How To Create A Habit In 15 Days

Most of our life is lived by habits. We learn how to ride a bike, how to drive a car, we even learn how to speak and read. And then we do all of these with minimum effort and implication. Basically, all of these are habits. They allow us to focus on other things while pushing the routine into background. It would be quite difficult to learn to drive the car every time you need to go shopping, isn’t it?

As any other things in our life, habits are just tools we use in our joyful exploration of life. Habits are not good or bad, they are just ways of handling repetitive tasks that would otherwise require a lot of energy. As such, the master habit of creating / breaking your habits can be quite an asset.

In today’s post I’ll share some of my experiences with habit creation using one of my favorite activities: journaling. It’s a simple way in which you can assess, decide and then implement any new habit. There’s also a free downloadable journal template for you but let’s take the things one at a time.

Why Do You Need A New Habit?

Well, let’s say you want a new habit in order to:

  • write on your blog more often
  • update your twitter status daily
  • write each day a page from your new book
  • start a fitness program
  • start a new eating habit or diet
  • learn a new language

All these new activities are made by some repetitive tasks, a set of moves you have to do daily in order to get some positive results. So until you are proficient in that new language, or until you are that new blogging super star or until you publish your new book, you need a scaffold for your intentions. You need to create a habit of being there.

How To Create A Habit In 15 Days

All you need for that is a journal. You can use anything that fits, from pen and paper to an electronic journaling software. My choice here is the excellent MacJournal. Each day you will follow a simple set of rules thoroughly described below.

Day 1: Name your habit

Define it in the shortest, yet most understandable sentence you can write. Take your time. Write until you finally come with an atomic sentence. Your new habit could be something like this:

  • write daily on my new book
  • learn thai
  • eat healthier
  • exercise daily

Don’t go into detail here you’ll have the next day for that. That’s all you have to do in the first day.

Day 2: Describe your actions in detail

Now it’s time to get detailed. Write everything you need to perform in order to create that habit. For instance, if you want to write on your book, be as detailed as you can:

  • write each day at least 30 minutes
  • write each day at least 3000 words
  • read each day at lest 5000 words from previous chapters
  • do at least 15 minutes internet research
  • borrow time from my other tasks (family, kids, friends, kids, entertainment)

You don’t have to do all the tasks each day, but this exercise is meant to give you an idea of what you actually try to implement, to get into the “doing” vibration.

Day 3-5: Habit Implementation

During these days you’re going to journal your experiences with your habit implementation. You should be extremely accurate but without any comment whatsoever. We’re trying to break the doing from the analyzing here, so during these days don’t write any comment, just what you did. If you did nothing, write that, but don’t write the reasons.

Day 6: Your First Milestone

Now it’s time to start analyzing, This is the day when you’re commenting on your progress. If you haven’t made any progress it’s time to write the reasons. What stopped you? Which of you defined tasks in Day 2 were performed and which avoided? Be as specific as you can. You have a whole day just for assessment. When you finished this, you’re already a week away from your starting point. Whatever your progress, keep in mind that you’ve done it for one week. You only have 9 days to go.

Day 7-9: Habit Implementation Phase 2

You already have a milestone and three days of practice. You can now go on with habit implementation, applying all you’ve learned in the first milestone. Remember, just write down the action performed, not your comments.

Day 10: Second Milestone

Now you have the experience of the first milestone and even 3 more days in which you implemented, It’s time to write down your comments again. From my experience, the second milestone is the most important one. Basically, by the second milestone you already shaped most of your habit. Just write down your progress and any comments you may want to get out of your head. In the free downloadable template there’s also a little questionnaire to help you better assess your progress.

Day 11 – 14: Habit Implementation Phase 3

By now this should be on auto-pilot. Unless you have established yourself a really big goal, you should be able to use the 3rd phase only for lock-in purposes. You may focus now on the doing and enjoy the reflex of being in that context. For instance, if you wanted to start writing a book, right now you should be able to do it acceptably easy. Even more, you should be able to focus on the writing part instead of the habit creation.

Day 15: Final Evaluation Milestone

If anything were right, you just can archive this journal and move on. If you feel you can enhance a little bit the process, or even if you haven’t created your habit yet, you can restart the whole process. It’s only two weeks and you’ve done it once already.

As you may see the actual implementation part is only two-thirds of the total time, the rest is definition and evaluation. From my experience, creating a habit is largely a matter of defining it right first and then implementing it. Also, as you can see this is a fairly loose approach, I don’t think that applying over power to this process could make it more effective. The success of creating a new habit lies in your capacity to accept it and if you try too hard, you may come to a point where actually reject it.

