Are you often tired or feel like no matter what you do, there are never enough hours in the day? Do you have any long-term goals you keep pushing to the back burner simply because there are too many daily responsibilities to fulfill?
If yes, know that you’re not alone. We’ve all been there!
With the ever-increasing demands on your time, finding a balance that works for you can be tricky. But creating more space in your days to implement positive changes doesn’t have to be difficult.
The secret to becoming a better, healthier, more productive version of yourself does not lie in flipping your daily routine on its head or stretching yourself too thin. It’s all about starting small and taking one step at a time.
That’s where micro habits come in.
Micro habits are the tiny changes that can significantly impact your day-to-day functioning and overall well-being. When repeated daily, week after week, and month after month, micro habits bring us closer to introducing long-lasting changes and achieving meaningful life goals.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through why these tiny actions are so powerful and provide simple tips and examples on how to build micro habits to change your life today. So if you’re ready to learn more, let’s dive right in!
We all know that change is hard, but micro habits make it simpler and more attainable than ever before.
Micro habits are small, tangible, easy-to-achieve tasks that tweak your daily routine a little, like drinking a glass of water in the morning or stretching for 5 minutes before bed.
Their magic lies in the fact that they take almost no effort and usually cost nothing, yet help you achieve your long-term goals in a realistic, balanced way, significantly improving the quality of your life over time. The idea here is that going step by step and starting small is much more efficient than introducing a massive change in your life, failing to maintain it, and achieving nothing as a result.
Let’s say you’re a couch potato who wants to get in shape. Instead of doing an intense workout right away, start with a micro habit like doing 10 sit-ups or going for a 5-minute walk after lunch. Then gradually increase your routine week after week.
Over time, micro habits build up, eventually leading you to achieve your starting goals with minimal upfront effort.
Micro Habit Examples
The micro habit is a straightforward yet powerful concept. It symbolizes the change you wish to see in yourself on a much smaller daily scale. Pick a micro habit that will serve you as a reminder of your values, priorities, and goals in life.
Micro habits aren’t meant to be complicated – quite the opposite.
Ideally, these tiny tasks are very tangible and so simple that it’s almost impossible not to fulfill them. Instead of being those large, intimidating challenges, micro habits can boost your self-confidence, increase satisfaction, and strengthen your motivation to stick to your goals.
Not sure what makes a good micro habit or where to start? Here are some examples and tips for practical small habits that can create lasting, positive change in your life.
1. Walk for 10 minutes after a meal
If your goal is to be healthier or fitter, walking is a great starting point to achieving those goals.
Daily walking can increase your energy and mood levels, impacting your long-term relationships and helping you live longer by avoiding or improving health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
Tip: Build your new micro habit into existing routines, like taking a short walk after lunch or dinner. Walk with a coworker, family member, or neighbor to create accountability and turn walking into a long-lasting habit.
2. Drink a glass of water in the morning
We all know that staying hydrated is crucial for our health and overall well-being. Yet, how often do you make sure to do so? Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning will help you meet your daily hydration needs.
Tip: Prepare a glass of water on your bedside table the night before. In the morning, it will serve as a reminder of your micro habit.
3. Practice mindfulness in spare moments
Mindfulness can be practiced at any given moment throughout your day. Pick one of them to silence your mind and focus on your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. It’s an excellent opportunity to pause and ground yourself in the present moment, which can help ease stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is easy to pair with other routines. For example, you can step outside while you drink your morning glass of water and practice mindful listening. Or you can practice mindful walking during part of your daily 10-minute walks.
Tip: We all have those seemingly annoying moments throughout our days that we would love to speed up, whether it’s being stuck in traffic, standing in line at a grocery store, or waiting for a delayed train. Use these pockets of time to practice mindfulness.
4. Swap potato chips with vegetable chips
It can be difficult switching to a healthy diet if your body is used to unhealthy eating habits like mindless snacking, going for takeout instead of cooking at home, or craving fast food.
So instead of forcing yourself to make a huge shift that often results in hangry cravings that send you to the McDonald’s drive-through for 20-piece nuggets at 11pm, start small with manageable micro habits.
