Tiny habits — small, positive changes you implement into your daily routine — can improve your life and make a huge impact on your mindset and productivity. Building positive, impactful habits is a hallmark of high performers.
In 2021, B.J. Fogg published an amazing book called Tiny Habits: The Habits That Change Everything. I love this book, and I think you could learn a lot from it, too. Fogg says people often fail to make changes in their lives because they attempt to accomplish too much at a time. The solution? “Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors.” He says he has “road-tested” this approach with more than 40,000 people during years of research and refinement, and it works.
Two years earlier, in 2019, James Clear published a wildly popular book titled Atomic Habits: an Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. Clear, a world-renowned expert on habit creation, says that too often, “We convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action,” but that improving by just 1 percent at a time “can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.”
Clear says one reason we have trouble making lasting changes in our lives is because traditionally, research and guidance on habit formation have focused on how external stimuli, such as reward and punishment, affect our ability to form good habits and break bad ones. But he stresses that our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs — our moods and emotions —- matter, too. Making small changes is easier than making significant changes, and when we feel good about them, we’ll be more likely to develop those changes into habits.
In my own journey, I have learned the power of small changes. The three tiny changes described below have made it much easier for me to build good habits and improve my life. I hope they will help you do the same!
1. Focus on one priority each day
As you prepare to start each day, ask yourself, “What’s the big thing for the day? If I get nothing else done today, what’s the one thing I have to prioritize?”
The more you have on your plate, the more important this habit becomes. When you have so many priorities in sight that there’s no way you can get them all done, it can feel overwhelming. You can feel defeated before you even get started! And that can diminish your motivation.
Your main priority for the day could be one meeting you need to have, one document you need to complete or one decision you need to make. It doesn’t matter what it is, but when you focus on just that one priority, it streamlines your approach to the day. It helps to write it down so you will see it.
I adopted this habit a while back, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that, by the end of each day, I will have accomplished one really important task. I know that if I start the day trying to tackle many different priorities, it’s likely that I won’t finish any of them.
- This is a small but powerful habit that you can implement right now! It takes little time, energy, and effort.
- High performers typically have a lot going on, so our tendency is to think of a long list of priorities. But when we do that, it scatters our focus. This tiny habit — thinking of the one thing you can do during the day that will lead to a feeling of accomplishment — will make it easier to complete your other priorities as well.
- What is your biggest priority for today? Write it down, focus on it, and complete it! Then notice how good it feels to have a singular focus instead of a scattered one.
2. Read for at least 10 minutes each day
Learning new ideas, concepts, and strategies is so rewarding for me that I spend as much time reading as I can.
To build this habit, start with the goal of reading for a minimum of 10 minutes a day. Why 10 minutes? I recommend 10 minutes because it’s enough time for you to read a good article, a chapter in a book, or something else. This tiny habit can change your life!
When I began forming this habit, I set a goal of reading for 10 minutes each day. I was learning so much that my 10 minutes usually turned into 15 or 20 minutes. By starting small, I was able to build a habit that has become an incredibly important part of my life. Now I read articles, books, and other materials regularly.
One of the books I started reading at that time was The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell. He says that to reach your potential, you must grow. “And to grow, you must be highly intentional about it.”
I started out being intentional about reading at least one chapter each morning, and that gave me time to think about what I had read all day.
- This habit takes little time, effort, and energy, yet it can create a big impact in your life. The reading you do during those 10 or more minutes could shape your entire day.
- Daily reading establishes the foundation for lifelong learning, which is foundational to becoming the best version of yourself.
- By now, you are probably aware of my focus on LIFE Optimization, with LIFE representing what I believe are the four critical components of our lives: love, impact, faith and energy. Being intentional about reading quality writing every day will help you achieve personal growth in each of these areas. Each of us can make a greater impact on the people and the world around us when these four critical components of our lives are our focus — and when they are in symmetry.
3. Create a habit of daily impact
The habit of daily impact is really important to me; I have written about it and talked about it a lot. I believe that most likely, you are already making a positive impact every single day but aren’t really acknowledging it.
This is another habit that takes little time, effort, and energy but can lift the collective mood and change the course of your day — and someone else’s day.
Once you begin building this habit, you’ll probably enjoy thinking of small acts of kindness that people will appreciate. Maybe you’re standing in line at the grocery store checkout, and you begin talking with the human next to you. Maybe you give them a small compliment, such as “I really love that shirt” or “Your nails look great.” Maybe you simply ask, “How’s your day going?” Or maybe you notice someone in your office doing a great job, and you tell them so.
Chances are, they will light up because they have gone through the entire day in a mundane fashion, with almost everybody ignoring them — but you didn’t. That can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Focus enough on your own actions to know that the tiny things you’re doing really do matter. And when they make someone else feel great, you feel great as a result.
Once you build this habit, you will find yourself doing small acts of kindness throughout the day. Now you are making a positive impact on many different people each day. It doesn’t just improve your day or their day; it changes attitudes, emotions, and lives! The impact is immediate.
- What act of kindness can you do for somebody else today? What did you do yesterday that provided some level of impact to another human in some way?
- Showing someone else an act of kindness is one thing that can lift your own spirits when you’re feeling down.
- When you are exercising your habit of making a daily impact, be sure to notice it. Acknowledging it to yourself gives you a great opportunity to feel great about yourself. Your acts of kindness are not something you need to, or should, share with others. This is internal. It’s just for you.
“Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile,
a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest
act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”