Mini Habits & Repetition


The first time my wife walked into my office crying, I knew two things.

First, I knew something bad had happened (like she'd made some mistake she felt awful about). Second, I knew that adding my own emotions wouldn't help anything.

So I told myself, repeating over and over in my head, “stay calm.” That's what I did the second time, the third time, and the tenth time.

That was a long time ago, and today I don't have to repeat anything in my head. I know to stay calm and that comfort and empathy are powerful in those moments.

I'm not telling you this to make you think I'm special or have mastered the art of being married. I'm just telling you the first of three stories to help make my point. Stick with me (Except Shawn who is already scrolling down).

Have you ever driven somewhere so often that you do it on autopilot?

I was driving my family to dinner one night, years ago, and only after driving 15 minutes did my wife ask, “Where are you going?” Normally she'd just let me do what I do. But this time I was going in the absolute wrong direction.

What happened was that the first part of this trip to a restaurant was also the same as the first part of a normal route I would take to drive to us to church – more than 20 minutes from our house.

I was on auto-pilot. I wasn't thinking as I just started going thru the motions. And only after a while did my wife realize there was no grand strategy, I was simply making a mistake.

Did you catch that I blogged daily all of last year?

Some of you are like, “alright already, I caught that you published something new every single day. You're good. I'm bad. Enough!”

That's not why I'm including it here in today's post. But the questions came in about how I did it. And the truth is what I'm sharing here in these three stories.

For me, daily writing was about creating a micro-habit. A tiny habit. A miniature habit. You get the point.

Do something small enough that you can do it. Not once, but over and over.

Something happens when you do something over and over

When you drive to the same place over and over, something happens in your brain. It's like it realizes that it can fashion an automation from this pattern, and take the work off of you. It knows what to do without your active focus.

That's why we can drive to work and not even really remember every turn we made. We know we did it. But the work wasn't engaging our focused energy because we were on auto-pilot.

The same is true after a while. You tell yourself not to get emotional about something as silly as a car getting scratched, and over time you create the pattern of staying calm under pressure.

You sit down in the same chair (mostly) at the same time (mostly) and open up your computer to write, and your brain says, “oh, I know this pattern.”

Recommended Reading

I just finished re-reading the book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. It's another great book like the one I recommended the other day.

By now you know, I'm big into habits. Big and small. They power most anything I want to accomplish because they give me the framework to get where I want to go.

Questions for You

What do you want to accomplish?

How could you break it down into a set of routines so small that you could get started right away?

What could you do today that you could build on tomorrow, and so on, so that you'd be in a completely different place next year?

Walking as a Mini Habit

For me, I bought a new Unsit treadmill desk for when I'm on calls / meetings. I was visiting my buddy Syed who has one, and I thought, that is something I can easily do. So I got the recommendation from him and ordered one, and it was put into my office this afternoon.

Tomorrow I start walking while I take most of my calls. I can't wait!

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