Habits, Willpower, and 30 Day Challenges

My New Year’s resolution this year is to improve the quality of my life by adjusting my daily habits and improving my willpower. I’m going to go over each habit in this post and explain why I included it. Feel free to use this resolution as a template and make changes to it as you like. If you read this in the middle of the year, feel free to make a 30 day challenge out of it.

Little changes in our daily habits have huge impacts in the quality of our lives. I have experienced that at first hand when I quit my daily coffee habit. Giving up old habits and adopting new ones require willpower. An extra benefit of this challenge is that you improve your willpower, because you will be exercising it constantly.

As Baumeister and Tierney explain in their same-titled book, willpower is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Willpower is an important predictor of success. So, working on my willpower is definitely an extra bonus of this challenge.

Here are the habits that I want to adjust in my life.

Start every day with a 20 min workout.

Having a tool like an elliptical cycle at home helps a lot. You don’t need to go out in a lousy weather. You don’t lose time to commute to the gym. You don’t have any excuse not to exercise. I prefer to listen to an audiobook or watch a motivational video while working out. The benefits are not only physical, but also mental. You feel good the whole day. You have higher concentration throughout the day.

30 min meditation every day.

After a difficult day at work or in your private life, a 30 min meditation calms down your mind. It helps you put things in perspective. It improves your attention span and self-control. It helps you to be in the moment in the most difficult moments of your life. Daily meditation habit helps you to realize your potential.

Journaling, mindstorming.

Every life has its challenges. My experience is that if you can formulate a challenge as a question and write it down, the answers appear in your mind out of nowhere. Another benefit is that you can clean your mind from negative thoughts just by dumping them on paper.

No caffeine.

This has been a nasty habit of mine. I’ve been a caffeine addict from an early age. Caffeine is my drug of choice. If I feel low, I wouldn’t drink alcohol, eat sweets, or do drugs. I would just drink coffee, but I’m determined to give up that habit.

Caffeine might improve your attention and mood for a short period of time. However, your energy and mood drops after that period of time and it disrupts your sleeping patterns. I have long periods of time when I didn’t drink any coffee. I can testify that the quality of my life was much higher when I didn’t consume any caffeine.

Check email once per day.

Email is one of those sneaky distractions. A distraction might only take a minute. However, once you’re distracted, you’re out of the zone, that state of mind when you’re the most productive. In my experience, I have two causes of distraction. First, I get curious about something irrelevant and I need to Google it. Second, I face a challenge and I use a distraction to escape from the challenge.

The best way to deal with a challenge is to face it. To stay with it, to focus on it, to formulate it as a question, and to write it down. Once you do that, the solutions appear out of nowhere. However, that can be uncomfortable at its best and painful at its worst.

If you use a distraction to escape from a challenge, you lose the opportunity to deal with it and solve it for good. A distraction might seem innocent, even useful. Checking your email is definitely one of those. How long would it take? One minute? However, the main issue isn’t that minute that you have lost. The main issue is that you’ve lost your concentration. You’ve lost an opportunity to deal with your challenges, overcome them, and to grow as a human being.

Moreover, when I process emails once per day, I process them in bulk. I tend to delete 80% of them without even opening them. If I check emails several times per day. I tend to spend more time on each email, which is just a waste of time. Remember, time is the most valuable commodity.

Limited use of social media.

I used to follow what’s going on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. However, that’s a waste of time. You can adjust the email settings of those sites to notify you if something important happens. For example, if someone reaches out to me on Facebook on LinkedIn, I receive an email. Otherwise, I don’t check the news-feeds of these sites anymore. They’re just a distraction.

YouTube is a gray area. There are a lot of good quality personal development videos. However, there are also videos that are pure distraction. This is where you need to exercise your willpower muscle.

Self-evaluation

One good willpower exercise is daily self-evaluation. I evaluate how I performed at each day for each habit. I write down my successes and failures. That way I reward and reinforce my successes and learn from my failures. As you can understand, my days aren’t 100% success all the time. However, by keeping track of how I perform, I increase my success rate.

Overall, I enjoy this process and I already feel the increase in the quality of my life, just after a few days. I strongly recommend that you start a similar 30 day challenge in your life with your own set of habits that you want to adopt and/or give up.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.