Less Can Be More:  Why Mini Habits Can Lead to more Than Minimal Practice

I play more guitar by committing to playing two minutes every day

In my last post I discussed how mini-habits can help maintain skills rather than letting them stagnate.   This is an important phenomenon but it’s also true that mini habits can help you exceed your practice goals.

Because of my mini habit,  I am just there with a tuned guitar in my hands or a laptop in front of me.  Though I might only be committed to two minutes of effort, everything is there for the possibility of more.

I owe a lot of my recent progress in this are to Stephen Guise,  creator of the “Mini Habit Mastery” course on Udemy. I am totally paraphrasing him here but what he is says is that you have to keep your commitment to the mini habit small.   Feel free to exceed the mini habit target but don’t make that the new and hard to reach expectation.

Lowering my expectations has helped me to exceed my goals for a few reasons:

  • It puts the tools right in my hands so I can keep on learning or creating if I want to
  • The minimal commitment gets me over the perfectionist death knell that keeps me from starting in the first place
  • Once I start it’s just plain fun to play or challenge myself more

My language inspiration site AJATT shares a similar message:

Starting is more important than finishing. If you just start — show up — every day; finishing will take care of itself. In exercise terms, the trick is not to go to the gym, the trick is to get outside with your shoes on.

A mini habit is a way to get outside with your shoes on.   Do more by lowering the stakes but practicing consistently.

Keep it On Hold, Not on Mold:  the Advantage of Mini-Habit Practice

“Motivation is what gets you started.   Habit is what keeps you going.” –Jim Ryuun

Picking a doable minimum keeps dreams and skills in play

Doing a little every day keeps a skill on hold rather than let it mold.   Playing at least two minutes of guitar every day has not turned me into Jimi Hendrix but it also hasn’t let the possibility of playing guitar slip further and further away.

Doing at least five minutes of exercise hasn’t turned me into an Adonis but at least I have a base of strength and flexibility to work with.   Sometimes I do 200 push up and sometimes I just do five minutes of stretching.   It beats what I was “doing” before.   Nothing.

Reducing your practice to a doable minimum insures that you will have a base no matter how small.  Playing two minutes every day makes me at least keep my guitar tuned.

Mini-habit practice is like a vitamin for your skills. This is a card from Terre Roche’s Fretboard Vitamins. She asks aspiring guitarists to use these cards a little bit at a time to get to know the fretboard better. A little a day is the way to play.

Last week I practiced fretboard vitamins.   This is a card system to remember different positions on the guitar.   Even with a few late nights when I couldn’t get to the guitar at least I looked at these cards for two minutes of mental practice. Terre Roche,  accomplished musician and designer of these cards, encourages all who undertake her system to, “practice with no hope of fruition.”

Mini habits are a great way to hold on in the midst of many conflicting concerns.   I don’t study German any more than about seven minutes a day.  I’m nowhere near fluent but I “own” a lot more words than if I didn’t.   When I can spend more time with German or in Germany at least I will have a base of vocabulary to build on.  Keeping it small for now keeps German do-able and fun.

A little a day is the way to play.  Keep it on hold.  Don’t let it mold.   Do your mini habits.

Don’t Forget to Habit

When you mark a habit as finished the app makes a great tone and celebrates the number if your streak!

Sometimes I feel like my life is the movie “Memento.”  The character had a memory problem so everyday he tattooed notes all over himself as he searched for his wife’s killer.  It’s a strange movie but it might as well be a document drama about my life.

As an educator and parent,  I often feel like the man from Memento.   I’m responding to a hundred requests in a day and by the end of the day I can’t even remember my own name.   

I know I keep harping about the Chains.cc app.  I promise you that I’m not receiving kickbacks.  (Though I would love it if this blog was self-sustaining.). 

Chains.cc just works because I need something to remind myself of the things I want to accomplish for myself:  learn to play guitar, write, speak or understand a few languages, be semi-physically and financially fit, and become a better librarian.   

After 69 days I can honestly say the chain apps is starting to work for me.   The way it works is simple.   If I perform a mini habit I check the habit off on the app.   When I do this it tells me how long my chain is.  

