“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits
To reach your goals, you need a system. You need to build habits and you have to stick around long enough to let them do their magic. You hear it over and over again because it’s true.
In 2019, one of the most popular books was Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It’s a practical guide to break bad habits and build good ones. The author explains clearly why small, everyday habits lead to great success.
If you haven’t read the book yet, make sure you do. But don’t just read it. Put in practice everything you learn from it. Until you do so, here are 9 micro-habits that can improve your life.
1. Delay Your Reactions
I know, I know, it’s a fast-moving world. But that does not mean we have to respond quickly to everything. Learn to say “I’ll let you know later”, “I’ll get back to you on this”, and other similar phrases.
Instead of saying yes to an offer only to realize later that it doesn’t fit your schedule, better to take a few minutes to think about it.
It will save you a great amount of time and disappointment in the long run.
2. Push Yourself to Complete a Task When You Don’t Feel Like It
Every day, pick a small task you don’t want to do then go ahead and complete it. From washing the dishes to making your bed and from going for a run to making dinner instead of ordering food. It can be anything.
After doing this for a few days, you’ll realize the problem is not the task itself. It’s your habit of postponing things. It’s being comfortable, especially when you have a choice. But often, once you make the first step, you get yourself in the mood and get the job done.
Once you’ve spent a few days completing small tasks, make the jump to bigger ones.
3. Spend a Day Away from Social Media
There were days when my phone was the extension of my hand. I would pick it up for no reason and then scroll on social media for 30 minutes without realizing it. And I’m not even big on social media platforms. I never post anything on Facebook and have around 200 followers on Instagram, whom I spam with pictures of my travels from time to time.
But I can’t give it up for good, nor do I want to. Facebook is a great way to find out about local events, and Instagram is a great source of inspiration for my writing. But all of these are useful if I use the platforms in moderation.
So instead of deleting the apps from my phone, I’ve decided that I’m not going to use them on Sundays. And so, I did. After four weeks, I’ve drastically reduced my screen time and even set a 1-hour limit for social apps.
So if you’re struggling with this as well, start small. Spend a day away from social media or don’t connect your phone to Wi-Fi at all. After you realize you’re not missing out on anything, by being offline for one day, you’ll consciously choose to spend less time online, every day.
4. Prepare Your Next Day the Night Before
Choose your outfit and put everything in your bag (men might not understand this, but most women have a looong list of things that they need to have in their everyday bag).
Write down a to-do list and check your calendar to see if you scheduled any meetings or calls. Do anything you can to make the next day easier.
If you have a plan, you get things done faster. There’s no magic involved, it’s pure logic.
5. Eat Mindfully
When you’re eating and working/reading/watching a movie at the same time, you often eat more than you need. Plus, you’re not enjoying the food, nor are you being productive. Can you even taste those vegetables if you’re busy trying to make sense of an excel document? Probably not.
Having lunch or dinner shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes. So, when did we become so busy that we don’t even have 10 minutes to spare to fuel our bodies?
Next time you eat, do just that: eat. You’ll see it’s not easy at all to not reach for your phone. And the simple fact that we have to talk ourselves out of doing it should raise some questions.
6 Use a Timer for Your Tasks
The Pomodoro Technique might as well be called the Bible of Productivity. It got so famous because it works so it does deserve all the praise. Out of all the micro-habits I mention here, this one has helped me the most.
Working and traveling full-time is not always easy (or fun, might I add) and you have to come up with a schedule and stick to it. So, I’ve adjusted the Pomodoro Technique in a way that works for me: I write for one hour, take a 10-minute break, and then write for another hour.
This is one of the main tricks that have helped meet my deadlines while exploring a few different cities every month.
7. Place Your Phone on the Opposite Side of the Room
If you keep your phone next to you when you sleep, you’ll just keep hitting the snooze button until it’s almost too late to get out of bed. But for most of us, the hard part is standing up, not waking up. And this is why this method works.
When your phone is on the opposite side of the room, you have to get up and take a few steps to stop it from ringing. Then you might realize you are also thirsty and have a lot to do in the next following hours. So, your bed doesn’t look so comfortable anymore.
8. Set a Spending Waiting Period
For the past few years, I’ve been applying two rules before buying anything. First, if I see something I like, I never buy it on the spot — unless it’s something I need and have been looking for. Instead, I wait for a few days to see if it’s still going to be on my mind.
If after three days I still dream about a dress or some shoes, I go ahead and buy them. If I completely forget about them, then I just dodged a bullet because it was probably just compulsive shopping.
The second rule applies to items on sale. Everybody loves the sales periods, right? Of course, we do. But it’s also when we tend to buy a lot of stuff we don’t need. It’s how our brains are wired. That’s why marketing works. Getting a good deal makes us happy. Satisfied. Until we get home and realize it was just a temporary feeling.
To avoid buying unnecessary things, ask yourself a simple question: “Would I pay the full price for it?” If the answer is “yes”, then take out your wallet. If it’s negative, walk away.
9. Write Down Every Idea
“It’s ok, I’ll remember it” should go down in history as the biggest lie we tell ourselves. Out of all the things you pick up during the day, you end up forgetting more than half of it.
So make a habit of writing everything down, even the silly stuff that seem unimportant.
The main reason why people don’t reach their goals is that they make drastic changes instead of building small, everyday habits. To do so, you only need to follow these two simple rules:
1. Drop a Bad One
Make a list of all the bad habits you have and want to get rid of. Instead of going on a war against yourself, trying to get rid of all of them at the same time, pick only one and focus on that. Take baby steps. Smoke one less cigarette. Buy one less unnecessary item every week. Stop eating one thing out of a few you want to give up.
Only after you’ve managed to give up a bad habit, start working on another one.
2. Add a Good One
The same goes for good changes you want to make. Don’t try to drink 2 litters of water every day if you only drank 1 glass before. Instead, try to drink 2 glasses per day and slowly increase. Add one more vegetable to your plate. Run one more minute on the treadmill. Read one more page every night.
Choose something you’re struggling with and slowly increase the time you spend building that good habit. When you feel like it became a habit, start working on the next one.
As James Clear said in Atomic Habits:
So, make sure you have a well-established system for every goal.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”