Alexis Thompson discovers if introducing small habits to her daily routine can equate to big changes
The start of a new year often signifies a desire for change – whether that’s a change of job, change of lifestyle or a change of mindset. New year resolutions tend to involve big promises to make drastic changes, but these unachievable aims often fall by the waste side come February. Sometimes the best way to make big changes is by taking small steps – this is according to BJ Fogg, director of Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. He has a devised a ‘My Tiny Habits’ programme to help people create new and useful behaviours in their lives. He believes that only three things will change behaviour in the long-term, these include – having an epiphany, changing your environment and taking baby steps. His tiny habits course involves a five-day method, which he claims is simple yet effective. You simply make a list of three positive small habits you’d like to introduce to your daily life, then for five days you practice these habits and then respond to Fogg’s daily email with feedback on how you got on.
Always one to make grand new year resolutions and then fail to see them through – I decided to give the tiny habits course a go. I wanted to see for myself if introducing small changes really can make a big difference. The three habits I decided to introduce to my daily routine were:
To give myself a 30-minute interval in between checking my emails
To wait a few seconds and take three deep breaths before responding to any calls
To think of one thing that I’m grateful for at the end of each day
I chose these habits, because in both my personal and my professional life, I wanted to slow down. I – as I’m sure many other people – have found that life is moving at a frighteningly fast face and keeping up can be exhausting – you can often find yourself existing on pure adrenaline without taking the time to step back, think and reflect. Taking a few deep breaths before picking up the phone, I hoped would bide me some time to consider what I’d say to the person at the other end of the line,and result in a more calmer and rational approach. By checking my emails less, I hoped to spend more time on other tasks in work, and be more focused and present in these tasks, rather than have my eyes flitting to my inbox all of the time. I also wanted to find the time to feel a little more grateful about things – hence why I decided to reflect on something I was grateful for each day.
I started the course on a Monday, full of optimism and hope about the positive changes that lay ahead of me. But unfortunately by Wednesday, I had already failed to keep up with two of my proposed habits. I found it really difficult to limit myself to 30-minutes intervals for checking my emails – especially in work when I’m constantly inundated with them, and a little icon pops up at the bottom of my screen to indicate every time I’ve receive a new one. I also kept forgetting to take three deep breaths before answering any calls – and I was conscious that in the office environment, this could look a little odd anyway. The only thing I did manage to stick to was jotting down something I was grateful for at the end of each day. These ranged from ‘having nice food in the fridge’ to ‘saw a bit of sunshine today’ (a rarity in the middle of January). Still it was nice to reflect on something positive at the end of each day and it’s the one thing that I’ve tried to keep up.
On the final day Fogg asked on email ‘after five days, what would become the most automatic habit?’. I didn’t answer this, largely because two of my habits had already fallen by the waste side and writing down something I was grateful for each day, felt like an effort (in a good way) rather than something which was automatic. However, it’s been a nice, feel-good thing to do and if I keep it up, then it's been a positive change which has come from introducing a small habit to my daily routine.
If you want to find out more about 'My Tiny Habits' or sign up to the course then visit tinyhabits.com