 If I turn my phone on it’s side the app gives me a visual of how long I’ve sustained each habit.   Practiticing guitar at least two minutes a day extends my fretboard.  Writing at least five minutes a day extends an ongoing bookshelf.  At least five minutes a day extends my running track.

It’s gotten to the point where I feel so rewarded by extending my streak that I dread having a gap in my picture.  So sometimes I find myself doing five minutes of stretching rather than having a gap in exercise streak.   Because I keep my tracked habits to a minimum. There is no forgetting.

The great thing is that I am getting results.   I am not ripped but my muscles are more toned.   Every other day I use the Zen Challenge app to do more push ups.   Currently I am up to 200.   I’m learning more guitar and I’m blogging on a more consistent basis.

I’m also using the Chain.cc app to work on a negative habit.   I was finding that my craft beer hobby left me a little sluggish and also a little fat.   I decided to create a “Buzz Free and Positive” habit where I give myself credit for not having a beer.   After thirty days,  I will celebrate with a craft beer. Or two.

I think the Chains.cc app works for me for a few reasons:

  • The choice is binary.  Either I did the habit that day or I didn’t.
  • The simple visuals make it hard to forget and fun to accomplish mini habits
  • The habits are in so small doses that it’s not impossible to accomplish small but consistent wins every day

But in the end I think the biggest benefit of a simple but colorful app like Chains is that it helps me fight against forgetting.  The responsibilities and craziness of the day may threaten to erase good habit building but the app keeps me building every day.  Don’t forget to habit.

The Compound Effect:   Get a Habit

For me, this book was a good though not especially engaging guide to how to use the power of habits.

For me, this book was a good though not especially engaging guide to how to use the power of habits.

I’ve  let library books pile up again.   I finished a nice graphic novel memoir called “Relish” that was recommended by the podcast Librarians Assemble.

But I also have a small little pile of books recommended by online business folks on Patrick Flynn’s program,  “15 Entrepreneurs Answer:  ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started My Own Business.'”  These books must be pretty popular because they are all on hold and I can’t renew them.

“The Compound Effect” is the most accesible.    Though I’ve skimmed rather than read each sentence carefully, this book hits home the message of the power of habits.

Though I found some of his metaphors and examples tiring,  Darren Hardy’s message of the power of daily habits and decisions  affirms what I’m trying to do with habits lately.   Continue reading

Let’s Get Physical:  Put a Bullet Through Your Journal

Great podcast with great resource lists on their blog.Librarians rock!

Great podcast with great resource lists on their blog.  Librarians rock!

I was stumbling through the Internet and landed on Bellwether Friends, a fun podcast with two librarians who also discuss pop culture.   After twenty eight minutes of  the various versions of Strek Trek,  Bellwether friends discussed bullet journaling.
Bullet journaling is an increasingly popular way of keeping a notebook that emphasizes writing in bullets instead of complete sentences and combines to-do lists, calendar planning, or whatever you want to plan out in your life.  Take a listen to the podcast.  Start at minute 29 if you want to skip the Star Trek material.

Bellwether Friends offers some really valuable links that explain bullet journaling:

Getting Started
Mental Health

Bullet journals are great ways to be creative about your life. This is a sample from http://www.bohoberry.com/bullet-journal-update/

Bullet journals are great ways to be creative about your life. This is a sample from Boho Berry.

Bookish Ideas
Staples Arc/Levenger Circa

Some takeaways that I found valuable:

  • A physical journal offers a tactile experience that some people find key to retaining  memories.
  • Even though there are many ways to gather notes, images and data digitally, putting it on paper means you have to make a commitment to decide what is important.
  • Physical journaling offers a great excuse to use paper notebooks that might have piled up in your life recently.

My journal is not a bullet journal. Even though it is messy the physical act of makibg decisions of ehat to write has really helped me.

If you take a look at the bullet journal articles dont be worried about how pretty everything looks.   Look at the rules but forget them too.    I would tell you the same thing about my Samurai Mind Notebook too.   I don’t review my notebook every day but when I do it is good.

Physical notebooks are some of the best way to capture your dreams, hopes, ideas and practical information.  Make your own rules and get physical.   Get outlaw.   Put a bullet through your journal.

