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The power of mini habits

ruffle1986 profile image Tamas Fodor Updated on ・7 min read

Hi! I'm Tamas. 32 years old web developer located in Budapest, Hungary. Let me have the chance to use this channel and introduce myself to the dev community.
I'm a procrastinator. A very kind way of calling myself a loser. And definitely not a finisher. You may find it inappropriate or offensive. But that's a fact and here I'm to confess.

Why am I calling myself a loser?

I have dreams to pursue. We all do. And when it comes to pursuing our dreams we all have excuses to convince ourselves why it's ok not taking an action to get closer, why it's ok to do it next day instead of immediately. "I don't have time." "I have a family to take care of". "I have a full-time job, I'm very tired." You know all the forms of these bastards I'm sure.
I don't know you but if you're fine with that, that's ok. But I'm sick and tired of it. So I've eventually decided to take the next step to accomplish my goals.

I've always wanted to write. To spread my ideas with the World. I've been planning to finally start it for years. Many years, almost a decade. Geez!
But why is that? If this is one of my biggest dreams, why is it so hard to do? If I want to do that, it must be easy, joyful and super cool, right?
Well, it's not that easy and that's ok.
"You're a coder. You're just not good enough at writing" I told myself. Actually, I was pretty good at writing in my student years according to the grades I got from my teachers. so nice try, Tamas, but it wouldn't work this time. "Alright, but I'd like to write in English to target a bigger audience and English is not my primary language". Hmm, getting better.

See? I'm the ultimate master of finding a good excuse to not do anything to reach my goals.

It must be the willpower I thought. Well, yes and no. It's a more complex problem including many components. Partially it's the willpower, yes. But it's a huge topic. And in order to deal with big issues effectively, we have to split it down to smaller chunks, right?
Before diving deep into this, let me talk about how I get here and realize the source of all evil.

I've always been a book guy and as many of us who want to become a better person, I've read a shit load of books on self-discipline, forming good habits and such things. To be honest, at first, I desperately tried to find a secret formula, a secret mantra or pill with which I could immediately get where I wanted to be. Yeah, right. Guess what? There weren't any but I didn't give up reading and many books later I finally got to a certain point where everything started to become clearer and made more sense.

I'm not a big fan of new year's resolutions because I think it's a huge lie and just another excuse to procrastinate.
"Alright, This is the last chocolate cake and it's over. From January, I won't eat any of this shit I swear. My grandma put a lot of effort to bake it to me anyways." Familiar? But for some reasons, it gives people a huge amount of motivation to achieve something great if they can attach the starting point to a certain event. To start it at least. Doing it consistently? Well, that's another question we all know it. It was the same with me of course but it happened to finally press the red button a few days later after New year's eve. So basically I took an action immediately right?

The power of habits

I'm sorry for the emotional start but now let's start talking about the solutions. So as a good first step I googled for the best possible books on willpower out there. I found a few promising books but also, a lot of books about habits came along the way. I remembered that I had heard about the positive effects of building good habits but I had never really dived deep into the topic. "The seven habits of highly successful people". "You have to wake up 4 am every single day, or even better 3 or 2 am" and stuff like that. I stopped being sarcastic immediately, kept focusing and pick a book.

The first book of my choice was Habit stacking by S. J. Scott. It's not the most popular book on habits but after reading it I realized that it borrowed lots of great ideas from other books like the famous Power of habits by Charles Duhigg and many others. So essentially it was a good start to warm up.

In my opinion, it's a really good book and had a huge effect on me. It tells you the basics of habit building and also comes with a huge list of habits to start with in case you're not that creative to come up with your own.

And at this point, I'd like to grab the chance to highlight the most powerful idea included by the book. Mini habits. It was the one that gave me the fuel to take the necessary actions immediately because this fundamental made everything so easy and straightforward.

As a programmer, I like keeping things super simple so I needed something to make it easier because it's obvious that building good habits makes you a better person. But it's very hard to build them. This is how our brain works. It's very difficult to be consistent and follow our new routines every single day until it really becomes our own and we do it without being aware of it. And if you're like me, you want to grab the best habits all at once to take it to the next level immediately right? Well... Not so fast.

Mini habits

It won't work so you better forget it. But that is exactly the point of mini habits. To make it super simple. I love them! Suppose we have a big goal like losing weight, learning a new language or writing blog posts on a regular basis. These are the goals. In order to reach them, we have to build habits to move forward because it's impossible to accomplish them all of a sudden.
But we tend to go big, especially when we're full of motivation at the early stage of our journey. Let's settle at the losing weight analogy. However, writing is my biggest goals for the year, I wanted to start with something easier. I love sports but I tend to do it inappropriately so I decided to practice habit stacking connected to working out.

So we go to the gym every single day of the week and do exercises for hours. We got all the good advice about weight lifting, cardio, and stretching. We want to do them all at once. What could go wrong? The bigger the effort and the more the work we do, the sooner we get there, right?
This is the main reason why we give up after a few weeks or a month. The expectations are so big, we feel overwhelmed and lose all the motivation. Eventually, we stop doing the hard work no matter how much effort we put in.

