The 30-Day Realistic Micro-Habit Challenge

Jan 04, 2021
Created by the author — original image from Pexels


It feels like everyone is taking on some kind of crazy challenge at the moment. This isn’t one of those 30-day challenges where you need to wake up at an ungodly hour or put your body through torture. Let’s be kind to ourselves rather than forcing our bodies and minds through something we can’t keep up.

A micro-habit is a small act making use of minimal time and often latching onto tasks we do anyway. I’ve learned willpower is fickle from BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits and James Clear’s Atomic Habits so everything on this list is intentionally easy. I believe you can do this and carry the habits long into your future.

Every micro-habit is backed by research and I’ve successfully included them in my life. I’ve steered clear of fluff to focus on what can work for most people.

The new habits are introduced in a way to build on the previous days for those who want to take it on in a structured way. Many lists overwhelm us with too many ideas at once, but you can add more value to your life by engaging in small doses each day.

If you want to skip a micro-habit or take longer to try out all of them then there is no judgment from me. If you want to implement a few of them straight away then go ahead. Adjust this list to work for you because, above all, it’s to help you live and feel better.

Ready? Here we go!


Day 1: Brush your teeth standing on one leg.

I start with this micro-habit because when you stick to it for the next 30 days, you should see a big improvement. Balance can be underrated but it’s crucial as we age to reduce mobility issues. It’s not just muscles involved in keeping us steady and good balance is a strong indicator of overall brain health.

It’s as simple as standing on your left leg in the morning and your right leg in the evening. To start with aim to hold it for the whole 2–2.5 minutes you brush. As this became easy for me, I started raising my leg higher up and even play with closing my eyes.


Day 2: Make sure your butt goes to the back of the seat whenever you sit down.

Whenever I used to try to fix my poor seated posture, I ended up trying too hard for a few days then reverting to my old ways. I sit at a computer a lot and had the terrible habit of sliding my butt towards the front of the seat.

Now keep one thing in mind only: get your butt right against the backrest. If you think of this one small point every time you sit down, the other bits feel more natural. Once you have this down then make sure you don’t let your shoulders slump forward.


Day 3: Grayscale phone except when taking photos.

Color is amazing, isn’t it? Flowers will blossom with bright, bold colors to draw the bees in and they are helpless to resist. Similarly, the apps we install use colors to draw us in, and often we aren’t much better than the bees.

Try turning your phone to grayscale mode; on an iPhone, it is triple-clicking the right-side button. It looks dull, doesn’t it? That’s a good thing as you’ll be less attracted to wasting time on it. There’s a reason Hollywood doesn’t make many films in black and white anymore.

I only take my phone off grayscale if I’m taking a picture or looking at personal photos now. Instagram is way less fun as a result.


Day 4: Turn off autoplay and leave the control and your phone next to the TV.

Many of the bad habits we have related to technology are because products are designed to be addictive by reducing our resistance. Autoplaying shows and forcing the watcher to press ‘stop’ is an easy win for streaming services. Raise your hand if you’ve ever accidentally watched an entire season in one sitting because ‘the next episode has already started’.

Try two easy ways to stop the cycle; turn off auto-play and leave your control next to the TV. To carry on watching more than one episode in a row, you need to physically get up now which gives you the chance to choose to do something else with your time.

*If you put your hand up, remember to put it down again.


Day 5: Set up automatic investing.

With modern websites and apps, it takes 10 minutes to create an account and commit to a specific amount being dripped in every month. They make it easy for you by giving you the options of a few balanced portfolios.

After this small effort, you have an investing habit with zero ongoing effort or time. Perfect. The only effort is when you need to take the money out again or if you want to increase or decrease the monthly outgoing. This isn’t investment advice and you should do thorough research and be aware you can lose money as well as gain.

How’s your phone doing? I hope you’ve kept it grayscale.


Day 6: When you finish work, turn your world upside down.

Most of the time gravity is pulling blood towards our feet, the simple act of laying on your back and putting your legs against the wall can offer a release. It’s especially useful if you find yourself with swollen feet and ankles after standing up all day.

I like doing this as it serves to literally change my perspective and break out of work-mode. I will lay there and chill for a bit before continuing my evening. If you have significant health issues, check with a professional before adding this to your routine.


Day 7: Do extra squats whenever you go to the bathroom.

Everyone reading this is human so we all need to answer nature’s call. As I learned with elderly relatives, getting up off the toilet with ease isn’t something we should take for granted. Doctors use the ability to stand up after being sat down as a test for functional fitness. The reality of sitting for long periods whilst working is not our friend in the long term.

While you have the privacy, why not sit down and get up a few extra times to help maintain the muscles. Squats aren’t just for gym rats, we all need to keep the muscles strong and even if you do an extra 5–10 a day because of this habit, it will add up over time.


Day 8: When queuing make sure your hips are level.

