As we come to the middle of the year, how are you doing on your new year’s resolutions? With only 8% of people achieving their resolutions, it’s safe to say many of us have given up on our goals.
Here’s the good news: You can get back on track and it’s super easy.
Resolutions fail due to various reasons, but we tend to assume that failure means it’s over. Instead, a healthier approach is to adopt Stephen Guise’s philosophy of Mini Habits. It’s a simple way to improve yourself without the pressure of resolutions weighing you down or making you feel bad about yourself.
Why Mini Habits Are Better
A new year’s resolution is overwhelming. Your mind will plot out a huge goal spanning across an entire year, with all the many milestones you will need to hit. Once your initial excitement subsides, it’s daunting.
Mini habits, on the other hand, fit into your life as it is now. As you can see in the talk above by BJ Fogg of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, researchers have found that one of the most efficient ways to build a new habit is to stack it on top of an existing one.
A popular example of this is that if you want to make flossing your teeth a habit, then do it every time you’re answering nature’s call. Hey, you’re in the bathroom, you’re not using your hands, might as well get this little task done!
Done consistently over a long time, these mini habits can spark massive personal change. But before you start, it’ll be helpful to know a few simple requirements for what constitutes a mini habit:
- Reduce resistance to a minimum. If a mini habit requires you to do several steps, it might not be the right one. It should be easy to take action. It’s the tipping point of behavior change.
- It shouldn’t require you to exercise willpower. The willpower muscle takes time to build, so don’t try to do that while inculcating a new habit. Just make sure your new regular task is something you will do happily and naturally, without complaining.
- Start as small as possible. Want to get into the habit of working out every day? Just do one pushup daily. Just one. Nothing more. And then build on it. The one-pushup challenge has shown how small habits can lead to large changes.
Like with any habit you are trying to inculcate, technology can lend a hand and make things easier for you. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular new year resolutions and how you can achieve them with mini habits.
The 7-minute workout is of the most popular Internet exercise regimens, with a whole bunch of YouTube videos about it. As a mini habit, it’s a great place to start exercising regularly. It has two unique features that make it easy:
- You don’t need any equipment and…
- You’re done in just seven minutes.
The New York Times’ 7-minute workout app is the best app for this. It’s a web-based app that works perfectly on desktop or mobile. It’s well designed and demonstrates each exercise, along with a colorful countdown timer and an instructor that tells you what to do.
If the 7-minute workout isn’t for you, maybe you should take the Hundred Push-ups challenge, which starts you off slowly and in two months, will build you to a point where you can do 100 push-ups without stopping. Before you begin though, make sure you take the test and follow instructions.
Set a Positive Password
It might sound silly, but the password you enter daily can change your life. Mauricio Estrella found this through a simple experiment when he was going through a rough divorce. He wrote about his experiences on Medium, noting how positive passwords like “Forgive her” and “Quit Smoking” led to dramatic positive lifestyle changes.
You should still make a secure, unbreakable password, but do it in a way where its message is a positive change that you want to bring about. Ideally, use this as a password for something you access every day, like your email or your Facebook account.
Ditch Facebook and Be Positive
Speaking of Facebook, it’s well documented at this point that Facebook can make you sad. The social network is a highlights reel of everyone’s best moments, and when you compare that to your larger life, the unfair comparison can make you feel low. It might be wise to ditch Facebook for a more positive influence, at least on your computer.
Simple extensions like Switcheroo Redirector for Chrome or Redirector for Firefox can be set to automatically go to one of the kindest communities on Reddit like r/UpliftingNews or r/RandomKindness. The point is to avoid social network’s negative impact and turn your existing bad habit into a positive mini habit. Over time, you’ll find yourself wanting to check out these uplifting forums instead of your vapid Facebook timeline.
Drink More Water
When MakeUseOf’s own Matthew Hughes quit caffeine and increased his productivity, he made a smart move by replacing addictive coffee with a pint of water — no more, no less, every hour on the dot. If you aren’t getting the daily intake of water you should, then it’s time to make that change.
