Less is more with mini habits
What is an ocean but a multitude of drops – David Mitchell
I am writing this post from Chang Mai, Thailand. For those of your who don’t know, Thai New Year, called “Songkran” is celebrated between the 13th and 15th of April every year. It is the year 2557 in Thailand as it follows the Buddhist calendar. Songkran is a three-day festival involving water fights and lots of parties.
It is almost 16 weeks since our new year. Did you make any resolutions? If so how are they going for you? If you are like 92% of people (see here) you have probably already failed.
What I ask of you is not to wait until next New Year to try again.
Take action today.
Why new habits fail.
- Lack of motivation
- Unclear goals
- Unrealistic expectations
- Poor planning
- Too difficult
- Lack of social support/accountability
- Goal scares them
If you rely solely on motivation you will fail. The simple reason for this is that your energy and motivation levels vary day to day.
We all dream of all these over ambitious goals at the start of the year but how many of them are completed by the end of the year?
I used to always write a dozen or so goals. Mastering the Olympic lifts, learning a language, running a marathon are just a few that I used to plan to perfect. I still have come nowhere near to completing any of them. The problem with my goals was expecting too much too soon.
Introducing mini habits
“The perfect foundation for doing more of something is having an existing habit of that behavior” Stephen Guise.
Mini habits work by stacking the deck in your favor. This provides easy wins from the onset and helps you gain momentum and confidence with your new habit.
Author of the mini habit system, Stephan Guise recommends making your mini habits laughably easy. He recommends one pushup as a mini habit to the habit of exercising regularly. It takes about 1 second to complete making it laughably easy. For those of you who cannot do a full pushup, try a pushup from the knees.
“Knowledge is nothing without action”. – Unknown
Some days you will only do one pushup, but many times you will complete more reps. You will start to be active everyday consistently. Instead of opting out because a 45 minute gym session is too daunting.
I have started using his recommendation of writing 50 words every day. In the past I would miss days because I felt I wouldn’t write enough. Some days I write 50 words, on other days I will write over 1,000.
The key here is that I am now writing everyday!
8-step guide to mini habits.
The following 8 step guide comes from “Mini Habit: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results”
Step 1: Choose your mini habits and habit plan
First choose the habits you want to form. If you want to read 40 pages every day, your mini habit could be to read 2 pages every day.It is recommended not to choose anymore than 3 mini habits at a time.
It can be difficult for some people to focus solely on one habit and focus on that for 30-60 days.Implement your new habit(s) for one week.
Was it still a bit too much or was it effortless? It should not take longer than 10 minutes to complete all the habits.
Now picture your most stressful day. Is it still possible to implement this habit when you are short on time and motivation?
Step 2: Start with why
Define why you want to implement this new habit? Is it for superficial extrinsic reasons? If this is the case it may not be the right habit for you.
So ask yourself why until you get to the source of your motivation. Find the route motivation behind your new habit. This answer will help you during the tough times.
Write it down.
Step 3: Define habit cues
Decide when you will complete your new habit each day. This can be a time-based cue (7am, 6pm) or an activity-based cue (after lunch, before dinner).
I successfully implemented daily meditation first thing in the morning and found that to be the best time for that habit. In general I think it is better to implement new habits earlier in the day but the important thing is that it fits your lifestyle.
Remember, this habit should be stupidly simple so even if you forget and are going to bed it should be easy to finish it there and then!
Step 4: Create a reward plan
This is important to reinforce a new habit over time. Even if you just complete the daily habit and no more you should feel happy. If you perform 90% extra feel free to reward yourself with entertainment or whatever it is you enjoy guilt free.
Step 5: Track everything
Writing things down physically reinforces it above regular thoughts. This works much more effectively than recording on a computer. Another option is to use a calendar and mark off each day you complete your habit.
Step 6: Think small
The whole point of mini habits is implementing a foundation, which does not tax your willpower. It makes it much easier to build on a positive habit no matter the size of it.
So if your mini habit is 1 squat/day. Some days you will perform 50 squats and be exhausted the following day but you can still manage that one squat. This keeps the habit alive. There will never be an excuse to fail because 1 squat is always achievable.
Step 7: Meet your daily schedule and be content with that.
At times you may feel that you are underachieving or “cheating”. This is the main trap you need to avoid. Writing 50 words a day is easy, Bumping it up to 500 may work for a while but eventually it will become too taxing on your willpower. This brings you back to the initial reason why your old resolutions failed.
Step 8: Watch for signs of a habit
No resistance: it feels easier to do the habit than not.
Something feels missing when you don’t do it.
You complete it almost automatically, like driving or washing the dishes.
How many times have you tried and failed to implement a positive habit in your life? The key is to make it too easy to fail, and do so guilt free.
Pick 1-3 habits you would like to implement.
Turn them into mini habits.
Make the habit laughable easy; it should be impossible to fail.
Enjoy the positive benefits in your life.