Podcast Your Samurai Mind

cultivate your life with great podcasts

This summer I’ve learned to use podcasts as an extension of my mind.  I’ve gotten podcast recommendations from friends and professional journals.  I pop in a podcast and give two to three minutes.   If I am not inspired, I click and move on to something that does.

Let Podcasts Be Your Mentors

Podcasts can be a great way to tap the language and knowledge of your current or future career.  Listen to experts who interest you within the field.  For example, I don’t know much about graphic novels and comics but I think they have a lot of great potential for making libraries accessible to more people.   I’ve started listening to two great programs on comics and libraries called “Librarians Assemble” and “Secret Stacks.”

If You Aren’t Feeling It, Move On or Delete

I listen to podcasts while walking, commuting, or cleaning.  Your mind is valuable real estate.   Don’t clutter it with podcasts that don’t stimulate you or make you laugh.  Move on until you are ready to hear it or delete the whole program from your line-up. Continue reading

Success and Motivation at Your Fingertips:   Put Your Library on Speed-dial

Use e-bookss to power your life

It’s been a great summer.   I finished graduate school in Library Science in May.  Though this summer “vacation” I’ve been busy training for my new job as a high school librarian,  I’ve also had more time to listen to informative and fun podcasts, read for pleasure and establish the mini-habits I want in my life.   There’s a little more guitar, writing, exercise and joy in my life.

Part of what has made my summer more interesting is putting the library at my fingertips by putting books on hold and through various e-reader apps that allow me to tap into the library.

i have a regular card and an educator card through a program called MyLibraryNYC. My “keys” to success.

It’s not that I am just checking out more materials.   Getting more books and materials is part of being more excited about constant learning. I’m at the edge of jumping into a new career,  I’m listening to great podcasts that lead me to great books and resources.  Through the library I can have that extra information and inspiration within days or seconds.

The best learning happens when you can have a resource “just in time.” I have a growing but temporary collection of distraction free physical books and also a small collection of powerful books that I can read from my phone or tablet.

The library is an often untapped resource that can help you transform your business or skills.  September is Library Card Sign Up Month but it’s always a great and convenient time to get a library card.  If you are not a big library user here’s a couple of pointers: Continue reading

Streak Your Way to Success

You don’t have to be a super hero.  Just try a little bit every day.

Touch it everyday

Touch it.  I want to touch it every day.   This is my new winning strategy to skill acquisition.  In previous posts I’ve been examining how I’ve been using the “Mini Habits Mastery” course in combination with the Chains.cc app to keep track of the new habits I want to make.

However, what I want to focus here is a little digital tool that can make a big difference–the streak.  If you are going to win, you’ve got to make daily contact with your skill.  Maintain a streak of “touching” your skill every day and make a big difference.

Feed the slow steady fire

If you can’t study a lot, at least maintain your streak of making contact with the skill.   Duolingo, the language learning app boldly reminds you, “Learning a language requires practice every day.”  Michael Palmisano, my guitar teacher at Udemy says in his video courses that it is better to do a little bit every day than to try to tackle it all and not build the muscle memory that daily practice takes.

If you can’t do five minutes a day go for a streak Continue reading

Riding that Chain:  using the chain of mini-habits

Little Moves Make Big Change

I’m on the 23rd day of using Chains app to establish mini habits.  Everyday I do something small for six things that I am trying to make life-long habits:  learning languages, playing guitar, becoming a skillful librarian, getting in shape, increasing my financial strength and writing.  I’m noticing a few things:

  • Committing to just a little bit has made helped me take my learning just a little bit further. For example my goal to sustain my chain in Iknow (an app I use to learn Japanese but can also be used for English and Chinese) just takes one minute a day. But once I’m on the app I often continue because it’s so easy. It’s also fun because the app has built in incentives such such as weekly targets.
  • It’s easier to remember where I’ve been and keep from being discouraged. I’m traveling and hanging out in Japan. sometimes being busy makes it hard to keep up with my habits. But if I really remember how small my mini-habit commitment,is I can just keep moving. Momentum is my friend. For example, when I am travelling with I am not around a guitar. However, I can finger and practice chords and isolate the ones that aren’t natural to me.
  • More of my toolsーーguitars, webpages, notebook pages–are all more easily accessible because I do my habits much more frequently.

