I’ve been tracking my habits with my app 30 Days for a few months now, and I’ve learned a very important lesson:
Tiny habits work better
I tend to pick big challenges (habits). I have big goals, don’t we all? But big tough challenges are hard to stick with.
According to James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, habits build skills through repetition - a thousand tiny repetitions creates way more progress than a few massive repetitions.
Quantity over quality… or as they say quantity has a quality all it’s own.
A few of my current challenges include; morning planning challenge, go to the gym fitness challenge, shipping challenge, oursource challenge, marketing challenge, strategy study challenge, no new challenge, Mandarin reading challenge, etc…
30 Days (my habit tracking app) makes it really easy to see which challenges I’m sticking to and which ones I’m skipping days on.
The pattern is pretty clear.
I’m doing great on quick and easy pass / fail (tiny) challenges and having a tough time with bigger / more nebulous challenges.
Let me get specific.
I’m trying to break a news reading habit.
I created a ’no news challenge’. This is a hard habit ~ I’m basically asking myself to have 24/7 willpower for a month. It’s not going well. My best no-news streak so far is 7 days.
I also created a ‘phone and iPad in a box in the living room before bed challenge’. The idea is to ’re-engineer my environment’ to break my news reading habit.
This challenge is tiny and has been going great. I’ve not missed a single day since starting the challenge and when my devices aren’t in the bedroom I get better sleep, waste way less time, and am much more productive. I’d even say that I’m starting to have an easier time avoiding the news. I’m less triggered which makes avoiding the news much easier.
Our big habits are triggered by our pivotal tiny habits. You may not feel like writing a blog post, but if you can just open up your editor and write the first paragraph the other paragraphs will get written.
Conversely, if you pick up your phone to check your email that ‘brief check’ will lead to browsing the web… and checking your social media accounts… and spending hours of your day mindlessly browsing.
The point is a tiny habit is mighty - it sends you off along a path of action. Trigger a good tiny habit and you’ll do something productive. Trigger a bad tiny habit and you’ll waste a bunch of time.
I created the ‘put the phone in the box in the living room’ challenge because the ’no news challenge wasn’t working’. I wanted a tiny habit that could defuse the bigger ‘phone binging habit’.
My thinking was that I needed a tiny habit - something super easy to do so that motivation was not an issue. The new habit needed to make starting the bad habit harder.
My bad habit starts with picking up my phone as I rest on my bed. Hence make it impossible to pick up my phone.
If you want to create a good habit you can do the same thing.
Think about the first step of the good habit. Build a tiny habit around that. Think about the trigger of a bad habit. Build a new tiny habit around that.
Read 1 page of a book, do one pushup before bed, message one customer etc…
I’m going through my big challenges - the ones that are stalled out - and seeing what happens if I apply these ideas.
The results have been impressive so far. I’ll let you know how things go as I learn more.