Have you ever set a goal that seemed too big and daunting? Like, “I’m going to write a book” or “I want to be able to do a pull-up.”? Yes, doing one single pull-up can be a challenge in and of itself for some. But the thing is, when we set huge goals, they can be so overwhelming that we never end up taking that first step.
That’s where micro habits come in.
It’s easy to give up when you feel like you can’t do something. But what if the key to success was thinking small? Micro habits are those small actions that don’t seem like much at this moment if done consistently have the potential to help you accomplish big goals.
Let’s face it, setting goals is challenging. A lot needs to happen to make them happen, which can be overwhelming. Micro habits help you to reconnect with yourself and direct your energy towards small wins each day. A new routine could be as simple as breathing in for four seconds and out for six seconds every morning, and let’s face we are all pros at breathing. Or it could be as simple as saying thank you to a stranger daily. These little wins help us to build momentum towards significant changes!
It’s important to note that micro habits are not about forcing yourself to do something. The key is finding a task you enjoy and then making it a habit. For example, if you love writing, set a goal of writing for five minutes daily. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you write; focus on getting into the habit of writing daily.
What are micro habits, and why should I care?
Micro habits are small, simple actions that can significantly impact your life. They don’t require much time or effort on your part, but they help you to build momentum towards achieving the bigger goals in life.
Charles Duhigg first introduced the concept of micro habits in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, published in 2012. Duhigg writes about how our habits shape our lives — even those we’re unaware of — and how we can change them for good by focusing on small actions rather than big ones.
So, how can you get started with micro habits?
Do you want to increase your output? Do you want to do more in a day? You can use incremental habits to increase your productivity.
When starting, it’s tempting to try and tackle several new habits at once. But this can backfire because staying motivated is hard if you’re testing multiple new things simultaneously. Instead, focus on just one micro habit and ensure it sticks before moving on to something else.
Make your goal SMART and don’t focus on the outcome.
Do you know what you want?
If you don’t, that’s OK. We’re here to help.
What do you want?
Maybe it’s something small—like reading one new book this month or flossing daily since bad breath is a real turnoff—or perhaps it’s something bigger, like finding a partner. It doesn’t matter how big or small your goal is because the important thing is that you have one. And if you don’t have one yet, we’re here to help with that too!
Of course, none of us are perfect, and sometimes our goals get derailed by life (and sometimes by ourselves). So how can we keep ourselves on track? Well, there are lots of ways we can do this! First of all, make your goal SMART! That means Specific (S), Measurable (M), Achievable (A), Realistic (R), and Time-Bound (T).
Then set up some accountability for yourself. This could be anything from paying someone $10 if you don’t meet your goal to set up a calendar reminder for yourself every day at 11 am that says, “Remember: You’ll be so happy when you’ve done X!”
What micro habits will help you with your finances?
Maybe you’re trying to save more money, or perhaps you want to be more intentional about how you spend what’s already in your bank account. Either way, some great ways to make small changes can significantly impact how much money you have in the long run.
Here are 5 of my favorite micro habits for improving your finances:
Make a budget and stick to it.
Budgeting may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s crucial to ensure that your finances are in good shape. If you’re not sure where to start, take the 50/30/20 rule. This brilliant and easy-to-follow rule was brought to us by none other than Sen. Elizabeth Warren that suggests you break down your after-tax income like this:
50% goes towards essentials like rent, groceries, and transportation.
30% is for wants—like that new pair of shoes you’re eyeing or a night out with friends.
20% is saved or invested.
A great place that breaks this down and explains it is Investopedia.
Once you have your budget set up, review it regularly and make adjustments as needed. And don’t forget to hold yourself accountable! One great way to do this is to connect with a friend or family member who also wants to get their finances in order—that way, you can support and motivate each other.
Invest in yourself.
That’s right, I said it. Invest in YOURSELF.
Investing in yourself is one of the best things you can do for your future. Not only will it make you happier and more fulfilled, but it can also lead to financial gain down the road. Whether you’re investing by taking an online course or just making time to take care of yourself, several ways investing in yourself will pay off down the road—even if you don’t see it immediately!