Start with just one food substitution at a time. For example, swap out the chips or popcorn you tend to mindlessly snack on while watching Netflix with baked kale chips, salted cucumbers, or seasoned bell peppers strips. Or trade your soft drink habit for a healthier alternative like flavored sparkling water, kombucha, or tea (GTs brand has great cola and root beer drinks made from pu-erh tea and adaptogenic mushrooms).
Tip: Keep a food journal to help you understand and identify your eating habits, and track your progress as you slowly improve your diet through small changes. Don’t beat yourself up if your food journal feels discouraging; instead be patient and proud of yourself for having the courage to start, and focus on the small positive changes you commit to each day.
5. Exercise for 15 minutes
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It’s known to improve mental health, stabilize mood, increase lifespan, improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels.
But exercise can be intimidating, and that feeling is often enough for our brains to come up with a myriad of excuses to put it off for a later that never comes.
So start with a small micro habit that’s manageable for you at your current fitness level. And try to pick an activity that you enjoy. For example, you can start with a gentle 15-minute yoga flow before breakfast, go for a short and light jog after work, or get silly dancing to a few Just Dance songs on your kid’s Nintendo Switch.
Tip: Prep in advance! If you decide to exercise in the morning, prepare your workout clothes by your bed the night before or even wear them to bed if they’re comfy. Or keep your gym bag in your car so you can head straight to yoga class after work. Find a friend to exercise with, or get an accountability buddy to encourage each other on days when your couch’s siren song is especially strong.
6. Learn 1 or 2 words of a new language
Learning new languages improves your memory and cognitive functions. It can be a fun activity, either done alone or with a friend, and it might become a very useful skill to have in your life.
Instead of starting big and overwhelming yourself trying to master a bunch of new grammar, writing systems, vocabulary, formal speech, and pronunciation all at once, start small with just 1 or 2 new words a day. Choose words that are useful or that you can associate with things you see regularly (like grass, smartphone, or bathroom).
Tip: If you’re learning with a friend, you can call or message them and share your word choice of the day. If you watch any shows in that language, try to rely less on subtitles and make a game of counting how many times your new words are said in an episode.
7. Make your bed in the morning
Making your bed seems unnecessary to many people since we fall asleep in the same bed at the end of the day. Yet, such a simple action can help us develop stronger self-discipline, foster better quality of sleep, and make us feel more accomplished throughout the day.
Tip: Have fun with it! Experiment with different methods of making your bed and time yourself. Each day, try to beat your previous record. Bonus points for being silly or getting the kids or pets involved!
8. Read 5 pages of a book
Reading improves your focus and memory, reduces stress levels, and you end up gaining knowledge. Additionally, it can be a fascinating activity and a way to bond with other reader-friends.
Tip: Instead of putting pressure on yourself to read one new book every week, choose to set a micro goal of reading 5 pages daily, for example. And pair it with an existing routine such as on your way to work, during your lunch break, or as you wind down before bed.
9. Keep a gratitude journal before bed
Writing in a journal, in general, is a great way to process your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a gratitude journal encourages you to focus on different things you’re grateful for each day and listing them. It’s a good way of keeping track of the positives in your life. In the long term, this micro habit can have a calming, therapeutic, and positive effect on your emotional and physical well-being.
Tip: Include listing 5 things you’re grateful for each day in your nighttime routine, for example, right before brushing your teeth and showering.
10. Take 10 deep breaths
In our daily life, we don’t use the full capacity of our lungs when breathing. Taking a moment to breathe deeply in and out can have a soothing effect, decreasing stress and increasing energy. It also helps flush out toxins from our bodies, improving digestion and immunity.
Tip: After finishing a specific task at work, stand up and take 10 deep, slow breaths in and out. Put one hand on your chest, another on your diaphragm and observe as they rise with each inhale and fall with each out breath.
More Micro Habit Examples
- Do 5-10 minutes of stretching before bed.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible.
- Stand up and stretch every hour while working.
- Meditate for 5 minutes each day.
- Say a positive affirmation to yourself in the mirror each morning.
