Habit Forming with Micro Habits
We’ve talked a lot about routine, and I know that my morning routine I’ve been sharing can seem like… a lot.
Like, it is a lot. It takes me 2 hours to go through everything at a comfortable pace. I hope that I’ve conveyed the benefits of putting that effort in, because for me it’s not only necessary to include those things in my day, and my system, in order for me to ‘survive and thrive’ – it’s also all stuff I want to do, that makes me happy and comfortable and fulfilled.
But, you don’t have to start there.
In fact, if you don’t currently have a morning routine, it would be a bit of a stretch to expect yourself to DO ALL THE THINGS, every day, and keep it up until it all becomes habit.
Remember, this system has developed for me over time, like my bullet journal and all the other stuff. I’ve figured it out as I went along, and there have been many, many abject failures, and other times when I’ve just gone way off track before bringing it back for myself.
With any routine, you have to start small.
Micro Habits, They Call Them
It’s where you make one tiny change and stick with it for a while, and then that becomes a trigger for another change, so that you end up creating a positive chain.
So pick one thing.
Is it getting up as soon as the alarm goes off each morning? Set it the night before and leave it on the other side of the room (plug your charger in over there, is what I do). Make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time to get enough sleep, but even if you have a bad night, understand you’re getting up as soon as the alarm goes off. Regardless. It’s too fucking easy to make excuses. When you hear it ring, just countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and move. That one is a Mel Robbins trick that is really useful in many situations, by the way. You can find more on that in her book The 5 Second Rule (on Amazon US here, or on Amazon UK here). Get out of bed, stay out of bed, then go and pee, brush your teeth, drink water. Whatever is the logical next step for you to get moving and stay moving.
You can use the micro habit thing for starting any habit, but if you (eventually) want to make a series of big changes, try and list them all out, then pick the logical first one. Where do you need to start? Start there.
You’ll need to find a trigger event or condition, a cue that is the same every day. You can begin something that will be on every other day, by the way, rather than 7 days per week, but honestly my best success has been with just biting the bullet and doing the thing 7 days a week. Once it’s formed, you can take an occasional down day or day off if circumstances run differently, but it’ll take the daily repetition to form a habit. If the habit you want to form is to get up at a certain time on workdays, you’re just gonna have to get used to the fact that that’s your new wake up time every day. Soz, not soz. It’s for the best.
So choose the right cue to remind you of your goal, and kick off the new behaviour. I find something that is sort of unavoidable to happen at the same time every day to be the best one. Coming home from work, if that’s a regular time for you. Letting the dog out last thing at night. Your first morning pee. And if you don’t wake up needing to pee each morning, please increase your water intake, you are dehydrated. You’re welcome. Anyway, you get the idea.
Whatever the habit you eventually want to form is, please start small. You’re making a tiny change here, eg, take a 5 minute walk around the block. One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking we have to go from zero to hero in one fell swoop. You really don’t. Yes, you may truly want or even need to be walking 30 minutes a day every day. That’s a great goal to build up to. But if you’re starting from no walking, and can do those 5 minutes a day every day, that’s still over 30 minutes that week that you didn’t walk last week. You’re winning, keep going.
Do 5 minutes a day every day for the following week, and you’re 14 days into a habit. That’s serious progress. At that point, you could just keep going that way and really bed in your walking habit for the following 2 weeks, giving you a well established month’s worth of daily habit. That’s a huge success! Or, if you’re getting a little frustrated with only walking the 5 minutes, you could at that point (but not before!) raise the bar – only a little – and make it 10 minutes a day, every day. You see how this all works out, I’m sure. Eventually you will build up to the goal you want, without the side-effects of feeling overwhelmed or exerting any more willpower. It makes sense right?
The most important bit though, to include from the very start of your micro habit, is a little reward once you’ve done the thing each day. Something small that you enjoy, that won’t end up being real bad for you as you indulge in it every single day! A soothing cup of tea or coffee, a fancy piece of fruit, your first facebook check-in of the day, a piece of music you love, or curling up to read or watch something you love. Whatever floats your boat.
There’s a bit more to this whole habit forming (or breaking) thing, which we’ll definitely go deeper into as we move through the days. But for now, what 1 thing are you going to change from today, or tomorrow morning? What positive habit would you like to form, starting now?
Give us a shout in the comments below and tell us!
All the best