We all know habits are important. If you want different results you need different behaviour. If you want to do something hard you need high levels of motivation. That’s a problem!
Dr BJ Fogg, a psychologist from Stanford University, developed a method to overcome the motivation problem, which he calls Tiny Habits.
Developing habits is hard. If you want to develop the habit of going out for a run, for instance, then you have to do the hard work of going running. Now you’ve got motivation problem.
What Dr Fogg realised though is that you don’t need to make it tough to develop a habit you only need to do a small amount to build the habit. Your brain doesn’t know how far you ran, only that you went running. For instance, you can build a running habit by running 100 meters, you don’t have to run 5K every time.
So how can you build a habit? First choose the habit you want, and then work out the smallest possible chunk that you can do of that. But don’t go too small. If you say you are going to run 1 meter for instance that won’t create the experience of going running enough for your brain to associate with it. Choose something so easy to do that you don’t need any motivation to do it.
Next choose a trigger behaviour, something you do every day. Attaching the new habit to an already existing behaviour will remind you to do it and give you a head start.
For instance Dr Fogg committed to doing 2 press-ups every time he went to the toilet. You could do squats while your tea brews or a lunge every time you walk through a doorway.
The magic of Tiny Habits is that you often end up doing more than you commit to. Once you’ve got over the hurdle of actually doing something you’ll find yourself doing 3 press ups instead of the 1 you committed to. For instance I often find it hard to get motivated to go to the gym so I tell myself that all I have to do is get changed and walk through the gym’s front door. If I still don’t fancy it once I walk through the door then I can go home and put my feet up. But this has never happened. By the time I get to the gym I’ve totally forgotten about the little promise I made to myself and am just in “going to the gym” mode.
How can you use this method in your business today?
As an example, Ochsner, a large US health care provider, uses an approach it calls the “10/5 Way”. When employees walk within 10 feet of one another they must make eye contact and smile. When they walk within 5 feet, they must say hello. Since the introduction of 10/5, Ochsner has experienced an increase in unique patient visits, a 5% increase in patients’ likelihood to recommend the organisation, and a significant improvement in customer satisfaction scores. The Tiny Habits of smiling and saying hello led to a large increase in happiness and positivity in the organisation which in turn increased important business metrics.