It might be a British thing but I find myself queuing or waiting in a line a lot. Next time you are in a line, look at everyone else, most people have their weight off-center and are hunched forward looking at their phone.

Rather than focus on all the tenets of good posture, just try to keep your hips level with each other and have your shoulders inline above them. This can prevent muscular imbalances and potential for back pain.


Day 9: Delete mobile apps and use the websites instead.

Here’s our next strike against phone addiction.

The apps we use have entire teams dedicated to making you want to use them as much as possible. The more time you spend with them, the more ads or products they can sell you, the more money you make them. It’s much harder for the website versions on your phone to have as good a user experience.

Keep the apps you need such as for banking but delete the mindless ones. As a bonus, you won’t get notifications either!


Day 10: Follow the 20–20–20 rule.

If you turned autoplay off on day 4 then it should be rarer you are staring at a screen for hours consecutively already.

Many people’s jobs require them to spend long hours staring at a computer screen which unsurprisingly we haven’t evolved to do.

Help to reduce the strain in your eyes by every 20 minutes looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. I tend to set a timer and stand up and walk over to the window for good measure.


Day 11: No sugar in tea or coffee.

My dad absolutely hates this suggestion and some of your faces may have recoiled in disgust at the thought of taking sugar away from your tea and coffee. Yet research shows your taste buds adjust after two weeks and you won’t notice the difference.

We don’t need the extra helpings of sugar as much of the developed world struggles with diabetes pandemics. Hot drinks are one of the few times we physically add in the sugar ourselves so there’s no one else to blame. You can do it!


Day 12: Leave Vitamin D spray in front of your toothbrush for the winter.

I’m from London so we are lucky if we get the sun for a few days in a row. It’s common for people from milder countries to be vitamin D deficient because of the lack of sunlight. Vitamin D is critical to a healthy immune system so we need to get it from somewhere else.

I use a spray from Amazon because it’s quick. I leave it in front of my toothbrush so I can’t forget to spray even when rushing.


Day 13: Unfollow any accounts that stress you out.

It is a wonder of the modern world how we go to Twitter or Facebook knowing something will outrage us and spoil our mood but we do it anyway. I avoided Twitter like the plague before but now I’m on it, I want to use it mindfully.

I protect myself by avoiding the scandal sidebar of whatever is trending. There’s a difference between someone sharing to inform you and them sharing to get an emotional response to get more engagement. I don’t need that drama in my life, I’m trigger happy with the unfollow button and you should be too. How Twitter sees an event often isn’t how it actually plays out.


Day 14: Eat before shopping.

The concept of going food shopping when hungry and buying every treat you can find seems logical. Yet I was surprised to learn our hunger makes us more likely to impulse buy anything. This includes when you’re sitting at home and scrolling through the sales.

Our body craves a reward and will take the dopamine hit of the purchase even if it isn’t food. If you want to be careful about what you eat or save some cash, only shop when your stomach is satisfied.


Day 15: Cheat day.

You’re halfway there!

Today don’t look at the list at all and see how many you instinctively do. It won’t be perfect and it isn’t a competition. This day will give you a better idea of which habits work for you and whether there are any adjustments you can make to suit you.


Day 16: Before going to sleep let your neck and shoulders hang off the edge of your bed.

Do you ever go to bed feeling a bit meh? You aren’t the only one. One part of my bedtime routine is this simple stretch which opens up the chest and gets the blood flowing to the heart and brain.

Lay on your bed but only up to your mid-back then let your head and shoulders lean toward the floor for however long feels comfortable to you. As well as feeling relaxing, it relieves some of the damage of hunching over a desk too.


Day 17: Leave a glass of water on your phone.

When we are asleep, our bodies are still using up our water reserves meaning we wake up in a dehydrated state. You probably know you should get a glass of water in the morning but everything feels like more effort when you are dehydrated.

I set my day off right by keeping a glass of water on top of my phone. I use my modern-day need to check my phone to make myself fulfill my primal need for water.


Day 18: Put your phone on airplane mode in another room before sleeping.

Your phone should have been black and white for over two weeks now, well done!

You may still be using your phone just before you go to sleep and aimlessly scrolling through. 3 minutes to check Instagram becomes 3 hours in an internet black hole and now you have a poor night’s sleep.

I remove temptation completely by putting my phone on airplane mode in another room before I get into bed. In the nearly 10,000 times I’ve gone to sleep, I struggle to think of 10 times where something urgent came up at night that I needed to answer. Use your good judgment, if it’s your kid’s first-ever sleepover then don’t put your phone on airplane mode.


Day 19: Listen to songs that make you want to dance during errands.

In the internet’s obsession with productivity, it can be tempting to want to listen to podcasts whenever you can or binaural beats to focus. Yet don’t forget music’s ability to boost our wellbeing. Not everything needs to be productive, have fun!