Stop focusing on the results. Focus on the process which is habit building. Who told us we had to train like Arnold Schwarzenegger. We can of course but it's stupid to start like that. Want to get that beach body? Alright! Let's add those mini habits. Here's mine.

I decided to go to the gym in the morning. Dare I say it's more difficult. So I told myself. Ok, Tamas. Just wake up! Go to the bathroom. Wash your teeth! Wash your face! Take your clothes on! Grab your bag and get out of the house. I have to mention another mini support habit here I've found super useful. Usually, I pack my bag the night before so I don't have to mess with that in the morning.
So the first day I went to the gym. Ran 10 for minutes on the treadmill. Did a few pushups and got familiar with the machines and the tools. Especially with those tools, I use for leg exercises because I had planned a leg day for the next time. And that is all! The next day I did exactly the same. Went to the gym, ran 10 minutes on the treadmill and did a few squats.
See? It's that simple. The point wasn't training like a spartan warrior. The point was taking my ass to the gym and start "something" at 8 am on a consistent basis.
It was very difficult at the beginning but it was getting easier and easier every day. Next week, I started to change the habits a little bit. I woke up a bit earlier and increase the number of exercises after the 10-minute treadmill.
The result? Priceless. It's not necessary to mention but I got to the point when it was super easy and I could not even imagine my mornings without the training. It's even better when you start to see the results. Now I do this morning routine in autopilot mode. When I have to skip, it hurts.

The same with writing. I don't have to write a book with 200,000 words in one day. First, just decide what you want to write about. Give it a title. Pick a day and write your thoughts down. Don't give up half-way! Finish it. Once it's done, it's great. Do the same a week later. Try to write a blog post every week. Just one! It's going to be easier. You're going to be better at writing. When you get bored and it's not a challenge anymore, increase the number of posts and write two each week instead of one.

I'm hoping you got the point of mini habits. Take these tiny steel lego blocks and start putting together your routines. Remember! Take it easy and once it's super-solid, add more or take the existing ones to the next level. Use them mindfully and be consistent! These are the foundation of your future greatness.

Happy habit stacking!

Discussion (14)

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chrisrhymes profile image
C.S. Rhymes

It so true. People want instant results and get fed up if they haven't achieved their result in a week.

I really like the idea of focusing on the process rather than the goal.

I wrote a short book and put it on amazon kindle store a few years ago, but I then immediately went on to start writing a long novel, but was too focused on the goal rather than enjoying the writing. 25,000 words in I gave up. This article has given me motivation to pick up where I left off and try and get into the process of writing again. Thanks!

leob profile image


Spot on ... you need to take little steps, and just start doing something ... if you focus on "achieving something big, fast" you'll end up disappointed and/or frustrated. Just start, take small steps, but do it, do it every day (or week, or whatever schedule you've set), and do it consistently.

Don't think about the "result", think about the "journey".


shankydnothairy profile image
dhadi shankara

Well said, Tamas. Totally agree with you. Getting the habit first and make it a daily routine, then increase the work-load/intensity/bandwidth.

Thanks for this. Will approach my learning and workout with this approach.

simoroshka profile image
Anna Simoroshka

Another great book is Atomic Habits, highly recommended. The four laws from there: Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying.

I finally started going to the gym regularly by removing all inconveniences from the process (making it easy and satisfying): I go late in the evening when there are few people and I am not in any rush, I go dressed (only need to change the shoes), and I take shower at home. And yes, minimal expectations on what exactly and how long I am going to do there. Works!

ruffle1986 profile image
Tamas Fodor Author

Perfect timing! :)

If you're interested in my thoughts on the book:

dejo_17 profile image
Dean Juricic

Great article. I found myself in most of your text.

I read constantly about similar topics, (human psychology).

To improve even further I would recommend books like "The organised mind" , "The willpower instinct" and "Art of thinking clear" .

The biggest impact on my willpower was done by one book I would also highly recommend: "The War of Art".

Good luck and keep writing!

ruffle1986 profile image
Tamas Fodor Author

Thank you, Dean!

And also thank you for the books. I haven't read them yet and put them on my reading bucket list!

Take care!

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

I totally agree with forming mini habits. Every single time I always had a nasty voice in me.

When I'm writing a blog which tells me this in a similar fashion "why do I write a blog? No one will appreciate me in writing".

Which slowly I shift to focusing on just documenting stuff and writing my opinions in the things that interest me every single week.

Which lead me to write till this day :)

sauloco profile image
Saulo Vargas

Hi Tamas, great article, but please, divide it in sections for more easy reading ;)

ruffle1986 profile image
Tamas Fodor Author

Hi Saulo,

Yes, you're totally right. I'm sorry and thank you for reading despite the inconvenience. :)

straightupcode profile image
Roberto Sanchez

I feel like this would be a great read for me, but right now I'm busy, so I'll read it later

bekjan2361 profile image

Thank you Tamas! Your post made my day✊

bigg_aji profile image
Tobi Ajibade

Good article tamas!

bassemmohamed profile image
Bassem Ibrahim👨‍💻🇪🇬

Great post! I would totally relate to this. Thats exactly how i managed to workout those last 3 months, would love to add writing to the formula tho 😂