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Teeny Tiny Habits, One at a Time

HabitsWe’ve blogged about habits before (Sam’s post here and another here and here), and about doing less (my post here).  I’ve known about small changes leading to big things for quite a long while now.  But since starting the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program last month, I’ve really made the link between habits and doing less.

It’s the tiny habit that wins the day. Why? Because it’s more likely to stick.  That’s why the Pomodoro Technique has always worked so well for me when it comes to tackling projects that I procrastinate on.  I can get into the habit of spending just 25 minutes on an important project.  I am so grateful to Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, for pointing me in the direction of that technique and for her wise emphasis on small, do-able changes.

The PN Lean Eating program, as Sam described so well in her review post, focuses on healthy habits, one at a time.  Last month, for the first two weeks of the program, we were encouraged to come up with our own “5 minute action.”  This is any positive change that would take no more than five minutes. If it only takes five minutes, it’s easy to accomplish because, face it, who doesn’t have five minutes?

My five minute action that first two weeks was to meditate for at least five minutes after I arrived at work each day, before I started working. When I get to the office, I plug in the kettle for my tea, turn off the overhead light, set my Insight Timer for 5-10 minutes, and meditate.  Going into silence before I get down to my daily tasks has created a buffer between my commute and my workday that grounds me.

Now, we are working on the habit of slow eating.  I have never been a slow eater. In fact, if I eat with people, I’m almost always one of the first to finish.  Even though I’ve had the slow eating advice zillions of times through my various diets and eating plans, I’ve never done it for a sustained period of time. I think the reason is that it always came along with a suite of other changes, not on its own.

But this time, it’s literally the ONLY habit that I need to work on for this two week period. And you know what?  Since I started practicing this habit last week, I’ve been the last one to finish every single time I’ve had a meal with people. And when I eat by myself, I’ve added at least 5-10 minutes to each meal.  What felt odd and unnatural at first is now, after just 9 days, becoming my default way of eating.  Scarfing down my food is no longer appealing to me.

It’s a small change, and right now it’s the only change. I can handle it because I can focus on it without the distraction of having to juggle a raft of other changes at the same time.

Leo Babauta has a wonderful website called Zen Habits.  He has an excellent post about “The Four Habits that Form Habits.” Number one on the list is to “start exceedingly small.” As he puts it, “make it so easy that you can’t say no.” Instead of starting a whole new workout program, commit to doing three push-ups.  Instead of overhauling your entire diet, practice eating slowly.

Whether you want to follow Sark in calling these small steps “micro-movements”(download overview available here) or PN in calling them “5 minute actions,” whether they seem like changes that are too small to make a difference, the fact is, this approach to change works.

Doing less than you think you should and working on establishing just one habit at a time is a winning combo. It’s taken me from fast eater to slow eater in less than two weeks.

If you have any stories or experience with teeny tiny habits, one at a time, please share them in the comments. Now—time for my five minute meditation!

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