Creating new habits: the chain calendar

I read tons of books.

When people asked me how they could learn to read more, I told them I read X nr of pages a day. When I was 13/14 I actually read 1 book a day. Although it was an unhealthy habit for multiple reasons (I had to repass exams during the holidays to mention one) I learned a lot about creating habits.

When I started to work, I gave myself the limit of reading minimum 30 pages a day.
When I got kids, this minimum limit became 10 pages a day. A lot less, yet still +3600 pages a year. A lot more than most people I know.

My advice to people these days is to start creating a habit of reading a nr of pages every day, even if it’s only 1 page. 365 pages a year, is one book a year. Better then nothing.

I realized lately that there is a a tool that helps with creating new habits. A chain calendar.

This year I participated in a creative initiative, where people are encouraged to create one creative idea per day. ( )
And every day you did that, is counted. When you don’t publish an idea, the next day you start back at 0.


Such a creativity chain is very addictive. The first few days were very easy for me, I had a lot of creative idea’s. By the end, I felt stuck, yet, the fact that I had already such a long chain, I did not gave up.
In the end I published new idea’s for 64 days in a row (The maximum period.) Not because I am a genius. I could do it, because they have put a great system in place.

While I wrote this post, I realized that I have been using similar systems in most parts of my life.

  • Nr of steps I am talking (on my walking desk)
  • the weekly blogging of my who is serie
  • my weekly republishing of who is agile
  • I think that Foursquare reward system is also a habit creating system
  • My daily tweets at @Retroflection (I hope you agree that 1264 days in row is a nice chain

Creating a new habit, is all about setting up a system, that encourage you to keep going, even when things are hard. That is why I think it’s better to start with reading just one page a day, yet do it every day.
yes you can read two pages, yet set your minimum to something that you can achieve each and every day.
Even bad days, even days you have a big party.

And a chain calendar helps with that.
I advice people to set up a google spreadsheet (and if they need external validation, to share it with me)

Here is a link to an (advanced) example spreadsheet


What habit have you created to enhance your life?