 

  • Momentum is on my side. For example,my only commitment to writing is five minutes a day. However, since I’m on the page with all my tools out it is often nor problem and even fun to keep going. However it is important to note that five minutes of sustaining a chain is a Yuuuge victory to be celebrated with another day on the chains,cc app.

I’m going to leave it here. As always the proof in this system will come once school starts up again. However, the time commitments are so small it looks like I can succeed every day.
If you would like to master the chain of mini habits check out the course called “Mini Habit Mastery: The Scientific Way to Change Your Habits” on Udemy. If you would like to support this blog, please hit on the Udemy link on the right side of this page and search for the course or pursue your other samurai learning needs. I will get a small commission that will help support me Samurai Mind. Enjoy!

Mini-Habits: (Don’t) Break the Chain

I’ve been enjoying the Udemy app so much I have become an affiliate.

It’s been an app-y summer.   I’ve finished graduate school and though I am preparing to start a new career as a school librarian, there aren’t as many looming deadlines and forced readings as last year.   I’ve installed a few apps and I’m rolling with them:

  • Simply-e–which allows you to use your New York public library card to borrow books to read on my tablet
  • Epic–to get online picture books for my daughter
  •  Sworkit—provides a variety of workouts without a gym
  • Udemy–an app for learning new skills online from various content providers
  • Chains–an app that lets you track and maintain new habits

Using the Udemy website and app I’ve been  watching the “Mini Habits Mastery” course on Udemy.   In short,  this course explains that in order to create new positive habits you need to go teeny tiny and small.  (Thanks to Rob Schwarz, a friend and an NLP trainer who suggested the course.  You can reach out to him at rob.schwartz@gmail.com for more cool ideas).

Great course on how-to of building mini habits

The course has been worth it to me even though I’ve been mostly listening to it on my walks in Japan as opposed to watching the video content.   It’s been worth the price because it has allowed me to jump start some habits and think about how to maintain them.   The course itself really digs in deep in an informative and entertaining way so check it out.
However, the main point I’ve gotten from the course is that you have to go infinitely small to develop habits that you want to sustain you.   For example, if you want to get in shape, set the goal of doing one push up every day.  If you want to write, set a goal of writing fifty words a day.

The Mini Habits course does a much better job of explaining why you would want to do this.  However, here is my understanding of the power of mini-habits:

  • setting super-small goals and actually being able to do it every day ingrains life-long habits that can transform your life
  • tiny, do-able habits get you on the page, to the gym and lead to increased forward momentum
  • mini-habits encourage “bonus reps”and often lead to exceeding mini-habits
  • Mini habits help you to insure you have your “tools” out for further creation…my mini-habit may be to out the guitar in my hands for two minutes but it puts me in the position of playing more if I want to

 

Easy to use checklist with great quotes about the power of building habits

I have game-ified the Mini Habit process with Chains.cc, an app that lets you track your habits and try to create chains.   Every day that you practice your habit you swipe to the left on your the app and create a new link in the ongoing chain

 

When you turn your phone sideways you can see the chain of habits you are creating with cute images.

So far I haven’t broken a chain because it would be so sad to break the visual picture.  What’s more important is that I’ve gained some momentum on goals that have seemed formidable.   I signed up for some Udemy guitar courses and asked have practiced at least two minutes a day.  It’s just two minutes so why not keep the chain going?

So far I’ve noticed some powerful advantages to this chains and mini-habit fusion:

Picture your on going chains of success. Part of my success with this so far is not wanting to “break” the picture by skipping a mini-habit day.

  • It’s fun.   Because the daily goals are very low stake it’s easier to have s feeling of success at the end of the day.
  • Momentum leads to “bonus reps” as the authors of Mini Habits call it.  If I have the guitar out to do my two minutes it’s easier to do more.   The mini habits author explains not to secretly raise the bar because it’s the mini aspect of this system that makes it work.
  • The chain effect makes it harder to forget where I was, whether it is the latest blog idea or the names of te guitar strings.

So far it’s only been a week but it’s been a quiet but powerful way to change up my summer.   Hope you will join me.   Become part of the chain gang.