10 Steps to Tiny Habits that Make a Big Impact
Have you ever noticed that it gets harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to figure out what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.
Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing habits and routines. That way we save them for the important stuff. It also frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.
How to Routine-ify your Day
Chances are you already have a morning routine. You get up, you get your coffee, read the paper or check email and fix some toast before heading into the shower. Let’s expand on that. If you create a “uniform” or capsule wardrobe for yourself, you don’t even have to think about what to wear. You just grab a pair of pants and a shirt, or a skirt, tights and sweater and off you go.
Implement some routines into your workday wherever possible. Meal planning helps you figure out what meals to fix and eat. A cleaning schedule makes sure you stay on track with your household chores without you having to spend any valuable decision making skills in the process.
Wrap your day up with a bedtime routine that not only helps when you’re too tired to make smart choices, it also helps you fall asleep more easily. What works for your toddler works for you as well.
Start by doing a few chores that make the next morning easier. Making sure the kitchen is clean and the kids’ school things are in order are great examples. Come up with a few calming things that help you slow down and get ready for sleep. Read a book, listen to some music or wind down with a cup of herbal tea.
Routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.
Sit down with a pen and paper and think about what parts of your day and week you can turn into routines. Write them down and create daily to-do lists for yourself until you’ve established these new habits and routines.
Spending a little bit of time creating routines and habits will make your day run a lot smoother. You might just find yourself less stressed and get more done during your productive hours. And that’s a beautiful thing. It allows you to save plenty of decision making for the fun stuff like figuring out what park to go to, what family movie to watch or what board game to play.
But, beyond the day-to-day, habits are the building blocks of our life. They are the foundation to creating what we truly want in life. Small daily changes compound over time to produce tangible results, without taking a tremendous amount of time. No matter what your dreams, no matter what your circumstances, you CAN change your life’s path by making small changes.
Here are 10 things you can do right now, TODAY, to change your life and your level of happiness:
1. Figure out who you want to be, then plan the steps you need to get there. Do you want to be CEO of your own business, a partner in a top law firm, or volunteer of the year at your kids’ school? Every path requires different skills and knowledge base, so it’s up to you to figure out what you need to be the type of person you desire.
2. Practice habit stacking – or multitasking. If you’ve been meaning to read more but can’t seem to find the time, take the 10 minutes it takes your coffee to brew in the morning to read. Don’t reach for your phone; grab your book instead. This commitment is much easier because it’s not a lot of time and you’re already spending that time waiting for your coffee. Another example is to floss right after brushing your teeth. You’re already in the bathroom so flossing is the next logical habit to start.
3. Incorporate the 2 minute rule. Instead of committing to meditating for 20 minutes every day, commit to 2 minutes. Or add an extra 2 minutes to the end of your cardio workout. Relieve stress by doing some deep breathing exercises for 2 minutes. It’s much easier to do something for 2 minutes than it is to carve out time for 20+ minutes.
4. Make clear boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to keep us sane in both our personal and professional lives. Do you want to be on call with clients 24/7 or would you like to handle business only during business hours? Do you want toxic friends or family members sucking the fun out of your family events? Consider who you want at these events and invite who you want, not who you feel obligated to invite.
5. Identify as the person you want to be. Use some adjectives to describe the type of person you want to be. Are you “someone who doesn't eat junk food" or are you “someone who’s constantly tempted by snacks”? Are you “trying to quit smoking” or are you “a non-smoker”? Turning your description of yourself into a positive voice – and dropping the word “trying” – really impacts your mindset.
6. Find your community and join them to further sink into your identity. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you keep that positive mindset; however, it takes more work to find that right community. Keep at it, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone to meet people.
7. Get back on the wagon immediately if you slip. All is not lost if you make a mistake. If you overeat at dinner time, don’t eat any more snacks and plan a healthy breakfast. If you skip a workout, there’s always tomorrow. You’ve worked hard to develop this habit so don’t allow all your hard work to go to waste because you made one simple mistake. It’s far easier to start the habit immediately than it is to start all over again months down the road.
8. Set a concrete goal for a certain number of days and don't break the chain. Tracking your habits gives you a visual reminder of all the progress you’re making but make sure it’s an attainable goal. For instance, if you want to improve your writing skills and speed, consider a goal of writing 500 words per day for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, consider tracking for another 30 days. Setting a goal that’s too large – such as writing 10,000 words per day – is overwhelming and can lead to giving up. Seeing your progress will give you an increased energy to keep moving forward.
9. Choose concrete goals instead of abstractions. “Getting healthy” or “going to the gym” are not concrete goals; they are too abstract and they don’t lead to forming healthy habits. Instead, choose to do 5-10 pushups a day. You’ll still get healthy by doing this over time but the initial time investment is nominal. At some point it will become second nature – a new habit – at which point you can add another tiny habit to the mix.
10. If you start too big, don’t give up; make your tiny habit even smaller. So often we’ll set “tiny” habits that are still too big because we’re used to thinking of everything as oversized. If you can’t run for 15 minutes, drop it down to a time that is possible for you to complete. If you can’t get motivated to go to the gym, let your first tiny habit be getting your sneakers on. Then your second tiny habit can be filling your water bottle. These tiny habits are meant to become automatic movements that you just don’t think about once they’re ingrained. In the end, all these tiny habits build on each other and you will find yourself at the gym or running for 15 minutes.
Living your best life means something different to every single person and it doesn’t have to mean having fame and fortune. Your definition may be drastically different from that of your partner or best friend, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If something isn’t working, then it’s time to explore how to change our tiny habits so we receive the outcome we want.