Like Matthew, it’s advisable to get a few one-pint bottles and fill them up before you start working. Set an alarm for every hour, or set up a Pomodoro timer, and drink water in every break. You can also track how much water you drink on your Android smartphone.
Wake Up Early Gradually
You know what? Every geek should be a morning person. But waking up early isn’t easy for everyone. So we have various yawn-stifling alarms to get out of bed, but a drastic change in schedule can be hard. Instead, make it a mini habit and ease yourself in.
Try something as simple as setting your alarm one minute earlier every week. So if you’re an 8 am riser and want to get to 7 am, start with 7:59 am for the first week. Then go back one more minute to 7:58 am for the second week. Make it easy on yourself, sleep in on weekends. By the end of the year, you’ll be at 7:08 am. And in another two months, you’ll be waking up at 7 am without feeling like it’s a drastic change.
Read More with “7-Page Week”
Everyone wants to make reading a habit, but we don’t seem to be able to find the time to do it. Well, here’s an easy mini habit to help you start reading more. I call it the “7-page week”.
Every Monday, read one page of a book. On Tuesday, continue and read two pages of that book. Three on Wednesday, four on Thursday, five on Friday, six on Saturday, and seven on Sunday. Then go back to just one page of the same book on Monday. Keep up this cycle till you finish the book.
With this, you are making it easy to read on work days, and building momentum towards the weekend when you can relax and read more pages at your own pace. Just like all those surprisingly simple time hacks to read more books, this works best if you have a Kindle or use the Kindle app, since it will automatically save your last position and you can read it on any device, anywhere, anytime. Remember, a mini habit is most effective when you reduce resistance!
Start Writing Regularly
Everyone thinks they have a novel in them. And they start out strong, banging out on the keyboard with great enthusiasm. Slowly but surely, the inspirational flame starts to flicker and the momentum dies out. Don’t let it happen to you and take your book from idea to final draft.
The best app for this is 750 Words. Sign up for the free service and you will be part of a community that eggs each other on to write 750 words a day, and which also gives you a large database of your own statistics and emotions when you write regularly. We’ve reviewed 750 Words in detail before, in case you need to know more about it. Just remember, 750 words is roughly three pages of a book, so this simple mini habit can get you going to finally publishing that novel!
Learn to Enjoy Life and Be Grateful
Complaints come easy, but being thankful is difficult. Gratitude isn’t inherent for many of us. It needs to be reflected upon, and appreciated through practice. Mindful meditation can help in learning this.
We’ve tried several mindful meditation apps so far, but Stop, Breathe, and Think is still the absolute best. It’s completely free, it lets you set the time limit and the type of meditation you want, guides you through the entire exercise, and is available on all platforms. Its ubiquitous nature actually makes it easy to meditate anywhere, anytime without spending a dime.
Visualize Debt Before Buying
Saving money is one of the most popular resolutions every year, but also one that most people fail at. The culprit usually is mindless spending. The simplest trick to stop that, which most personal finance experts recommend, is to look at your debt before you buy anything. Sounds simple, right? Well it is, but you have to do it religiously.
Mini habits are all about making it resistance-free to do the habit, so get an app to visualize your debt in charts or graphs, and make sure it works well on your smartphone. From there, it’s all about simple discipline. Before you tap “Buy” on Amazon or reach the checkout counter at the supermarket, fire up that app and see your debt progress. Chances are, that constant reminder will make you rethink the value of what you’re about to buy.
Organize One Thing Every Week
Over 18% of people list “getting organized” as their new year’s resolution. It could be tech, it could be non-tech, but just adopt the mini habit of tidying up and streamlining one thing every week. Soon you’ll have a less disruptive life.
You probably want to start small, so go with something like de-cluttering and controlling your Windows desktop, or even your physical one! Maybe set up a note-taking app like Evernote or OneNote to organize your various thoughts and projects. Heck, you could plan an entire year on Google Calendar. Just one item a week, simple as that!
Give Us Your Mini Habit Ideas
In your tech life, what mini habit have you incorporated to become a better version of yourself? Give us your successful examples, or tell us about the mini habits you would like to start.
Image Credit: Career and growth by Ingka D. Jiw via Shutterstock