Making Things Easier with Tiny Habits
It’s Thursday night, and the kitchen is a mess.
On the edge of the sink, though, is my newest simplification tactic: a box of pre-soaped dishrags.
Opening the box, I take one out.
Huh. It’s smaller than I expected. I don’t like the smell or the feel.
I skeptically eye the sink full of knives and other things I don’t want to put in the dishwasher…
Turning back to the temporary rag, I decide I’ll try it for a few days and see what I think. If I like them, great! If not, it’s an experiment, and it’s just data. (So, I bought the smallest number I could.) My life has become one big experiment in the last six months and I’ve thrown most of the normal “rules” out the window.
Making things easier is a game
I’m creating a life based on making things easy for me. Tiny habits and behavior design are my vehicles for this.
In December 2020, a client asked if I knew the difference between Tiny Habits and Atomic Habits. The premise was appealing: create ridiculously small habits and build progress from there. I wasn’t clear, but knew I wanted to know more. Then the holidays hit, and I forgot to investigate.
As the new year rolled around and the clang and chatter of New Year’s resolutions hit social media, I started seeing this concept again. I ordered a book based on a social media ad. Little did I think about how I was being prompted to take an action by someone else. This was something I wanted to do, and they made it easy for me to do so.
The kitchen was and is an ongoing battle, but I’m learning to see it as an entire set of interrelated skills and steps. I’m working to resolve them one bit at a time bit at a time, starting with running the dishwasher.
Tiny Habit Recipe: After I load the last of the dishes, I will put in a dishwasher pod and hit start. Then I will give myself a high five.
No, really, that’s the key: celebrating something tiny! I create a dopamine hit by giving myself a high five. It’s ridiculous, and by now I love it.
The keys here are that I will often run the dishwasher half empty. The habit is closing and starting the dishwasher after all the non-handwash items are in. End of story. NO debate. As my habit has grown and taken root, I will now wait a couple days, as I can reliably start my dishwasher.
Troubleshooting hand-washing dishes: I’m still struggling to hand wash dishes consistently, though. I’ve tried washing one thing every time I walk into the kitchen. I’ve tried different soap, different times of day, doing a lot at once, putting on music, etc. None of it has stuck. But I’m not discouraged. I know it’s a matter of tweaking and making it fit for me. I’m still struggling to find my de-motivator. This time, we’re playing with the rags, as I hate doing laundry and often don’t have a clean dish rag. (Yes, this was a realization that I hate the texture and smell of dirty dishrags. But I’d keep using the same one because nothing else was clean. No, I don’t want to use disposable things forever, but as I get the kitchen under control I’ll move on to something else, maybe laundry).
Tiny Habits Recipes
Tiny Habits are created by making a recipe—ABC (Anchor, Behavior, Celebration):
After I complete my anchor moment,
I will do my tiny new behavior.
Then I will celebrate.
An anchor moment is a specific action you reliably do already. This is not a new action in your life. The tiny behavior is a scaled-down version of what you want the new habit to be. And when we’re talking tiny, it is something to do in less than thirty seconds. And celebrate is acknowledging that I’ve done what I intend, and creating a dopamine hit tells my brain that it should remember these actions as a positive event to repeat. Emotions create habits, not repetition.
Tiny Habit Recipe I’m trying for handwashing dishes: After I start my dishwasher, I will hand wash one item. Then I will celebrate by telling myself “Good job!”
My goal is to free up my executive function. KC Davis of Domestic Blisters on Tik Tok said, “But when you actually break down the amount of time, energy, skill, planning, and maintenance that go into care tasks, we begin to see that they are not always simple.”
So I’m using BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits to make them simpler. When I have more energy to do things I want, I’m having a more profound impact on the world. My energy is not best spent arguing with myself about how to wash the dishes. It’s spending time with family and friends. It’s teaching others how to make the most of their energy so they can make their own mark on the world.
Another thing I love about Tiny Habits is that it’s kind of like the game GO: a minute to learn, a lifetime to master. There’s a lot more nuance than I can cover in a thousand words.
Making it simpler
The next step, if you’re not ready to read the book, is to sign up for the free five-day email course offered by BJ Fogg and his crew of trained and certified coaches (yes, I am one of them). Over 120,000 people have been through this.
In the name of making it simple, you watch twenty minutes of videos, set up three habits, and get one email a day for five days asking if you completed your habits. A coach will respond, help you troubleshoot and cheer you on. We make this easier on ourselves (using these same principles) by using a semi-automated system, and then that lets us have energy to personalize certain responses. It’s about efficiency, but also about making it easy.
How can you make it simpler for yourself next time you’re stuck?