Tiny tasks can help you create habits by lowering the resistance to getting started that bigger habits create. Microhabits should be so small that it would be silly for you to not do them. Tracking habits, whether on paper or on an app, can create streaks that you won’t want to break, especially when the task is so small.
The best thing about small habits is that you don’t have to do the bare minimum, but you can. And if you overshoot your goal somedays (and you will), you’ll find that the results can be amazing.
Here are ten tiny habits that I’ve implemented that have improved my focus and increased my productivity.
- Drink only water
This habit doesn’t take any time at all. While science is constantly arguing about other liquids (wine, coffee, milk), assuming you have access to clean drinking water, science has yet to say anything bad about water with the exception of the very rare problem of overhydration.
While coffee is currently favored by the scientific community, by removing caffeinated beverages from daily drinking habit, you will find that caffeine is actually effective on the rare occasion you need it.
By giving up soda and wine, I’ve found that I feel better in the morning and I’m less tired.
2. Complete your morning commute in silence
I was skeptical when a friend told me that she often drives in silence during her morning commute (in fact, I might have suggested that it sounded psychopathic), but then I tried it. For me, my morning commute is one of the rare moments I have totally to myself during the day and one of the few times I can control the noise level. By turning off the radio and audiobooks, I actually have some time to think through problems and mentally prepare for the day. If you take public transportation, you can throw in some headphones and not turn on the music. Enjoy the silence.
3. Stretch for 1 minute
Though I would love to do yoga or other serious stretching every day, I rarely find time. But I can take an odd minute at the office to stretch out my neck. This often leads to a self-awareness about the parts of my body that are tense and the browlines (which are becoming more permanent) across my forehead. A few deep breaths and some small stretches help me reset my posture, refocus, and release some tension.
4. Meditate for 1 minute
I should be meditating to improve focus and gain mental clarity, but most days my schedule does not permit long periods of silence. Taking a minute or two at work to close my eyes, clear my mind, and sit quietly has helped me improve my focus and be more productive during the day. Science has recently backed this up. Just be careful that coworkers don’t walk by and think you’ve fallen asleep.
5. Do 1 push-up
Though I lack upper body strength, I’ve been doing at least one inclined push-up every day. Once I’ve gotten into the push-up position, I usually end up doing 10 or more. But as soon as I’ve done one, my goal is completed for the day and I can check it off.
6. Write down one thing you are grateful for
Once I’ve opened up my journal and written one thing that I’m grateful for, I usually end up finding 2–3 more people, events, or little things that I am grateful for. Also, knowing that I have to write down one thing tomorrow puts me on the lookout for good things in my life to write down. This is working me towards my goal of living a life of gratitude.
7. Get up 5 minutes earlier
I am not a morning person. My schedule requires that I get up by 6:30 each day and then rush around getting kids ready for school and myself ready for work. By waking up 5 minutes earlier, the mornings are a little less hectic and starting the day with a little less chaos helps me be more focused throughout the day.
8. Read 1 page
I was an avid reader in my youth. I had my library card number memorized so I could reserve my next books through the library’s website. Avid reader. But somewhere between kids and career, I stopped reading. By making it a goal to read 1 page every day, I’ve ensured that I will pick up a book or open the Kindle app on my phone. Either way, I end up reading much more and have read 32 books in the last 20 weeks. Once I have turned off the television and picked up the book, it’s easy to keep going.
9. Leave your phone out of reach during the workday
This works at home too, but I’ve found that putting my cellphone out of reach during the day drastically reduces the number of times I check for texts or personal email messages. I also leave all notifications turned off during the day, with the exception of phone calls. If there is a crisis, someone will call me. Otherwise, it can wait until I check my phone every hour or two. This has led to massive gains in productivity and improved focus.
10. Spend 2 minutes learning something new
Every morning I work on Duolingo for two minutes. I have set my daily goal on the app to the minimum (10 points), and I am slowly making progress in learning Spanish. Some mornings I spend 10–15 minutes working through the lessons, but once I’ve completed one practice, my goal is complete and I can check this habit off my list. Learning something new keeps me from getting too bogged down in my work or other practical things in my life. I have a couple of learn to program apps that I enjoy and try to do regularly.
Each of these tasks can be completed in 2 minutes or less, and some of them don’t require any time at all, but all together these tiny tasks can add up to consistent, incremental changes in your day.