The Wonderful Stupidity Of Mini Habits
I have debated about how to talk about Mini Habits. I don’t want to sound like a conversion-minded zealot, in the vein of proselytizing for veganism or CrossFit (a friend drew those comparisons, which cracked me up). This is going to be much much smaller in terms of life asks. And, it may be more effective and long-lasting. Uh oh, I’m sounding like an infomercial now. Okay, why not lean into it…
Act Now! Or Later!
[start cheezy announcer voice]
Do you have some unfulfilled goal or desire in your life?
Do you want RESULTS???
Not just small… think stupidly small!
That’s MINI HABITS!!!!!
[end cheezy announcer voice]
Here’s how you can try it
- Identify something you want to do, concrete or abstract. As an example let’s say “I want to read more”
- Create a stupidly small daily goal. It must be laughably easy to accomplish, and you must commit to doing it every day. e.g. “Read 1 page a day”
- Do the tiny thing, every day.
Why do Mini Habits work?
Before on most days I would read zero pages. Now, I am reading 1 page every day. Except, on many days I end up reading more than 1 page. Before I would not bother sitting down to read at all. Now I have a goal, and it is so small that my Resistance doesn’t kick in. I just do it. And once I am doing it I often keep going.
Reading was actually a real example for me (if that wasn’t obvious). Here are some more:
- Meditate for 1 minute
- Sit at drumset for 1 minute
- Juggle for 1 minute
- Tie a knot
- Give 1 compliment
- Practice ASL for 1 minute or fingerspell one thing
- Sight-read 1 musical note
If I do all those things for the minimum it is less than 10 minutes out of my day to get eight positive things into my life.
What I’ve learned
I have been practicing this for a few months now. The honeymoon of the new has worn off. I’ve missed plenty of days and have some further tips based on experience.
Pick enjoyable things that otherwise just don’t happen
Juggling is one for me. ASL is another. So is drumming. I enjoy the action of doing them and don’t need a bigger goal.
Have a long-term goal
Maybe the tiny thing needs to be part of a bigger-picture goal. It is building toward something. I am working on what this might be for myself. It could be “I want to attain my next kung fu sash” and my Mini Goal is “practice 1 kung fu thing”.
Find a “home” for the mini-task in your daily routine
This will help it become a real habit. I starting reading my 1 page while I eat breakfast. Now it is a habit, the two things are linked in my mind. Much better than my old breakfast habit of looking at the same old stuff on my phone. Side note: my day seems to start better when I do this, which further reinforces the habit.
Make it stuuuuupidly small
I told my dad about my “sit at drumset for 1 minute” habit and he offered that I could “make it even better” by changing it to “PLAY drumset for 1 minute.” NO! That is not stupidly small enough! I might think “I don’t really want to play the drums”. The trick is to get myself to sit down. I don’t think I’ve ever sat at my drums and not played them. But plenty of times I have not sat down in the first place because I tricked myself into thinking “I don’t want to play the drums right now”. So it is “sit at drumset for 1 minute.”
Maybe the “read 1 page a day” could be “read 1 paragraph a day” or “read 1 sentence a day”. The point is to open a book. If that isn't happening, maybe the Mini Habit needs to be mini-er.
I like to make lists. I get a little charge out of checking things off. So I keep a Reminders list of my Mini Habits. It is both a reminder and a motivator. You probably can think of your own little tricks to get yourself to do the things that will incrementally add satisfaction.
One of mine is “tie a knot”. It doesn’t matter if it is the same exact knot every day. I would love to be able to tie, say, a tautline hitch as easily as I tie my shoes (without even needing to look). It totally counts as a “did” if I tie the same old tautline hitch in about 10 seconds. Check. Insisting on novelty is a good way to derail the endeavor.
Falling is learning
I miss days for various reasons. If I miss repeatedly this gives me an opportunity to consider my purpose and whether I’m setting myself up for success. Do I really want to do this thing? Do I have a specific time/trigger for the activity? Do I need to make this habit even more mini?
It’s just a tiny thing
This is not a major life change. Just try one thing. It can be anything. I’m sure there are applications far away from my examples. Get creative and enjoy the feeling of doing something you really value.
Try it yourself!
ps — I used a Mini Habit to publish this, my first blog post in nine months. See, it works.
pps — there is a book called Mini Habits, where this idea came from. I haven’t read the book — remember that reading was something I wasn’t doing? — but I did skim several detailed reviews/synopses that gave me the gist. See, smaller can be a good thing.
ppps — I learned about Mini Habits because a player for the NFL’s Detroit Lions mentioned it. See, sports can be educational.
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Earlier Post: How to take your own “professional” portrait