But you’re going to modify it as you go, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Here’s what a plan might have:

  1. The habit: specifically what you’re going to do, for how long.
  2. The trigger: something already in your daily routine that you’re going to tie the habit to. It should be the thing that happens right before you do your habit — so the trigger happens, then the habit comes immediately after. Examples: waking up, drinking your first cup of coffee, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, showering, using bathroom in the morning, leaving the house, opening your computer for the first time, arriving at work, going to lunch, leaving work, arriving home, going to bed, turning on the TV, etc.
  3. Reminder(s): How will you remember? Physical reminders near where your trigger is are often best (running shoes near bed, a big note next to the coffeemaker, meditation cushion on top of laptop, etc.), but phone or computer reminders are good too.
  4. Accountability: Who will hold you accountable for your commitment? How will you report to them?
  5. Commitment: What kind of commitment are you making? Doing the habit for one month? Having a big consequence is helpful.
  6. Log: Will you log this habit? How? Will you share it with anyone?
  7. Finally: Who will you share the plan with? Once you’ve created the basic plan, share it with someone (email it to them, share it via Google Docs).

Your plan will have other things in it as you evolve it, with the weekly review. We’ll get to that later.


Now that you’ve seen my recommendations, here are your actions:

  1. Change the habit you’ve chosen to one of the above, if your habit doesn’t meet the recommended guidelines.
  2. Alter your habit plan to have the items I recommended above.
  3. Start your habit at the start of the month. If you miss that day for some reason, start as soon as possible. Do the habit once a day.

We’ll talk more about execution in another article, but for now, do these steps.