MacJournal Template

As I already told you there is a free MacJournal template you can use if you want to start a new habit and you can download it here:


The file is archived with a Zip utility so you will need to unzip it first. After that, you should see a file with the .mjdoc extension. All you need is to double-click it and it will open in another MacJournal window. That’s of course, if you have MacJournal installed. If you don’t, you can have a look at the end of this article, there’s something there for you.

The template contains 15 entries, one for each day. In each of the entries there are several indications on what to write and how. Each entry is also named in an easy way: “habit implementation”, or “milestone”. The entries are dated on March 1st and ending on March 15th, but you can easily change the dates from MacJournal inspector, if you really need that.

Analyze Yourself

Included in the template there’s a little bonus. Apart from the 15 entries there are also two smart journals “Implementation” and “Milestones”. They are designated to be perused after you finished the whole cycle. In the “Implementation” smart journal you have listed all the implementation entries, so you won’t be distracted by any milestones or definitions. In the “Milestones” smart journal you’ll have only the milestones entries. It’s interesting to see how your implementation progressed and what you wrote on each of the milestones entries. If you’re curious about how those smart journals are created just apple-click any of them and chose “Edit Smart Journal” option from the drop-down menu.

MacJournal Promotion

If you don’t have MacJournal there’s some good news: you can buy it with an exclusive 15% discount as a valued reader. You can read all the details on the mariner promo code page.


Let me know what you think about this. Of course, the MacJournal template is not compulsory for this, you can create your own journaling environment, using whatever you see fit, from pen and paper to even more complex applications. Maybe you can even publicly blog about it. Anyway, I’m really curious how this will work for you, please let your comment, so I can adjust / improve / assess.

61 thoughts on “How To Create A Habit In 15 Days”

  1. One of the interesting things to note in habit training, is that when undoing a habit of movement, you don’t need to specify what to replace it with. If you just undo the movement limitation, what “to do” will spring forward from the background noise, as if by itself. It sort of feels strangely disorienting, like “nothing.” This is a feature of skill training too – the first ten times through will feel strange and awkward, like you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s because the human movement sense registers differences and not absolute Fact.

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  8. Came across this article while searching for a software for writing a book on macs. Fantastic Article. Thought I would share this related site here – It lets you keep track of your everyday habits. It even sends you reminders and alerts if it finds you slacking. Been using it for a few weeks now. Very effective. Thanks!

  9. My priorities are habits of movement, an area usually skipped over as inconsequential. Creating a habit seems to be much easier than getting rid of a nuisance. Past three weeks seems to be the magic number, (especially when undoing a habit is involved.)

    The exception when pain is involved. Pain is a fantastic teacher – under penalty of pain a new (and unfortunately, a pesky, pervasive) habit can be trained in 36 hours – because every time you forget to “do” your new habit, the pang alerts you about what you “forgot” to do what you had decided to do. Getting rid of ALL of a habit, (especially one trained by pain,) can take much, much longer than three weeks.

    One of the interesting things to note in habit training, is that when undoing a habit of movement, you don’t need to specify what to replace it with. If you just undo the movement limitation, what “to do” will spring forward from the background noise, as if by itself. It sort of feels strangely disorienting, like “nothing.” This is a feature of skill training too – the first ten times through will feel strange and awkward, like you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s because the human movement sense registers differences and not absolute Fact.
    .-= Franis Engel´s last blog ..F.M. Alexander Lacked The Words =-.

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  21. @elena diaconu by all means, do it! Skills without discipline are just like random ingredients. They may have some value individually, but the discipline and the art of the cook are making for a great meal.

  22. I’m telling you! this blog is amazing!it is as if it speaks my own language; i’ve been reading it for quite a while and i always discover new things about myself; now i finally understood why i wasn’t able to keep up with my writng “ambitions”…as a person of letters, used to tons of reading and analizing and discussions i thought it would be easier to start it off; but it wasn’t at all, although i had my skills, my way with words and some sort of talent as i like to call it; but now i know that i was missing focus and self discipline and that’s why i failed to be consistent; so,,,thanks; it means tha’t i’ll try it again having in mind these steps.

