The 5 Micro Habits That Changed My Life

Published on 12/22/2020

I used to set huge goals that I could never achieve. I would start exercising five times a week, stop eating sugar, write a book a month and keep my room tidy. Each time I set these goals, such as in the weeks that follow New Year’s day, I would see myself fail. I shared the general mindset that goals were made to fail; the entire culture around New Year’s resolutions is how quickly people break them. But by doing this, and partaking in this, we set ourselves up to fail. We make it okay to fail, as these dreams are too extreme to attain.

But with micro habits, this doesn’t have to be the case. Micro habits are small changes that you can make to your day, tiny switches that steer you towards your goal. Think of them as steps in the marathon of your ambitions. Whether you want to sleep more, read more, write more or run further, micro habits will you get you there. By breaking down your goals, you make them attainable, and once you have one micro habit in effect, it is simple to further them or add to them.

How does a micro habit work?

For example, if you only sleep seven hours per night and you want to sleep more, you shouldn’t just try to say you’ll sleep eight hours. You’ll struggle to go to bed a full hour earlier, your body won’t be adapted to this, and you’ll end up failing and giving up quickly. Instead, your first micro habit could be to set a bedtime, if you don’t have one. One that provides you with fifteen minutes more. You can be strict on this micro habit, really hold yourself to it. Then after two months, you move it another fifteen minutes earlier. Before you know it, you’re well-rested and stick to your bedtime every evening.

If you want to be healthier, you shouldn’t immediately remove all the junk food from your home and stick to kale smoothies every morning. You’re aiming too high, and you won’t be able to keep it up. Instead, create micro habits. Stop eating dessert to start. That’s the worst time of the day to be eating sugar, so then you can make a rule that you make a filling and healthy dinner, and after that no dessert. If you genuinely get hungry, you eat fruit or crackers. This micro habit is easier to focus on than ‘JUST BE HEALTHY’ and will allow you to feel accomplished.

These sound great, but are they possible? Well, here are five micro habits that I know to be possible, since I’ve implemented them in my own life. Over the past nine months, I have stuck to these micro habits and felt the immense effects they’ve injected into my daily routine.

1. Reading before sleep

I used to be an avid reader, the type that always had their nose buried in a book. My Christmas list would consist of various titles, each of which I’d devour within a week. Over time, that changed, life got in the way. I still loved reading but always claimed that I didn’t have time for it. That’s garbage. Everyone has time for reading; the question is whether you’ll use your time for it.

I could write an entire article on why you should read more, but for now, I’ll just say that reading makes you a better writer, it increases creativity and is a great way to relax. So instead the question is, how can you read more?

When I decided to stop making excuses and actually start reading more, there was one micro habit that made all the difference. I put a book beside my bed, and every evening before going to sleep, I read. I aim for a minimum of ten minutes an evening, but often I’ll read up to thirty minutes. It’s such a simple micro habit, as it is coupled with going to sleep. Not only do you work through books quicker, but you also stay off your devices before going to sleep, and therefore sleep better. This is my favourite micro habit and one that I cannot recommend enough. Make reading a part of your bedtime routine.

2. A glass of water for each coffee

I feel like staying hydrated is the most universally acknowledged way to be healthy, and yet the majority of us struggle. The reason why we struggle is that we take it to an extreme, we’re going to go from one glass of water a day to eight! By setting unachievable goals, you’re setting yourself up to fail; this is the fundamental core of micro habits. Instead, aim for one more glass of water a day. This is easy, over in seconds, and so will be easy to achieve. From there, you can continue to build it up.

An even better way to achieve a micro habit is to connect it to an existing habit. So I began drinking a glass of water every time I have a coffee. It’s easy to chug a glass whilst I make my coffee, and it ensures I’m a step closer to staying hydrated.

3. Daily to-do list

You’re 42% more likely to do something if you write it down, so start conquering your days by writing down everything you intend to do. Break it down into tiny steps so that you have the glory of ticking off each item. Will you go for a jog in the morning? Will you do a load of laundry? Will you write one article? Will you read at least one chapter?

By writing it down, you hold yourself accountable. By ticking it off, you process the joy of completing a task. But an important lesson I had to encounter through this was to set realistic goals and to ensure they’re specific. Don’t just ‘write’ today, decide how much you have to write in order to feel successful. That can be measured through time spent, or better through specific tasks/amounts. See how much you get done each day and adapt accordingly. Being optimistic and pushing yourself is great, but you require the satisfaction of a completed list to drive you day after day. If your to-do list seems impossible, it will be far to easy to use that as an excuse and underachieve.

Better yet, write your to-do list the evening before. Then you start your day focused and can get right to work, utilising the most productive time of the day. If you’re not a morning person, starting your day by writing a to-do list whilst you enjoy your first cup of coffee (and accompanying glass of water!) will ease you into the thrill of things.

4. Always carry a book

I learned this micro habit from an article about reading 100 books in a year, and after putting it into practice, I can honestly recommend it. There are so many moments that you can steal in a day, many of which you waste mindlessly scrolling through social media. But by carrying a book around (or an e-reader, or having the kindle app on your phone), you can reclaim these moments. Examples include:

  • Waiting for an appointment, e.g. doctors office, beautician, therapist, any waiting room.
  • Public transport.
  • Waiting for a friend, e.g. in a restaurant or cafe
  • On hold with a company, this is genuinely what the loudspeaker setting was designed for.
  • Lunch break/ coffee break.

Start carrying a reading opportunity with you and steal these spare moments. We often think that things won’t take that long, but even if they don’t, you can fit a page or two in. It adds up and allows you to read more and spend less time on your phone. A win-win!

5. Monthly goals

As someone who works a full-time job alongside freelancing and working on my own writing, I am obsessed with setting goals. I’ve had my primary goal (be a published author) leading the way for years now, but we often get so focused on the bigger picture that we forget the hundreds of steps that take us there. At the start of each month, I sit down and write my goals for the month to come. I consider the following five aspects:

  1. Writing (How many articles do I want to write? How many words for my current book?)
  2. Reading (How many books do I want to read? Do I already know which books?)
  3. Fitness (Do I want to reach a certain amount of kilometres for my runs? Do I want to work out a certain amount of times per week?)
  4. Leisure (Do I want to go to a theatre show? Visit a museum? Go to the cinema a certain number of times?)
  5. Home (Are there any tasks at home I want to do? Sort my cupboard and sell things I don’t wear, or put up the posters I’ve been putting off?)

Your categories will reflect your priorities, and it will be unique to each of us. The point of this is simply to prioritise, to consider what is important to you. What kind of a life do you want to be living? We need to keep ourselves in check continually; we can’t wait until New Year’s to set huge goals. I am constantly evaluating what I want to achieve.

You won’t always reach all of your goals, but by writing them down you’ll genuinely try. You’ll have focus for the month to come and know the direction you wish to head to. Hold yourself accountable because no one else will do it for you.

There are dozens of possible micro habits for you to adopt, and now is as good a time as ever! Reflect on what you want to improve and work out how to get there. Don’t set yourself up to fail with huge, unattainable goals, but rather set micro habits into place and enjoy the pleasure of conquering them. We never know how much time we have left, so if you want to change something, the time is now, not tomorrow, not next month, not next year. We only have now.

Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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