A Live Developer Journal

Habit Cards

Table of Contents


Every action you take, is a vote for the kind of person you want to be - James Clear, Atomic Habits.

Once you have repeated an action enough times, it becomes a habit that you won't have to think about doing anymore. You will then have enough mental bandwidth freed up to focus on a different action you would like to turn into a habit.

Each habit will take a while to become an ingrained part of your nature. So when you pick a new habit to adopt, it helps to think of them as lifestyle choices, rather than temporary behaviours with an end-point. Asking yourself whether a habit is something you want to adopt for a lifetime or not, will help filter out the habits that are less meaningful to you, or are externally motivated.

Throughout this article, you will learn what a habit is and why they are so powerful. You will also read about the problem with 30-day habit challenges for lasting change, and what you can do instead.

At the end of this article, you will find a Habit Card action plan that helps you set a meaningful habit goal and track your progress towards attaining it, so that you can make a conscious decision every day to vote for the person you want to be.

Skip to Action Plan

What is a habit?

A habit is an Aquired mode of voluntary behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary (Merriam Webster dictionary). Or in other words, habits are behaviours that are so ingrained that you perform them almost automatically, without thinking about it. The automatic nature of habits is what makes them so difficult to change, because you have to conciously fight behaviours that have become mostly unconscious.

Why are habits so powerful?

When you look at most successful people, they are often described as 'overnight successes'. In reality, these people have consistently chosen actions that favoured the long-term over the short-term. Actions whose results were so gradual that they were almost unnoticeable, until a tipping point was reached.

One way to visualize this is to imagine a set of weighing scales. One side of the scales is empty, the other side has a single grain of rice on it. When another grain is added, there is no noticable difference between he height of the left and righ scales. The same can be said when 20 or 30 grains of rice are added.

At some point, you can be sure that he scales will slowly start to tip, until suddenly the weight of a single extra grain of rice tips the balance of the scales dramatically.

Those grains of rice are your habits, the small actions that you keep repeating until the accumulated weight of them changes everything.

The problem with 30-day habit challenges for lasting change

One of the things that many people do to to adopt a new habit is to do a 30 day habit challenge. 30 day habit challenges are great for trying out a new habit for a short period of time, but generally they do not help you to adopt a habit long-term.

The biggest problem with 30 day challenges for long-term habit adoption is that they focus on how many days it takes to adopt a new habit. The most commonly cited timeframe for adopting a new habit is 21-28 days. If this were true, then most people would not revert back to their old habits after completing their 30 day challenge.

Habit Card Method

A more useful way of looking at habit adoption according to James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, is to ask yourself how many repititions it takes for an action to become a habit [for you].

The Habit Card method is a frequency model of habit aquisition. It's a method for people who want to adopt a habit for life, rather than a 30 day trial period.

A habit card is a grid, where each square on the grid represents the habit you are trying to adopt. Every time you complete a repitition of your new habit, you mark off a square on the grid.

The best thing about this approach is that it uses a positive reinforcement approach only. You get the benefits of building your streak without the risk of losing it. If you miss a day, you don't have to start all over again (and potentially give up completely). Instead, you see a constant stream of progress as you get closer to your goal (the end of your grid).

By the time your grid is completed, your habit behaviours are likely to have become an actual, automatic habit. If not, you can roll over to another grid. It's pretty fun collecting your grids to, as they are a visual representation of all the hard work you have put in to create positive, lasting change for yourself.

Habit Card Action Plan

Below is a set of downloadable worksheets for. You can download it by clicking the button below:

Download Action Plan
habit card with a goal and 500 squares to check off

Next Steps challenge time

Your challenge for this article is to think about the kind of person you want to be, then pick a habit that could help you get there (something you'd be willing to do for a lifetime). Finally, break your habit goal down into an action you can take daily, or better yet, multiple times a day.

If you completed the challenge, high five for taking action! Bonus points if you leave a comment with your new habit goal and what you're going to do to acheive it.