So what does “investing” look like? Well, it could be anything from taking an extra-long bath on Sunday afternoon to learning how to do something new like coding or flying a plane. It could also be as simple as making weekly time for friends and family.
Think about what kind of lifestyle makes you happy and fulfilled. Maybe it’s traveling more or eating out less often. Whatever it is, try to figure out how much money it would take to live that way now instead of later down the road.
What do you want more from life than just being happy and fulfilled (because who doesn’t want even more from life?). Once you’ve got that number in mind, think about what steps you could take today toward achieving this goal.
Save 10% of every paycheck automatically.
Saving money can be tricky, especially if you’re used to spending everything you make. A great way to make sure you’re saving regularly is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account—that way, you won’t even have to think about it!
But how do you make that happen? Here’s how:
- Go online and open a free savings account—or just use the one you already have. (If you don’t have one, here are some of our favorites.)
- Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into that new savings account every week or month (whatever works best for your budget). Ensure there’s enough in your checking account at all times so that the transfer goes through without issues!
- Once the money is in your savings account, leave it there! Don’t be tempted to spend it, or better yet, put it in an index fund like the SP500 and watch the compound interest grow! Someone that offers genuinely great advice on saving and compound interest is Ray Dalio. An article published by CNBC does a great job breaking down one of his interviews.
Brightside created a fun way to help people save money worth the look.
- Create a debt repayment plan.
I know what you’re thinking: “I’m carrying debt, and I just want to get out of it as quickly as possible.”
I hear you! And I get it. If you’re in debt, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in it, and you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
But the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to debt repayment. What works for one person might not work for another—and that’s OK!
But if there are some things you can do now—like creating a debt repayment plan—that will help you reach your goal even faster?
Creating a repayment plan isn’t complex or complicated. You need to figure out how much money you’ll be able to put toward paying off your debt each month and then set aside that amount for your repayment. You can use an app like Mint or Personal Capital to track how much money comes in each month and how much goes out.
Then once all the numbers are crunched (or even before), create a budget that includes all of your necessary expenses so that any extra cash can go toward paying off debt instead of spending on things like lattes.
What micro habits will help you with your health?
By now, you’ve probably heard that the key to having a healthy life is all about the little things. Those are the habits you do every day—the ones that you don’t even think about—, and they add up to make a big difference in how well and happy you feel.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” And while we know the importance of healthy eating and exercise, it can be hard to make time for those things. That’s why we’re here to help.
What, exactly, are these healthy habits, you may be wondering? Here are some of my favorite micropatterns:
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Why, you may be wondering? Since we wake up dehydrated, consuming water will help jumpstart your metabolism and give you a little energy boost to start the day.
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. This one is pretty simple: exercise is good for you! It can help improve your mood, increase energy levels, and even help you sleep better at night.
- Take a screen break for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Do you enjoy a better night’s rest? Then make sure you give yourself some time away from screens before you go to sleep. This means no more scrolling through social media as it will affect your REM sleep.
A study from Harvard found that blue light from screens suppresses the release of melatonin more than any other type of light. So, if you want a restful sleep, give yourself some time away from screens before hitting the hay.
What micro habits will help you with your health?
- Do you have a routine that helps you feel good, like yoga or meditating?
- Do you have a routine that helps you feel bad, like smoking?
- Is there a routine you wish you had but haven’t gotten around to yet?
What micro habits will help you with your mindset?
We all want to be more mindful. We want to be able to focus on the present, feel more connected to ourselves and others, and be able to take control of our lives. But how do we make that happen?
You’re not alone if you feel like your mind is a little bit out of control. Getting caught up in negative thoughts is easy, and it’s hard to stop them from spiraling into a full-blown anxiety attack.
One thing that helps me stay in the moment is to start every morning by writing one thing I am grateful for, followed by three things I want to accomplish today. This helps set the tone for the day and keeps me focused on what’s important.
