How I Use Mini-Habits to Accomplish Goals

As a lupus patient, I don’t have as much time or energy as most people my age. Even after getting the over 10 hours of sleep a night that I need to function, I still feel tired throughout the day. As someone who has a lot of plans and goals, this can be frustrating. Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of staying productive. Some were successful, and others either didn’t work or ended up with me in a flare at my doctor’s office.

Reading about mini habits

A few years ago, I read a book that completely changed my approach to setting and accomplishing goals. In the book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, author Stephen Guise teaches the reader a system that he used to both get in shape and write a book. The book focuses not on goals, but on developing habits over time that help you make progress towards a broader goal.

According to the book, many people don’t accomplish their goals because the tasks they set for themselves are simply too big. The author describes how he tried and failed several times to develop an exercise routine, always eventually giving up because he lacked the time or motivation to do 50 sit-ups or push-ups each day. Then, Guise decided to set a daily goal for himself so small he couldn’t possibly fail: he would commit to doing just one push-up a day. After completing his push-up, he found to his surprise that he would often do a few more push-ups since he was already on the floor in position. In this way, he conquered his lack of motivation by making the task so small he hardly needed motivation.

After reading Mini Habits, I tried the method of productivity outlined in the book. First, I decided on a few activities that I wanted to make habits. Rather than thinking of a larger goal, which was how I usually approached tasks, I considered which pursuits would help me in my life or encourage my growth as a person. The author defines a mini-habit as a habit that takes thirty seconds or less to complete each day, so I chose small activities. I decided that I wanted to write a sentence a day in order to become a better writer. I also chose to play a scale a day on my viola.

Putting my mini habits to the test with lupus

On the first day of trying to develop my mini habits, I was very motivated – as most people are when they first start a diet, exercise, or writing or practicing regimen. I completed my one sentence, then went on to write a few hundred more words. Then I took my viola out of its case, tuned, practiced a scale, and then continued to practice for a while after. But what really made me see the value in the mini habits method wasn’t what happened on the days I felt motivated and healthy – it was what I accomplished on the days I struggled with pain or fatigue.

Because the mini habits I chose were so small and required so little time and energy, I was able to keep up with them even when I was feeling sick. Playing one scale on the viola isn’t difficult. On days I didn’t feel well, I’d play my one scale and then go back to bed. Writing a sentence a day was even easier. Often, I would balance my laptop on a pillow propped up on my stomach as I lay on my back and typed my sentence. After a few months of sticking to my mini-habits, I glanced at my folder full of writing and realized that I had made significantly more progress than if I’d set a larger goal. In a few months, I’d written 17 essays or short stories and practiced my viola for over a hundred days.

As lupus patients, we have to find creative ways to achieve our goals. If you are struggling to find time and energy to do what you want to do in life, I highly recommend trying mini-habits. You’ll be surprised how far baby steps can take you.

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