What is a "Tiny Habit"? A “Tiny Habit” is a behavior:
you do at least once a day that takes you less than 30 littl that requires little effort See these examples Below you will find five examples of Tiny Habits. Note how each sentence follows the same format: "After I . . . , I will . . . "
"After I brush, I will floss one tooth." "After I pour my morning coffee, I will open my journal.” “After I pee in my home toilet, I will do two pushups.” “After I sit down on the train, I will take three deep breaths.” “After I put my head on the pillow, I will think of one good thing from my day.” I call this format a recipe. That means what you see above is a set of recipes for Tiny Habits.
Let me explain the two parts of the recipe.
1) "After I . . . " The first part of the recipe always has these two words: After I . . . "
What follows is a behavior you already do, like brushing your teeth or starting the coffeemaker. I call this "After I" statement an anchor because it's a solid routine in your life (like brushing) to which you attach your new habit.
(I'll explain more about anchors in Part 4)
2) "I will . . . " The second part of the recipe starts this way: "I will . . . "
What follows those two words is the new habit you want to bring into your life. This could be flossing,
Note that in my Tiny Habits method you start small. Really small. You start so small that I decided to call it "tiny"!
Tiny is powerfull
Habits are like plants Forming a habit is like growing a plant.
You start with something tiny (a seed or a sprout). You find a good spot for it in your garden (proper soil, light, moisture). You nourish your tiny plant so the roots get established. As you do these three things, your tiny plant will take root and thrive.
Let's apply the points above to how habit formation works:
You start with a tiny behavior. You find a good spot in your daily routine for this tiny behavior. You nourish your tiny behavior so it gets firmly established in your life. As you do these three things, your new habit will take root and thrive.
With practice, you will form habits quickly and easily.
Of course, you won't be perfect. Just like with gardening, there is some trial and error -- always something to learn. But you will get better. You will learn new skills and gain confidence. And this, in turn, can change your life in big ways.
Focus on tiny In the Tiny Habits method you always start with a tiny behavior. Below are some examples:
Floss one tooth Pour a cup of water Read one sentence in a book Put on walking shoes Take one deep breath At the end of this page, I'll explain how to translate a difficult habit (like 25 pushups each morning) into something tiny. But first, let me explain why tiny matters.
Why start tiny? As a behavior scientist, I know this is a fact: difficult behaviors require a high level of motivation.
You've seen this in your own life. If there's a tough task facing you, such as cleaning your entire home, you won't do it unless your motivation level is high.
In fact, one person told me this: When she needs to clean her home thoroughly, she invites friends over for a party. She knows this will boost her motivation, and she'll get the tough cleaning task done.
Well, I like parties and a clean home, but my friend's technique is not the Tiny Habits method. She is not creating a cleaning habit; she is creating a cleaning emergency.
As human beings, our motivation level for any behavior goes up and down over time. That's natural. And you can't always rely on having a high level of motivation. Your motivation is often low for cleaning or exercising or cutting vegetables. That's reality.
Relying heavily on motivation to create a habit does not work.
Tiny gives you success When a behavior is really easy, like putting a magazine back on the shelf, you don't need to throw a party to succeed. In other words, when a behavior is easy, you don't need to rely on motivation. You simply put the magazine back on the shelf, and you are done.
In creating the Tiny Habits method, I realized that if I started my change process with a simple behaviors, then I wouldn't need to worry about my swings in motivation. Instead, I could focus on making the tiny behavior automatic. I could focus on creating a habit.
This was my insight: "Okay, BJ. You already know how to floss all your teeth. That's not the problem. You don't yet know how to do this automatically." So I scaled back flossing to just one tooth. I then focused on making this tiny behavior automatic in my life. Soon I created a solid habit, and then I grew the habit to include all of my teeth (hooray).
Simple is powerful Simple is powerful. You’ll experience that next week.
You can grow your tiny behaviors in later weeks (for example, expand from flossing one tooth to all your teeth). But for this next week, to benefit your own success and learning, please, please keep it simple.
Just like with plants: You start small. It takes root. And then it can grow.
Simplicity changes behavior.
Starter Steps-Examples Pour a cup of water Open my sketchbook Write down one to-do item Put on my workout clothes Open my to-do list Write the name of someone I want to call Get out my yoga mat Put an apple in my backpack Turn off TV (starts process of going to bed) Get out my vitamins
Tiny Version-Examples Floss one tooth Do two pushups Meditate for three breaths Read one sentence in a book Wash one item in the kitchen Put on one drop of sunscreen Pay one bill Drink a sip of water Tidy one item on my work desk Think of one thing you're grateful for
A good tiny behavior has these qualities:
takes less than 30 seconds (even better: just 5 seconds) requires no real effort doesn't create pain or bad emotions On top of that, make sure it's a habit you want to have in your life. Don't pick something that's a "should."