While some people love doing errands like cleaning the bathroom, I’ve never taken a liking to them. Yet I blare out Bhangra music loud through my headphones and have a party of one. It goes much faster and I’m in a great mood afterward.


Day 20: Rock your weight forward and backward when standing for a long time.

Hopefully, you have your hips level now as you’ve been practicing since day 8. You aren’t a robot though and it can get uncomfortable to maintain the same standing position for too long. Instead of shifting your weight side to side, move it between the balls of your feet and the heels. Make sure you still keep your upper body balanced.

If you are self-conscious, you can do this discreetly with small movements. I’m not too bothered by people thinking I’m crazy in a queue so I lift my heels high off the ground as a calf raise.


Day 21: Make your bed every day.

US Navy Admiral, William McRaven gave his famous speech at the University of Texas in 2014 and the message still rings true.

It’s about achieving one thing early in the day and letting the little victory matter. Even when life seems a bit lost, you know you can rely on yourself to do this one small task.


Day 22: Choose an affirmation and say it to yourself whenever you see yourself in the mirror.

I thought affirmations were lame growing up, maybe you still do. Yet in the national Karate squad, it was a key part of the psychological side of competing. It’s been proven in multiple studies, in both sports and everyday life, to reduce stress.

What you use as your affirmation is personal to you but keep the same one for a little while and say it whenever you see your reflection. The constant repetition will influence your brain until eventually, you believe it. Insecurity can eat away at anyone, it doesn’t make you weak.


Day 23: No screens while eating.

One reason why we overeat is that we don’t realize we are full because our minds are so distracted. We can’t enjoy the taste of the food when our other senses are working so hard to watch TV.

It’s another opportunity to slow down and unplug. It worried me how I pull out my phone on autopilot at the dinner table and if you struggle too, take it as a challenge.


Day 24: Make the bathroom a phone-free zone.

How many squats are you doing when you go to the bathroom now?

If you live with others, time in the bathroom is one of the few parts of the day when you can be alone with your thoughts. Take advantage of these moments of peace rather than using them to catch up with your messages. If anyone gets annoyed that you took a few minutes to reply, it says more about them than it does about you!


Day 25: If a call has your full attention, never be sitting down.

It’s been two weeks since you stopped adding sugar to your tea and coffee. Are you used to it yet?

When you’re on an old fashioned call, take the opportunity to up your step count. The movement serves to make you more alert!


Day 26: Always take the elevator one floor less than you actually need.

This one is self-explanatory, you know what the aim is here. Yet rather than convincing yourself you’ll completely skip the elevator, start with one floor at a time. It’s harder to be too lazy to climb one set of stairs.


Day 27: Take one deep breath before reaching to doomscroll.

Does your phone measure your screen time? Has it decreased this month with the other tips? Here’s one final tip to bring down your time staring at that little screen.

According to Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, many of us do not breathe properly. We breathe too quickly and not deep enough. Yet the average American finds time to check their phone 52 times a day. Take a pause every time you want to reach for your phone for no urgent reason.

Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, and release for 5 seconds.

You might find you don’t need to check your phone anymore. If you still check it, at least you’re training your respiratory system to take slower breaths.


Day 28: Try a new vegetable every time you shop.

Did you know the color of a vegetable can tell us what essential nutrients it contains? We want a wide range of foods to reduce our chances of severe deficiencies.

One way to do this is to try a new vegetable every time you go shopping. This will keep you going for some time as modern supermarkets have such a wide variety available. You may find an exotic vegetable you’ve never tried which becomes your favorite food!

As you’ve been eating before going shopping since day 14, it should be easier to make the healthy choice.


Day 29: Wear sunscreen whenever in the sun for long periods.

You’ve protected yourself from not getting enough sun on day 12 but everything in moderation. The sun gives us so much but unfortunately, skin cancer is included. UV rays from the sun can damage our skin even when it’s cloudy. We need to protect our skin for our health not only aesthetics.

The simplest way to make this part of your routine is to use a moisturizer that comes with a sun protection factor. It takes seconds each day but could add years to your life.

P.S. How long can you keep your balance while brushing your teeth now?


Day 30: Do one random act of kindness a day.

Being kind to others makes us happier but don’t get caught up in needing other people’s gratitude.

Be content with the internal satisfaction of doing the right thing. It doesn’t have to be big at all. Maybe you hold the door open for someone, call a parent, or compliment someone. If we all tried to do one good deed a day then this world would be a more pleasant place to live.

The challenge is over but I hope you can keep some of these micro-habits going. You won’t manage all of them so don’t put pressure on yourself to do so. If you can stick to a few, even if you adjust them to suit your life then the challenge has been a success and you’re living slightly better than before.

If you take on the challenge, tag me on social media, I’d love to see your progress. Do you have any more ideas? Share them as it may benefit someone else. Have a wonderful day.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.