Tiny is Mighty
When you focus on three new behaviors, you learn how habits work. You get more insights about human nature. In contrast, focusing on just one behavior gives insight mostly into that one behavior, but not the bigger picture.
And what matters is the bigger picture.
If you have my book, I invite you to read the section on how habits grow and multiply in Tiny Habits. (See pages 167-169.)
But here's an example about why Tiny is Mighty.
As you get older, your muscles start to melt away. I knew that. So when I entered my 50s, I decided to do pushups every day. I used my own Tiny Habits method to make this a reality.
Fast forward: Today I do between 40 and 80 pushups every day. It's a solid habit in my life, and I've become quite strong. (Oh, and I like the idea of doing more pushups than my Stanford students!)
I knew that doing 10 or 12 pushups was not going to become a habit at the beginning. Too hard. I scaled it back, starting at 2 pushups. That was tiny enough. Good.
However, there's another piece to the puzzle: Where does two pushups fit naturally in my day?
Where is a good spot?
I needed to find a good spot in my life where I could plant this new pushup behavior.
You might be surprised -- perhaps scandalized -- but I solved the puzzle by creating this Tiny Habit recipe:
- "After I pee, I will do two pushups."
But . . . oh, it's so effective!
"After I pee" is a great spot in my existing routine to do pushups.
(Okay, the sequence goes like this: I pee, I do pushups, I wash my hands. And then I feel good.)
(You may want to know this: I do my pushup habit only at home. I don't do it in public restrooms. That would be reallllly weird. Good news: I work a lot from home, so I get in a lot of pushups -- about 6 rounds a day, depending on how much coffee and water I drink. TMI?)
Um, let's keep going . . .
In the Tiny Habits method, you pick an existing routine to remind you to do the new tiny behavior. We call this existing routine an anchor because it's something solid in your life to which you attach the new habit.
Existing Anchor —> New Tiny Behavior
For flossing, a great anchor is brushing your teeth. The Tiny Habit recipe then becomes:
- "After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth."
Starting the coffeemaker could be a good anchor to remind you to get out your vitamins. So the recipe is this:
- "After I start the coffeemaker, I set out my vitamins"
In the Tiny Habits method you do not use alarms or notes to remind you. That's the old way. Instead, you find something you already do—an existing routine—and that becomes your reminder.
When designing a new Tiny Habit, give this careful thought:
Where does this new tiny behavior fit naturally in my life?
What routine does it come after?
This concept of “after” is important. You won't reliably form a habit until you know where the new behavior fits in your life—what it comes after.
With a good anchor, your brain can quickly learn the new sequence of actions.
Here I explain what makes a good anchor:
- Same frequency as the tiny behavior
- Same location as the tiny behavior
- Same theme as the tiny behavior
I prefer using anchors that happen once a day, or just a few times a day.
Anchors you may want to use
- After I start the coffeemaker . . .
- After I pee (yes, give it a shot!) . . .
- After I turn on the shower. . .
- After I put on my glasses . . .
- After I tie my shoes . . .
- After I feed the dog . . .
- After I take out the trash . . .
- After I pick up my car keys . . .
- After I close the car door . . .
- After I park at work . . .
- After I get in the elevator . . .
- After I leave a meeting . . .
- After I sit down for lunch . . .
- After I sit down on the train . . .
- After I pick up kids at school . . .
- After I park in the garage . . .
- After I read the newspaper . . .
- After I start the dishwasher . . .
- After I turn off the TV . . .
- After I turn off the light . . .
- After I lay down in bed . . .
With Tiny Habits, your new behaviors can become automatic, without an artificial reminders. No alarms going off or notes taped on the bathroom mirror.
With practice you will get better and finding the right spot in your life, in finding the right anchor.
At times, you may try an anchor that doesn't work. The existing routine doesn't trigger the new tiny behavior. That's fine. Just revise and try a different anchor.
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