- Write down your top three priorities for the next day every evening.
- Spend 15 minutes learning or practicing a new skill.
- Clean up your work area for 5 minutes at the end of each day.
- Spend 10 minutes planning your week every Sunday.
- Write for 10 minutes each day, about anything.
- Check and respond to emails only at designated times.
- Send a text or call a loved one every day.
- Compliment someone each day.
- Initiate a conversation with a coworker or classmate each day.
- Tell your loved ones that you love them each day.
- Take a quick nap or rest period during the day if needed.
- Practice saying something positive to yourself when you make a mistake.
- Limit checking news or social media to specific times.
- Spend a few minutes visualizing your goals each day.
- Review one educational article or video each day.
- Spend 10 minutes decluttering a space in your home each day.
- Break your tasks into smaller, manageable parts.
- Listen actively in a conversation, focusing on understanding rather than responding.
- Dedicate a few minutes each day to play with your pet.
- Take a moment to express appreciation for someone’s work or contribution.
- Floss your teeth every day.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation for a few minutes each day.
- Note down a happy moment or something that made you smile each day.
- Dedicate a few minutes each night to unwind without screens before bed.
- Write a small summary after each book chapter you read to reinforce comprehension and recall.
Avoid These Common Pitfalls
How often do we bite more than we can chew when starting new habits?
Why do we ditch our New Year’s resolutions in mid-January?
How come we go on diets, start workout routines, and promise ourselves to limit the time we spend binge-watching Netflix only to give up before giving ourselves a real shot at trying?
Set yourself up for success by identifying where you’re most likely to fail and create a plan to avoid it.
All of us humans are social species. We look for our tribe and, once we find it, try our best to belong there. That’s why most people imitate the rest of the group to fit in. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to bond with others.
For example, if you want to belong to a group of foodies, you might feel inclined to learn how to cook. Or among sporty friends, it can be easier for you to start jogging.
However, if your new coworkers tend to smoke cigarettes during breaks, you are at higher risk of taking up smoking yourself.
That’s why it’s good to be aware of those external pressures, both positive and negative. Too often, our decisions result from external pressures or societal expectations when picking up habits. And then, before you know it, you end up wrestling mentally each time before going to the gym, even though you prefer to work out at home.
Identify the social groups you belong to and how each group is likely to influence your habits. Then create a plan to negate any negative impacts your social groups may have, or to amplify the positive effects.
Also make sure your habits are in alignment with your personal goals and not solely coming from external pressures. Ask yourself:
- Why do I want to implement this micro habit in my life?
- Am I doing this for myself, or am I looking for the approval of others?
Being Goal-Oriented 24/7
While thinking of the rewarding result is an excellent source of motivation, it works in moderation. Putting importance solely on the end goal can be dangerous. Goal-first mentality, so common in habit formation, often leads to setting unrealistic expectations and conditions of happiness, which results in us stretching ourselves too thin and wanting to see immediate effects.
Alternatively, when we’re process-oriented, we focus on the present moment rather than the final effect.
In practice, this would look like the difference between going on a restrictive diet to lose weight quickly before a wedding (goal-oriented) and experimenting with different ways to cook vegetables at home each night that are healthy and delicious (process-oriented). The restrictive diet is likely to be frustrating and disappointing, and the chances of rubber-banding back to the starting weight after the goal has passed is high. Whereas the process-focused alternative is more likely to be rewarding, enjoyable, and turn into a long-lasting lifestyle habit.
Goals are great for steering your life in the direction you want it to go, but the process is the road you take to get there, and it’s important to choose roads you want to be on.
Don’t feel called out – we all procrastinate. Not because we’re lazy or better at work under pressure, but because it’s our self-protection strategy and a way to cope with the anxiety, stress, or overwhelm linked to the avoided task, whether it’s a professional responsibility or a new habit we’re trying to stick to. If you tend to procrastinate, you might fear:
- disappointment related to the unsatisfactory quality of your performance or failing
- not living up to the (often unrealistic) standards
- being judged by others or looking stupid
Most of all, we don’t want to risk having our concept of the self challenged in any way. For example, if you want to start a new habit and think you can spend 1 or 2 hours every day learning a new language, failing to do so once might feel fine, twice a bit uncomfortable, and thrice – unsettling.
