Peter Schroeder


Micro-Habits Changed My Life

How the tiny devotion to micro-habits can make a huge impact.

I am a true believer that when you get comfortable, you start to die. If you aren’t doing things to make yourself better, then you’re slowly getting worse.

To an extent, this unfaltering outlook makes me a little uncomfortable with process and structure. Chaos was bliss to me and diversity kept my mind sharp, but everything changed once I discovered the power of micro-habits.

What Is A Micro Habit?

Micro habits are an action that requires minimal motivation or effort to complete. The idea is over time; a micro habit will slowly build on top of itself and result in something significant.

My middle school gym teacher introduced me to micro-habits in the form of weight lifting. He said, “Imagine weightlifting as stacking up pieces of paper. Every day you lift weights, just pretend like you’re adding a piece of paper to a pile. On the first day, you start with one single piece of paper. After a month of weight lifting, you could have as many as 30 sheets of paper stacked up. After several years of keeping up with weight lifting, you are going to have a serious stack of paper!”

The concept has stuck with me ever since, and I have tried to develop an array of micro-habits. These micro-habits have shaped the way I live and have helped me do things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

How I Use Micro-Habits

I’m the kind of person who uses every life hack I can find. You’ll find my Macbook littered with add-on and Chrome extensions to make my life easier. Saving time and being productive is important to me.

Since I have such a particular outlook on time, it’s be hard for me to allocate big chunks of time every day to forming a habit. This is where micro-habits come in.

The first habit I started with was reading. I have never been a big reader but decided I wanted to start reading more to learn new things. Initially, I began reading one page a night before bed. Just one page, that’s it!

Anyone can read a single page of a book. No matter what, I would read before bed every single night. What I found was reading the page of the book wasn’t what was important, but rather forming the habit. It’s nearly impossible to make an excuse not to take a minute for reading a page of a book. Thus, the habit begins to form.

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Sometimes it was a struggle (especially after long days), but remember — it’s only one page. Eventually, I was slowly able to increase the volume in five-minute increments to get to forty-five minutes of reading a night.

Another micro-habit I was able to entrench in my life was meditation. I have always had a cluttered mind and wanted to start doing something to clear my thoughts. After some time, I landed on meditation and breathing exercises as my path to a clear mind.

I decided it would be helpful to do this every morning to clear my mind at the beginning of the day, as well as a perfect way to cap off the day when I’m winding down at night.

To kick off the meditation process, I started by meditating for a minute in the morning and at night. Establishing the process helped me to make meditation part of my routine. Now, I meditate for fifteen minutes in the morning and a half an hour at night.

The micro-habit process has also helped me esablish the routine of going to bed at 10 pm every night (with exceptions), wake up at 6 am every morning (no exceptions), not use any electronics after 8 pm, and begin to learn French.

All of these things have become baked into my daily routine through micro-habits.

Why Micro-Habits Work

At their heart, as James Clear explains, habits are about routines.

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The beauty of micro-habits is that they’re so simple, you can’t say no to them or make any excuse not to follow through with them. As humans, we often overestimate what we think we can accomplish, but then we give up the moment reality sets in, and life gets complicated.

Micro-habits are all about preventing you from giving up due to something being too ‘hard.’

When practiced consistently, you can do something without even having to think about it. Micro-habits you probably already ingrained into your daily life include brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making a morning cup of coffee, etc.

How You Can Start Using Micro-Habits

Pick something you want to do and improve on. Then determine the path of least resistance to be able to accomplish your goal. From there, determine what micro-habit you can start doing today to kick off your goal.

Say for example you want to learn how to program. Start by taking one section of a programming class (like codecademy) a day. Do it during a set time of the day and do it every day.

This micro-habit will set you on your journey from making a dream become a habit.

*Update: See my interviews on NBC and Forbes relating to micro habits and other productivity hacks!

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If you want more, you can read my follow up piece on Balancing Your Chaotic Life By Utilizing Pattern Interruptions.

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