Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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 app.  I promise you that I’m not receiving kickbacks.  (Though I would love it if this blog was self-sustaining.). 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 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 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

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.

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 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, 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.

Dump and Slash:   Why sometimes you need to raze a village to save a child

I’m in Japan with a suitcase full of notebooks and professional literature.   I am on a dump and slash mission.   I’m here for thirty days and I hope to return without any of the notebooks and professional literature that I crammed into my suit case.   Sometimes you need to raze a village to save a child.

First a little back story.  I basically stopped updating Samurai Mind Online when I received a scholarship to study to become a librarian two years ago.  My courses were online at Syracuse University but that doesn’t mean that it was a piece of cake.  In addition to my full-time job, I was also elected the union representative for my school and continued to be a dad of two young children.

As the various projects and demands piled up, I found that I had a growing mound of professional literature and my notebooks piling up.   This pile is a potential treasure pile but it’s sheer size was a major de-motivator.   It created falling hazards on my desk that threatened to bury my children alive.   As an organizational samurai I’ve now realized that you have to raze a village to save a child.In addition to my library journals, I’ve brought a bunch of my notebooks that are due for review.   However, I’ve decided that instead of dating the entries and reviewing methodically that I will review at random and not date any of the pages.   The only effort I will expend is copying very interesting entries by hand into my new notebook or in the case of longer entries I use CamScanner to turn the pages into PDFs which I then upload to my Evernote account.

I have a built in incentive.  The luggage will have room for more goodies to bring back from Japan.  Plus, my wife won’t kill me.   My luggage is not all my own.  I moonlight as a mule of Japanese stationary, house hold goods, and snacks  for my wife.

This is just a reminder that even if you have a system sometimes what really needs to happen is to have a purge.   I could have carefully dated and reviewed all of my notebooks but they had built up to such a big pile that it would have just led to resentment, resistance and possibly an even bigger pile leading to more resentment and resistance.

So this is just a friendly reminder that if you are feeling overwhelmed by the “pile” maybe what you need is a celebration around the pyre of letting things go.  You need to raze a village to save the child.







Listen to What You Want to Become: Samurai Mind meets Cyberpunk  Librarian

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 7.20.42 PMI’m in transition. (No not that kind.).  I’m a teacher learning to be a teacher librarian.   But to be a teacher librarian these days means to be an information generalist in an age when information is metastasizing at a tremendous rate.  In library school, we are encouraged to learn coding languages as well as connecting with great books for kids of all ages.  It’s overwhelming for a busy dad who doesn’t even know what’s on cable television.

But I decided to let go and let podcast.  From my days of All Japanese All The Time,  I realized that you become what you listen to.   So I hit up a Facebook group for librarians called ALA THINK TANK for librarian podcast recommendations.  Librarians are a helpful bunch and within minutes and over several days I developed a nice little list of podcasts.

My only “ask” was that the program has to be fun to listen to.   I have enough required activities in my life right now and don’t need any more “homework.”  I found a program, Lost in the Stacks, about university libraries that interspersed with great rock  and roll.

Then I stumbled onto The Cyberpunk Librarian.  Episode 36 focuses on productivity tools and did a great explanation of the Getting Things Done system.  Daniel Messer shows how to use list making tools and why he prefers using OneNote to Evernote.  He also succinctly explains and rifts on the very helpful Pomodoro technique.  Always a librarian, Messer provides a killer resource list of interest to anyone interested in getting things done.  But what also intrigued me was that he also advocates for using a physical notebook.  I’m waiting with samurai baited breath to listen to that episode.

This little episode is a great reminder that you can use the immersion and principles can work for whatever skill you want to tackle.  Make sure to:

  • Use and expand your social networks to get ideas beyond your own research
  • Let go and let podcast.  There is so much interesting and specialized content out there.   Go get it!
  • Be immersed in the language of your new or desired skill
  • Expand your Personal Learning Network by asking for help, online and in person.  When you strike gold, make sure to share the wealth
  • Have fun!

Time Pressure Samurai

I’m sitting by a large window in a cafe in Manhattan, facing the East and hoping to get some rays of sun before I head into to the cave of work.  I have five more minutes before I have to go.   I am a imagetime pressure samurai.  You can become one too.

Time is at a premium these days which is why you haven’t heard much from me these days.   I’m a public school teacher with two children.   I’m getting a graduate degree in library science and spending as much of my “free” time as possible at school libraries and library trainings.

There seems to be very little time.   But here is this cafe window and a cup of coffee that gets cold within thirty minutes.   I use this little “window” of time every morning to create or study and connect.

It seems many personal and fun projects have gotten away from me.   So instead of despairing I go through little “me paces,”  short little bursts of activities that I want to do:

  • read inspirational or professional articles one page at a time
  • review of a current notebook
  • Review an old notebook
  • study Japanese for five minutes using I know
  • study Tagalog
A little bit at a time

A little bit at a time

I usually get into the cafe around 7 a.m. and have to leave by 7:40 to get to work on time.   This is also the amount of time it takes for my cup of coffee to get cold.   I pile up my reading and notebooks and set my iPhone to the side.  I read a page, review a notebook page, review an older notebook page.

Then I open my cellphone and study iKnow (a program with pre-packaged sentences in Japanese), write three sample sentences, and quiz myself on the rest of the work.  Since I have my iPhone at hand, I use Mango to study Tagalog.  I’m studying this language because I have a few Philippine friends and I thought it would be fun.   (The app and access to Mango is free through many public libraries.)  Tagalog is not a major goal so I only study five “cards” at a time and this study session takes two or three minutes.  Lately, since I realize having the iPhone in hand means access to many goals, I have also started writing and editing an article on how to keep a Samurai Mind Notebook.

Though I spend very little time on each activity there are several benefits:

  • A little bit every day keeps the neural chain going–skills are never completely abandoned
  • small attempts clear the ground for when there are moments of time–raking the leaves a little bit each day instead of waiting for a big wet leafy mess
  • its fun–it keeps little candle of hope and fun burning

Take it all a little bit at a time. Become a time pressure samurai.

Use the Library for Physical Reminders of Big Ideas

Hello, Samurai Mindsters!   I’ve attached many vacuums to my time lately.  I am still a high school teacher.   I am a Librarian in Training (LIT!).   I also believe I am the parent of two little girls.

I keep a samurai mind notebook to remind me of great ideas but I also incorporate another practice to be physically reminded of great books and ideas.  As I come across great ideas of books and videos, I check my library to see if they have it and put the items on reserve.  Most libraries now make it easy to see which materials they have through online catalog and reserve systems.    It usually takes a while to actually receive the item, and I am notified by email when it arrives in my local branch.

Then I have a physical reminder of that inspirational idea.   Either I skim the book or view the video, or if I really like it, I fall into it.   The idea becomes a part of my physical reality.   The library reserve can become a physical spaced repetition system.

I made my first video for my graduate work at Syracuse University’s School Media Specialist program.  (Note:  I need to get a better microphone and background.  Enjoy my first foray into SamuraiTube!