Yet, instead of engaging in negative-self talk, you might want to reconsider your approach. Try starting small with a micro habit of learning 1 or 2 new words daily.
Micro habits can help us overcome procrastination because they:
- Lower the intimidation factor. Procrastination often occurs when tasks seem too daunting or overwhelming. Micro habits, by nature, are small and easy to start. They don’t require a large time commitment or a lot of effort, which makes them less intimidating.
- Overcome inertia. The hardest part of any task is often just getting started. By making the initial step so small that it feels almost trivial (like reading one page of a book, or doing one push-up), micro habits help you overcome this initial resistance.
- Build momentum. Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going. A micro habit can act as a gateway to a larger habit. For example, if your micro habit is to put on your running shoes and step outside, you might find that you’re more likely to go for a run once you’re already outside.
But if procrastination still strikes, you can overcome it!
Try following the “Two-Minute Rule”. If a task takes less than two minutes, do it right now. Since most micro habits can be performed in just a few minutes, you can apply this rule to get started immediately instead of delaying.
Or try making the micro habit even smaller. For example, if reading one page still seems too much, aim to read just one paragraph or even one sentence.
How To Build Successful Micro Habits
Having a huge goal, like learning to play piano, can be both exciting and daunting since we might not even know where to start. That’s why it’s essential to have realistic expectations and a plan for how you’ll stick to your micro habit. Rather than jumping hot-headed into action, take some time to make sure you have everything you need in place, such as:
- a piano that is tuned correctly,
- a piano teacher or lessons online,
- music note sheets,
- an environment in which you can play with ease.
Try to incorporate your micro habit naturally so that it fits your lifestyle. Choose a specific time for your piano practice, like the morning or the end of the day – whatever feels more suitable. Additionally, you can consider:
- finding beginner-level music sheets of a song you love,
- spending 15 minutes daily to play this song.
If you’re interested in exploring this topic, here’s more on how to set small goals to achieve big ones.
Break down your ambitious project into small, bite-sized micro habits. If you wish to run 5 miles but you’re not active at all, scale it down and set yourself up for success.
For example, refrain from putting a lot of pressure on yourself by straining yourself and pushing your body limits too far. Why? Big goals can intimidate us to the point that our fear of failure kicks in and we avoid achieving them altogether. Instead, ask yourself how to take one step at a time in a feasible, realistic manner. Perhaps you can start by going for daily walks first. Then, the rest will follow. The key is to put your ideas in motion, one micro habit at a time.
Habit stacking is a practice that invites you to work with what you’ve got and build around something you already do. Linking different activities together creates a solid routine that can positively influence your life.
Let’s say you want to meditate more to be grounded in the present moment. Great! Just don’t make yourself sit in silence with your eyes closed for 30 minutes and expect miracles to happen. Instead, decide on a micro habit like practicing mindfulness and find a way to integrate it into your daily routine so that it becomes automatic.
If you’re not a morning person, plan to meditate for 10 minutes in the evening after you brush your teeth, right before you go to bed. Over time, meditating will simply become a part of your routine, cued by the action of brushing your teeth. All you need to do is stay patient and focus on the process rather than the final goal. Give yourself time to get used to the new habit.
Micro habits are the perfect solution for us, humans living in this dynamic, fast-paced, chaotic world. No one is too busy to do 10 squats, walk around the block, drink a glass of water, learn 3 new words, etc.
If done correctly, micro habits can change your life, imbuing it with meaning, giving you a confidence boost, and making you a happier person as a result.
They’re also an antidote to delaying and postponing the actions we want to take. Since they’re so tangible, it’s pretty much impossible to come up with a legitimate excuse or flake on following them.
And, once you maintain your micro habits long enough, they become automatic, and you don’t even have to think about them anymore.
What is this one thing you always wanted to do but found excuses each time to not do it?
How can you move toward achieving it one day at a time?
What will your new micro habit be?