  23. Great post! Thanks for sharing, it made me start to think of a few new healthy habits I should start on today! I subscribed, so I will be back soon. Thanks

  24. Interesting idea! I’m wondering (and in fact I’m planning to try to use it) if I can apply it to break old/bad habits I’m having. While I expect to be a bit more difficult to break habits than creating new ones, I think that with small adaptation it might in fact work.


  25. @Ian Peatey Pen and paper rock! There’s nothing more nice than a good moleskine and a nice pen for jotting down stuff and I’m still doing this. Well, not at the same speed since I’m with my iPhone, but still. Thanks for the nice words about my blog, I appreciate it 🙂 How long are you going to be in Bucharest?

    @Lance By all means, please try it and let me know what you think. As I already wrote you can stretch or compress the periods as you see fit and I’m really curious if this is really going to work for you too.

    @nutuba journaling is extremely powerful. I started 4 years ago and I am still enjoying the benefits. Accountability is definitely one of the key points in journaling. Self-discipline is my favorite ;-).

    @Jay If you’re going to try this please let me know how it works, I know you’re into the “Inner Noodle” and this exercise can fit very well into your current field of activities. It would be interesting to share some impressions 🙂

    @BunnygotBlog Wow! Fantastic start of the week 🙂 Yes, habits are tools and it’s up to us to find better ways to use those tools every time. Glad you liked this 🙂

    @basia well, you’re very welcome to start this. Please come back and share your impressions. I’m really interested to see how it works for you 🙂

  26. it’s interesting to realise that the structured plan for creating a habit
    can make a difference.
    It sounds convincing.
    I’ll give it a try this week and will let you know after 15 days 🙂


  27. I believe you need to reconstruct habits so you don’t get into a slump.

    It is important to change habits regularly finding a better way to manage your time, productivity and flexibility.

    It isn’t a matter of “it is working for the moment”- there is always a better way to do something- in work – life in general.

    I will do the challenge – since I started something similar this morning. Over breakfast I relaxed and didn’t open Google Reader. Waited to SU until after lunch.
    My work is pleasant. I am focused and speeding through it and it is a MONDAY !!!!!


  28. 15 days hmm. I am interested for sure. I think I will give this a shot. I always thought habits took longer. This has certainly piqued my interest! Great Post.

  29. This is excellent. I’ve heard of other “form a new habit or drop a bad habit” programs in some number of days, but this presented here is a methodical approach. The journaling provides accountability to one’s self, too, which is a great idea.

  30. Hi Dragos,

    First off, you have an excellent blog here – it’s great to visit today!

    Second – I AM going to try this. There are a couple of areas in my life I’m looking to step things up, and this idea of making them a habit fits perfectly with where I’m desiring to be. Looking forward to this!

  31. Hi Dragos

    Great advice, and I’m so relieved that I don’t need MacJournal! If I did then I’d need to change my PC for a Mac and I’m just not ready to change my habits THAT much! I don’t have anything against MacJournal and I’m sure it’s a fine piece of software, but do you any deals for 15% discounts off the paper and pen option?

    Forgive me .. I’m in a strange mood today! Seriously .. I’m enjoying your blog more and more. And did you know that we’re almost neighbours?


    Current location – Bucharest

  32. @eu first of all thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. Now, about the 15 days period, there a a few reasons for that:

    1. it’s a short time frame so it’s better to try doing it in smaller chunks and to reignite the whole process after, than to commit to longer periods, like 30 days, fail, and then lack the energy to restart the process. Shorter time chunks are easier to manage, at least for me.

    2. keeping it in only a 15 days window might be something related to my personal experience, I’ve done a lot of these challenges and seems to have a little bit of ease when it comes to integrating a new habit. Of course, this doesn’t mean you HAVE to keep it in 15 days also, you can chose whatever time frame you feel comfortable with.

    3. last, but not least, it’s not about the time frame in the first place, as it is about the structure: it’s working better when it’s broken in 3 phases, with at least 2 milestones along the way. You can play with these habit implementation phases as you see fit, for instance, if you have difficulties with locking-in the habit, you can expand the phase 3 to one or even two weeks and wait for the final milestone a little bit more, that should increase your focus and motivation.

    Thanks for the comment, it really helps me to understand how other people are integrating / managing their habits 🙂

  33. I have been reading your blog for quite some time and found lots of interesting and challenging ideas.
    It happens that your habit creation post maps to a period in which I’m experimenting with creating eating habits and found that after 21days I simply forget I’m dieting and revert to old habits.
    I think it would be very interesting to know how you shaped this 15day habit program. What works for you might not work for the next, but insight on the process would definetly be interesting.


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