Another thing that works well for me is taking a few minutes every evening to reflect on my day. I ask myself how I felt today, what went well, and what could have gone better. This helps me become more aware of my thoughts and emotions and lets me let go of anything that didn’t serve my time.
1. Have an affirmation
We all have moments when we feel a little off. Instead of letting negative thoughts spiral into a full-blown anxiety attack, try having an affirmation that reminds you of your worth and power.
For example: “I insert your name here, am healthy, wealthy and wise and will become more motivated _____________.” Repeat this to yourself at the same time every day and in front of the mirror if possible.
2. Listen to the same song.
Music profoundly impacts your psychology, and research from John Hopkins University shows that listening to the same song can help reduce stress and anxiety and help improve your mood. Choose one song that resonates with you—whether it’s uplifting or calming—and play it over and over again until you feel more connected with yourself.
Try listening to the same song each day for 30 days straight. This will help you build a connection between the music and your moods so that when you hear it again later down the road, it brings back those positive feelings from before.
I wrote an article on the psychological benefits of listening to music if you want to learn more here.
3. Get into a flow state.
The flow state is a mental state in which you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing. It’s often described as being “in the zone.” A feeling that we’ve all experienced at one point or another.
How do you get into a flow state? The best way is to find an activity you enjoy that challenges you just enough to keep you engaged. For me, that activity is writing or jogging. But it could be anything from painting to playing a musical instrument to dancing.
Once you find your flow activity, the key is to focus on it as much as possible and block out all distractions. This means turning off your phone, closing the door to your office, and putting on headphones if necessary.
It takes practice to get into a flow state, but once you do, you’ll be surprised at how much more productive and creative you are.
What micro habits will help you with your career?
You know you’re a pro at what you do, but sometimes it can be hard to stay on top of your game.
You have a well-established career, or you decided to go against the typical 9 to 5 and take matters into your own hands. If that’s the case, then you’re probably wondering how you can make sure to stay at the top of your game, even when things get busy.
Here are three micro habits that will help you with your career:
- Make sure to set aside time for yourself daily. Maybe it’s an hour in the morning, or perhaps it’s an hour before bedtime. Whatever works best for you is fine! The important thing is that we all need time apart from the hustle-and-bustle of life every day to breathe and relax a little bit! Take some time out of your day (or week) and spend it doing something just for yourself—it’ll make all the difference!
- Schedule time with friends and family every week. This one sounds obvious, but some people struggle with finding time for their loved ones in between work, school, and parenting responsibilities. Setting aside at least a few hours every week to stay in tune with the people you care about most is essential! If you live far away from your family, consider scheduling a weekly video call or sending a handwritten letter once a month—little things like that can make a difference.
- Get enough sleep! This one is non-negotiable. You need to get at least 7-8 hours of shut-eye every night to function at your best. Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends! Establishing a sleep routine will help ensure that your body will release the right hormones at the correct times toward giving you the best night’s sleep possible!
In a world of distractions, we tend to run into the same problem: no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to reach our goals or stick with a new routine for long. There are always so many other things we’d rather be doing—we have trouble settling down and getting past the beginning stages of any self-improvement program.
But what if there was a way to make a change that didn’t require significant willpower or hours of dedication? What if we could break down our goals into tiny, manageable pieces that we could accomplish?
What habits have helped you in your career, life, and health, and how did they benefit you? Let us know in the comments below!
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You don’t want to miss out on our other articles on productivity and goal-setting for more helpful tips here!
Bright side – inspiration. creativity. wonder. Bright Side – Inspiration. Creativity. Wonder. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://brightside.me/
How habits work. Charles Duhigg. (2017, November 20). Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://charlesduhigg.com/how-habits-work/
Whiteside, E. (2022, May 29). What is the 50/20/30 budget rule? Investopedia. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/022916/what-502030-budget-rule.asp
Keep your brain young with music. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022, April 13). Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/keep-your-brain-young-with-music
YouTube. (2021, January 28). 3 easy money-saving tricks that work for all ages. YouTube. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6feez9S1Feg