The big work of building tiny habits

When a bad habit directly conflicts with a cardinal rule of building good habits.

Even the Golden Gate Bridge was built only a little bit at a time. (Source)

Remember this? Probably not, because I didn’t either. It has been nearly two weeks since I said I would report back about my success or failure in executing on some new habits I constructed using the IFTTT framework. So, why am I just writing about them now? That’s a simple question, and the answer’s simple too: I forgot the cardinal rule of BJ Fogg’s tiny habits: “take baby steps.”

The reason I forgot that rule is because I succumbed to a bad habit in my effort to cultivate good ones. That bad habit is: “take giant leaps”.

It’s such a drag when your bad habits and personality traits directly conflict with the behavior necessary to cultivate good habits. The simple fact is that I don’t like to take tiny steps. I really hate it, but tiny steps going in the same direction are necessary to reach success. There are no shortcuts.

Here’s the problem: I tend to have two modes of operation — all on or dead-to-the-world, big leaps or standing still. This makes what I have learned from BJ particularly difficult to apply. Tiny steps exist in between my two modes.

It’s such a drag when your bad habits and personality traits directly conflict with the behavior necessary to cultivate good habits.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure and to drive the point home on how much more prepared I should have been: I taught a class at the d.school called ‘Dating, Diet & Sleep: Design at the Disconnect’, where BJ lectured on tiny habits. He actually instructed our students on the who, what, where, why and when of tiny habits.

It was amazing.

I drew everything out on a whiteboard as he was lecturing in order to drive the point home for the class. Yet, here I am.

So, let’s try this again.

I have been marginally successful on only three of my habit equations. Here they are again:

If Before Breakfast & After Workout then Meditate.
If Walking To and From Work then Language Learning Podcast.
If Eating Dinner then Skim a New Book (to determine if you want to dive in more deeply over the weekend).
If Saturday Afternoon then Write about What You’ve Learned.

The first one — to meditate — is almost there. My meditation day streaks are much longer, now that I have a fixed time in which to do it. So, that one I am going to stick with and focus on.

Phone calls interrupt the period walking to and from work, so that is not a good time to plan my language learning. A walk after dinner, however, has proved to be much more fruitful. So, I’ll try for that, but…

Meditation comes first.

I skim new books now and then, but I can’t confine it to after dinner. (I am actually writing this post during that time period.) So, forget it. I’ll work on that once I have pinned down meditation.

Saturday afternoons should be spent writing, but they are usually spent doing myriad other things. Bye, Felicia.

Meditation is my tiny habit. If it is time between my breakfast and my workout, then I meditate. No questions, no excuses. That’s it. Now, let’s see how that goes.

If this is your first introduction to the work of BJ Fogg, please read more on his website about tiny habits, his personal site and in Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”. Both are wonderful reads.

‘E’ is for ‘Everything’ also has a newsletter, featuring these and other fun reads on productivity, business, design and more. It goes out every week…ish. I’m still working on that habit.