The 30-day approach to self-discipline

Hi fellow indie hackers,

I wanted to share my approach to self-discipline.

1. Set a goal you want to create a habit for

There are so many things in my day to day life I would like to create a habit for. If I would start all those activities, no matter how small they are, simultaneously my day would be filled. That's why I pick 1 thing I would like to make a habit and I will do it for 1 month. This month I will meditate 30 consecutive days.

2. Start small!

Now you can start meditating and try to be like a Tibetan monk and meditate for an hour a day, but I can promise you that every day will feel like you have to climb the Mount Everest. You are not used to your new habit yet, otherwise, it would be a habit already. That's why it's important to start very small. Even doing your new habit for a minute a day can get your mind used to the fact of DOING your habit. Because eventually this one minute, or maybe five, will get easy after one month, and this is an indicator of your progression towards your new habit.

3. Make a tick sheet

To make your goal more fun you can create a tick sheet. A tick sheet is a sheet where you can put a checkmark for every day you executed your new habit. The game is about not breaking the chains of checkmarks. You are allowed to have one day off, of your habit, once a week. For that day you write down an R for Rest. The game is to not break the chain of checkmarks and Rs for the entire month. If you did your habit 6 days a week with 4 resting days you should end up with 26 checkmarks and 4 Rs. My advice is also to print out the tick sheet and put it in your bedroom or bathroom. I've tried some digital apps but I truly noticed that I didn't open the app after a week anymore, despite the notification it sent me daily. I tent to get notification blind after a while and I think I'm not alone.

4. Tips for strengthening your habit

If after 30 days you feel like dropping your habit immediately, consider two things. Is this habit truly beneficial for my life or is it something I truly hate? I have tried to integrate doing a cold shower every day but, especially in the winter, I hated it so much I couldn't keep the habit... But for my meditation habit, something I really like to do and need, I want to take it to a higher level next month. This month I'm doing a minimal of 5 minutes or more and if I don't break the chain for this month I will increase the minimal time for next month. Also being held accountable by someone works pretty good for me. Make a bet with someone that you will keep your promise and keep doing the darn habit for 30 days!

I'm curious about discipline strategies from you guys and please let me know what you think of this strategy!


  1. 5

    Awesome, thorough post! I wanted to raise a friendly counter to one point and see what you think.

    Make a bet with someone that you will keep your promise and keep doing the darn habit for 30 days

    I think this type of accountability can work for a very specific type of person doing a very specific type of task. eg I think for a meditation habit it might just work fine. That is, for something that you KNOW that you want to do and that you KNOW is good for you, this sounds great.

    But in GENERAL I don't think it's a working strategy, at least for people like entrepreneurs. Because ... what about all of the unknowns of entrepreneur life? What if, as entrepreneurs who struggle to ship and struggle to market - what if our accountability problems were actually clarity problems, and what if our clarity problems were actually empathy problems, and what if our empathy problems were actually problems of a lack of community?

    What if you're an entrepreneur who pivots more than a ballerina? Who spins faster than an oklahoma fair ride (analogies courtesy @c0nsilience)? Well you're really hard on yourself because you can't just stick to something. You wish you could change. But the nature of this beast is that it's not possible to KNOW that you're going down the right path. You make assumptions, you test them, you adjust. So you can lay money on the line to promise to ship X by Y date... but what if you conduct market research during that phase and learn that people don't want X? Are you supposed to spend 2 more months building something that the market has already told you it doesn't want?

    This ties back to a point that @8bit made the other day that we often THINK we lack discipline when in fact that's not the problem at all.

    Failure to finish something that isn't worth finishing is hardly failure. That's my working theory. Still honing in.

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      i wrote a post about some of this stuff that i've been thinking about...

      ... part of my story is that i just kept building... i learned all that i needed while i was doing just that:

      An important point to not miss is this: I didn't have a plan to become an entrepreneur; entrepreneurship found me. I also learned most of what I needed when it came to product design and business mechanics by simply launching and shipping, through the natural course of a project's lifecycle. Over years (now, decades+!) I've acquired a suite of skills, habits, and behaviors that I can leverage for any sized project, whether indie (e.g. solo project) or venture funded!


    2. 1

      Good point! I should have emphasized that more in my post. There's a difference between 'outcome' goals and 'activities' goals. Activities could be like you say, meditation, or publishing content for your project. However, outcome goals are not suitable in this case (I think you should avoid them at all time). I can make a goal that after 30 days I would like to have 1000 followers on Instagram but I can't guarantee this. The activity goal could be publishing content for 30 days and hope you'll get 1000 followers. Even if after 2 weeks of scheduling you don't even have 100 followers you can pivot to target another target market on Instagram and still keep track of your agreement to do 30 days of publishing. The idea is to build the habit of keeping your own promise :)

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        Wonderful point. It's like the whole idea of strategies vs tactics. Or goals vs tasks.

  2. 2

    Great tips!

    I like the practice of stacking habits. This allows you to move from one habit to the next without really having to use much more (if any) decision power. For example: As soon as I finish with a shower, I brush my teeth. I don't have to think about brushing my teeth, I just do it.

    It also helps to stack new habits on top of already established habits. The already established habit acts as an activation for the new habit. In your case, if you want to meditate in the mornings, you can use the act of getting up out of bed as your activation habit. If you get up out of bed, you meditate. They go hand in hand.

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    Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun :) Read this to experience that sentiment how I build habits and what to do after 30 days

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    Personally, I can relate to this. Additionally, I ask myself....Do I be believe that this new habit X will improve my life. Or am I merely competing with myself for the sake of competing. What is the motivation behind? I want to be happier in life... That is my most important goal and driving force.

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      What habit are you currently trying to create?

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        I try to cut down on sugar. I have a problem with addiction.

        I think I have found the key. I started to meditate a year ago. When I meditate, I am in touch with my body. It basically tells me what I need and I don't need sugar in huge chocolate-like-amounts. I have been testing this approach for about a week, so it is too early for a make a conclusion, but I have tried to 'talk' to my body before and very successfully. A couple of years ago, I wanted to work out in the mornings, and when I woke up the first morning, by chance I asked my body, what do you want to do body: Sleep or work out? ... The Body answered let's go to work (out). I did not have to motivate myself. I just followed my body😃

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          That such a good thing to change in your life! I try to do the same thing (not as a goal per se). Truly listen to my body if it's really longing for that sweetness or something.

          Recently I have read The Science of Being Well from Wallace D Wattles. Something I learnt from him as well is that you only need to eat when you're hungry. It sounds so simple but I'm so used to eating at a certain time because I'm used to that.

  5. 1

    You’re right about digital apps. I’ve tried many but most didn’t work well offline. There’s an app I am using called “done”. It’s simple and effective habit tracked. That has been working well for my 100 push-ups for 100 days challenge I have set myself. Almost a month in now.

    Meditation would be great but with a baby it’s kind of impossible.

    1. 1

      Wow 100 push-ups for 100 days is impressive man🙌🏼 And concerning meditation. It’s not about the minutes we spent on it, it’s about spending time on it. Every time you focus on your breathe, even if you’re holding your baby, it’s a moment of mindfulness.

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