Since enrolling in BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits course last year, I’ve learned many new behaviors.
Some have been more transformative than others, but today, I want to share with you three "tiny habits" that have yielded the highest returns on investment for me.
Before I do, let's look at what a tiny habit is and why they’re so much fun to form.
Rule #1: A tiny habit, according to Fogg, is a behavior:
1. You do at least once a day
2. Takes you less than 30 seconds
3. Requires little effort
Tiny habits must match the criteria above because the easier the behavior, the less it depends on motivation.
Rule #2: Tiny habits are designed to come immediately after an existing habit. You use the existing habit to trigger the new tiny behavior you want.
Now that you know Fogg’s rules, let's look at each tiny habit in detail:
Tiny Habit #1: Make Your Bed Immediately After Waking Up
On May 16, 2014, US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, the commander of the forces that organized the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, addressed a room full of wide-eyed graduates at the University of Texas.
"If you want to change the world, start by making your bed,” McRaven told the attendees.
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another, and another. And, by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you'll never be able to do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made, that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
This, for me, was an existing tiny habit. Like most people, I always made my bed, but I never did it immediately after waking up or with purpose.
Soon, I found making my bed immediately after waking up jump-started the rest of my morning routine.
And, while I used to rely on random cues for my morning habits, now I have a stable routine where each behavior is triggered by the one that preceded it.
I wake up, immediately make my bed, shower, stretch, meditate and journal, all before turning on my laptop.
Tiny Habit #2: Review Your Day
In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin famously outlined a scheme to achieve “moral perfection.”
His schedule included asking himself every night, before going to bed, “What good have I done today?”
The five-minute Journal has three morning questions and two evening questions. The evening questions, similar to Franklin’s evening question, invite you to ask yourself:
1. What are three amazing things that happened today?
2. How could I have made today better?
Journaling in the morning and especially in the evening helps me examine my day with clarity. I can celebrate wins, identify obstacles and strategize how to overcome them.
One obstacle I overcame from journaling was brainstorming reasons why I had trouble falling asleep at night. This led me to my third and final tiny habit.
Tiny Habit #3: Leave Your Cell Phone Outside Of Your Bedroom
Do you take your cell phone to bed? According to Pew Research, 90 percent of 18-29 year olds sleep with their cells on or next to their beds.
I was one of them, that is, until I had one too many sleepless nights and did some research.
One study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, asked 12 patients to read on an iPad for four hours before bedtime each night for five consecutive nights.
This was repeated with printed books. For some, the order was reversed and they started with printed books and moved to iPads.
The researchers found the iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less tired at night and had shorter REM sleep, compared to the book readers.
The reason? The light emitted from electronic devices, like mobile phones, suppresses melatonin, the chemical that controls your body clock.
I’ve been leaving my mobile phone outside my bedroom for eight days now, and it’s already paid off. I’ve been falling asleep earlier, waking up more easily and feeling more productive.
If you want to engineer the perfect night’s sleep, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and leave your mobile phone outside your bedroom.
You won’t regret it.
“Simplicity changes behaviors,” writes Fogg. And he’s right; behaviors that are ridiculously simple are not only easy to sustain, but easy to expand on.
What’s one tiny habit you’re forming? Tweet me your answer @SamThomasDavies.