That's important so I'll say it again: As you practice Tiny Habits, choose new behaviors you actually want.
When designing a new Tiny Habit, give this careful thought:
Where does this new tiny behavior fit naturally in my life?
What routine does it come after?
This concept of “after” is important. You won't reliably form a habit until you know where the new behavior fits in your life—what it comes after.
With a good anchor, your brain can quickly learn the new sequence of actions.
Here I explain what makes a good anchor:
Same frequency as the tiny behavior Same location as the tiny behavior Same theme as the tiny behavior I prefer using anchors that happen once a day, or just a few times a day.
Anchors you may want to use After I start the coffeemaker . . . After I pee (yes, give it a shot!) . . . After I turn on the shower. . . After I put on my glasses . . . After I tie my shoes . . . After I feed the dog . . . After I take out the trash . . . After I pick up my car keys . . . After I close the car door . . . After I park at work . . . After I get in the elevator . . . After I leave a meeting . . . After I sit down for lunch . . . After I sit down on the train . . . After I pick up kids at school . . . After I park in the garage . . . After I read the newspaper . . . After I start the dishwasher . . . After I turn off the TV . . . After I turn off the light . . . After I lay down in bed . .
With Tiny Habits, your new behaviors can become automatic, without an artificial reminders. No alarms going off or notes taped on the bathroom mirror.
With practice you will get better and finding the right spot in your life, in finding the right anchor.
At times, you may try an anchor that doesn't work. The existing routine doesn't trigger the new tiny behavior. That's fine. Just revise and try a different anchor Last
2. You use an existing routine (an "anchor") as your reminder.
In the next few minutes I invite you to design your Tiny Habits. In this process you will pair a tiny behavior with a good anchor.
You put these two pieces together, using the format I call a "recipe":
"After I [existing anchor] , I will [new tiny behavior]"
Some pairings work well, and the habit forms quickly and naturally.
Some pairings don't work at all. But don't worry. If the pairing doesn't work, you revise. In other words, you just redesign the recipe.
Create three recipes In the next few minutes, I want you to create three pairings and put them into my recipe format.
After I _________________ , I will __________________
After I _________________ , I will __________________
After I _________________ , I will __________________
You can use suggestions I offer below and on other pages. Or you can create your own recipes
You can also mix and match, pairing any anchor with any tiny behavior. The choice is yours.
Important steps You can use suggestions I offer below and on other pages. Or you can create your own recipes
These are your next steps:
A. Design three pairings of anchors and tiny behaviors, using the recipe format. B. Write down the recipes for yourself on a piece of paper. C. Enter your recipes D. Prepare to start on Monday (for example, do you need to buy floss?). E. Start practicing these new habits on Monday!
My advice Don't turn this process into a big dramatic thing. Instead, be playful and explore. But don't get overwhelmed.
If the initial recipes you create don't work very well, then you revise things. No big deal..
Right now, I advise you to pick simple, ordinary things as your Tiny Habits. Don't pick anything earth shattering. Just learn the method.
Similarly, I caution you against picking a super special habit you’ve always wanted but never could achieve. Instead, pick something you want, but not something with lots of emotional baggage. You can take on harder behaviors in the future, after you increase your skills.
This next week is about practicing, not about solving that one special problem in your life.
If the initial recipes you create don't work well, then you revise things. No big deal.
Again, most everyone revises their Tiny Habits or their approach during the week. It's part of the process.
You don't need to form perfect recipes. Just enter some recipes online to get started.
Change is a skill
However, we do care you that you learn the skills of creating habits. Much like a pianist who practices scales, or a chef who practices knife skills, you can practice the skills of creating habits. For example, designing a good Tiny Habit recipe is a skill you can learn.
The big breakthroughs in your life will come from having these skills, not from any single habit.
Two ways to create recipes in Tiny Habits
Start with the tiny behavior and then find a suitable anchor. Start with an existing anchor and then find a new tiny behavior that would follow it naturally.
Tiny Habit examples to choose from Be sure to pick new behaviors you WANT in your life, I offer a bunch of suggestions below. Have fun!
