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How to Guarantee Success By Adopting The Minimum Consistent Dose

Bookmark this for your 2017 New Years Resolutions

You’ve maybe heard of the Minimum Viable Product? That’s a big entrepreneurship term about shipping your product changes early and often.

Or maybe you have heard of Tim Ferriss’ Minimum Effective Dose. That’s the idea that you want to do the minimum work to trigger the change you’re looking for. If 20 pushups are going to trigger muscle adaptation, then you don’t need to do 30.

Let me introduce another Minimum Term, The Minimum Consistent Dose.

All of these terms are about applying speed and aggression to cut down on failure.

In business, you build the MVP because too often we overspend on the first version. The MVP lets us learn whether we are on the right track early

In exercise, you do the MED because too often we overtrain, get injured and then miss weeks or months of training. In that case, rather than get more fit, the training dose made us less fit.

With goals, the big risk is that we’ll fall off the wagon.

For example, the most optimistic measurements of New Years Resolutions are that 92% of people fail.

Enter The Minimum Consistent Dose. Let’s call it the MCD.

What is the smallest version of your goal that you’d be willing to give yourself credit for?

So often we only define the ambitious, everything-goes-right version of our goal. “I want to run ten miles a day for the rest of the year.”

But what happens if you get sick? Then your streak is ruined.

What if your MCD was jog half a mile. Then that sick day, you could still drag yourself out of bed to get your legs loose.

Or better yet, what if your MCD was run in place for 30 seconds?

If you define your minimum, then you’ve created a defense against failure.

Here are some of my MCDs.

  • My normal exercise is run, swim or bike. My MCD is pushups and/or body-weight squats. Ten pushups and ten squats are enough to keep my exercise streak alive.
  • My MCD for my todo list is 1 item. But I don’t wait until the end of the day to do that one item. I do it first and feel like I accomplished something. I am more productive once I feel like the rest of the day is optional — it triggers a sense of pride that I’m doing extra credit.
  • My MCD for a blog post is a repost from some other content. It turns out that I have lots. So when I’m really, really not feeling inspired, I know I can dig some bit of email or personal advice out and turn it into a post.
  • For eating, I try to eat one vegetable. Of course, my idea is a huge kale salad.

Now, you’re probably wondering if the MCD encourages you to consistently take the lazy way out.

A. If it does, then stop using it. Some concerns have trivial answers, and this is that trivial answer.

B. No.

People are motivated by fear and by pride. If you take the MCD approach then you end up with both.

First of all, every day feels like you’re doing extra credit. This generates pride and a feeling of momentum.

Second, once you have a streak, you will become afraid of losing that streak.

In the past, when you didn’t have the energy to give yourself a Mega Dose of training, you might have missed a day, and then a week, and then given up your goal altogether.

Now, when you have a bad day you still keep your streak alive. Of course, you’ll only know if your streak is still alive if you track it on