walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Mini Habits_, Stephen Guise

I got this via Kindle Unlimited, but I then bought a copy for my High Priestess to check out and get back to me with her opinion. I'll update this post when I hear back from her. In the mean time, I think this might be the second non-fiction I bought through Kindle Unlimited that I straight up enjoyed and can recommend (_Personal Kanban_ was the other one, and there are some common threads between the two books).

Subtitled: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results

The idea of Mini Habits is as the title would suggest. Most "good" habits (he does not directly tackle getting rid of habits, altho he discusses displacement strategies and points to Allen Carr's EasyWay for smoking cessation) that one might contemplate starting involve a large ask at the beginning: a half hour of exercise, possibly involving getting into a car and driving to a gym, reading a book, writing a thousand words would be typical examples in his schema. With Mini Habits, Guise advocates "minifying" the ask, to something so stupidly simple, it is laughable (that's actually the metric for being sure you made it small enough). So, in his schema, a _single_ pushup, rather than a half hour workout; reading two pages of a book; writing 50 words. Guise has done two things from GTD in this approach: he has identified something that you have to do to accomplish the task/goal/habit (what is the next thing to do) and he has reduced it to the 2 minutes or less rule, where David Allen would say, just do it if you are in the place where it needs to be done, rather than put it on a list and manage it there. From a GTD perspective, "mini" or "stupidly small" is great.

Guise, like many of the habit promoters that eventually turn up on LifeHacker in one form or another, is a big believer in daily habits, altho he is okay with non-daily habits (example: 3x a week strength training). I agree with him that non-daily habits tend to take a little longer to "stick".

As for triggering or scheduling the mini habit, Guise suggests not, other than making sure you get it done by the end of the day (and acknowledging that he wrote 50 words, read two pages and did a single push up while in bad about to go to sleep on at least some occasions). He asserts (and I am inclined to agree) that over time, these mini habits will grow triggers earlier in the day, particularly since he is emphatic on celebrating the win once you do your habits for the day. If you want to do more pushups, read more pages, write more words, fine, but he is emphatic that you shouldn't grow the requirement. In this, he does the Very Best Job I've Seen Yet at making sure that a daily routine continues to work not just on _good_ days, but even on your worst days (we're all going to ignore unconscious and in the hospital days, since those are, hopefully, fairly rare in the target audience of this book).

Essentially, Guise has designed an easily communicated system for levering out of a depressed hole of inactivity. It is also one of the best systems I've seen for enabling people who once had good habits to "restart" them. Almost everyone who once ate very healthfully, exercised regularly at a high level, etc. finds the return process difficult, because they cannot imagine returning at the level they left at (they'd have to throw out everything in the house and buy entirely new food that is not currently appealing to them, they'd never be able to lift that much weight, run that far, etc.) and have great difficulty imagining returning at a different level. Guise just says come in so low, that you cannot possibly fail. Make it so the ask is laughably small.

It's brilliant.

The book is short and a quick read. Inevitably, there is a certain repetitiveness, altho for the most part, the repetition is there so that Guise can explain the same idea from numerous perspectives (it is not poorly edited purposelessness, that is). Guise's strategy is well aligned with mine, with the exception that Guise has a focus on every day habits, and I do not.

My own personal problem with habits is exactly the automaticity/insensitivity to environment which Guise, Rubin and other habit advocates are aiming for. I'm constantly trying to get my own automatic do-the-same-thing-the-same-way-every-time to be less routine and more in tune with the current environment. There's some sort of lesson here, altho I'm not at all sure what it might be.

In any event, if you wish you did something more consistently (you want better habits), but find other approaches to establishing better habits to be daunting, I have a hard time imagining how this approach could go wrong. And even if you _don't_ find other strategies daunting, I think this is a really good approach. Also, the parenthetical remarks in the book are hilarious (in a good, intentional way).
Tags: book review, non-fiction
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