Health Routines After I [your anchor], I will Floss one tooth (BJ’s #1 suggestion) After I [your anchor], I will Open my vitamin container After I [your anchor], I will Put on one drop of sunscreen After I [your anchor], I will Put in my retainer After I [your anchor], I will Set out my vitamins After I [your anchor], I will Put on my fitness tracker After I [your anchor], I will Turn off my Internet router at night
Physical activity After I [your anchor], I will Do two pushups After I [your anchor], I will Put on my walking shoes After I [your anchor], I will Do 3 crunches
Nutrition After I [your anchor], I will Drink a sip of water After I [your anchor], I will Take a bite of a carrot After I [your anchor], I will Fill a glass of water After I [your anchor], I will Throw out one bad food item in my house After I [your anchor], I will Write down *one* thing I at After I [your anchor], I will Put an apple in my bag After I [your anchor], I will Write down one veggie I like to eat
Calming / de-stressing After I [your anchor], I will Stretch one part of my body briefly After I [your anchor], I will Exhale and relax for 2 seconds After I [your anchor], I will Do a quick sketch After I [your anchor], I will Yawn to relax my jaw After I [your anchor], I will Stretch my back After I [your anchor], I will Turn off the ringer on my phone
Learning & hobbies After I [your anchor], I will Play 3 chords on the guitar After I [your anchor], I will Read one sentence in a book After I [your anchor], I will Sing a scale After I [your anchor], I will Recite one line of poetry After I [your anchor], I will Open my workbook
Relationships After I [your anchor], I will Kiss my spouse After I [your anchor], I will Think of one special person to call/text today After I [your anchor], I will Text my mom After I [your anchor], I will Get out my set of “thank you” notes After I [your anchor], I will Give my spouse a hug
Organizing After I [your anchor], I will Set out my workout clothes After I [your anchor], I will Think of one top priority for my day After I [your anchor], I will Look at my to-do list After I [your anchor], I will Plug mobile phone into charger After I [your anchor], I will Turn on the ringer on my phone
Cleaning & tidying After I [your anchor], I will Hang up my coat After I [your anchor], I will Wipe out sink After I [your anchor], I will Tidy one thing in the house After I [your anchor], I will Put dirty laundry in basket After I [your anchor], I will Put my receipts in the basket After I [your anchor], I will Wipe my bathroom mirror After I [your anchor], I will Turn off lights in study After I [your anchor], I will Clean one dish After I [your anchor], I will Clear one item off my desk After I [your anchor], I will Pull cover up on bed
Writing After I [your anchor], I will Write three words in my journal After I [your anchor], I will Launch Microsoft Word After I [your anchor], I will Jot down one thing to write about After I [your anchor], I will Write one sentence
Mindfulness & gratitude After I [your anchor], I will Look up at the stars After I [your anchor], I will Smile immediately After I [your anchor], I will Think of one thing I’m grateful for After I [your anchor], I will Say one thing I’m thankful for After I [your anchor], I will Do one visualization After I [your anchor], I will Read one verse of scripture After I [your anchor], I will Meditate for 3 breaths After I [your anchor], I will Do one sun salutation After I [your anchor], I will Write down one positive word
Your next steps Again, these are some of your next steps:
Design three pairings of anchors and tiny behaviors, using the recipe format. Write down the recipes for yourself on a piece of paper. Prepare to start on Monday (for example, do you need to buy floss?). Start practicing these new habits on Monday!
Psychology of habits (fun version) When you do a behavior and feel a positive emotion about it, your brain pays attention. It essentially thinks, "Wow, that felt good. I want to do that behavior again!"
I can summarize my research here in three words: Emotions create habits.
But wait, there's more: The stronger the emotion, the more deeply your brain rewires. For emotion to rewire your brain, you must feel the emotion while you are doing the behavior, or immediately after. For example, if you bite into a new chocolate snack, and you immediately find it super delicious (positive emotion), then your brain will want to eat that snack again. Your brain will remember the effect (I felt good!), and in the future it will prompt you to eat the snack again. (Note: All habits form in the same way. The habit part of our brain doesn't care if society considers a behavior good or bad.)
My breakthrough technique I created a way to form habits quickly. With this, you are hacking your brain (in a good way).
I call my technique celebration. First, you find a way to make yourself feel a positive emotion. For example, you might say to yourself, "Good for me!" or you might do a fist pump and say "Yes!" out loud. There are many ways to celebrate. You need to find what works for you—what makes YOU feel positive, uplifted, successful, and happy. Once you have found a celebration, you can then use it—on demand—to create habits. In the Tiny Habits method, you do your celebration right after your new tiny behavior. For example, if you want to make flossing a habit, immediately after you floss one tooth, you would look at yourself in the mirror, smile, and say "Good for me!"
This action will wire the flossing behavior into your brain. The stronger you feel the emotion, the faster you will form the flossing habit.
Celebration is a skill Some people are naturally good at celebrating. It's easy and effective. And they find it fun. But most people will have to practice to gain this skill. In habit formation the most important skill is the ability to feel good about your behavior as you do it, or immediately after.
Can you see why celebrating effectively is such an important skill?
If you are very good at celebrating, then you start wiring habits into your brain quickly, sometimes in a day or two. This skill gives you habit superpowers.
“If nothing else goes right today, at least I did one thing right. Good for me”
Celebration accelerates habit formation
The more skilled you are at celebration, the faster you can create habits!