If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen that I regularly post monthly “daily habits” or goals at the start of the month, and report back the following month. There’s probably no one who would tweet at me if I missed a month, and yet it’s a useful lightweight accountability.
And also, I – like many others- have found it hard to start any new things at all. (That NYTimes article on flourishing was very informative, and also, these days, enough words to make my eyes glaze over.) What to do to get myself ‘unstuck’?
There are 3 things I’ve found useful that I’ve referenced a lot in recent conversations: blastoff, tiny habits, and extreme timeboxing.
Blastoff (the 5-second rule)
This is a more specific flavor of “just do it” – which often doesn’t work. Mel Robbins gives this talk about how she was at rock bottom, depressed and struggling to get out of bed in the mornings until she caught a NASA shuttle launch on TV:
“So the next morning when the alarm went off, instead of lying there thinking about her problems, she pretended NASA was there watching her and gave herself 5 seconds to get out of bed. By counting down 5-4-3-2-1 she beat her habit of hitting the snooze button.”
It’s a little corny, and also I appreciate her explanation. This works because it’s quick and it’s finite. When you say “I’ll do it in 5 minutes”, it’s so easy for that 5 to stretch into 10 and then an hour and then it’s too late in the day. When you count down, after 5-4-3-2-1 there’s nothing left to do but act. The action can be very simple as long as it’s an action. Stand up, open a terminal window, put on your shoes, move to a different room in your house, grab a towel and turn on the shower. Any of these work.
Tiny Habits is a concept tested by Stanford psychology professor BJ Fogg. For a habit you want to adopt, you’ll need two things: a ridiculously small first step, and an already-established habit to chain it to.
Want to start flossing? After you brush your teeth (established habit), floss one tooth (ridiculously small step). Want to start reading? After you lie down in bed (established habit), open the Kindle app on your device (ridiculously small step). You can join a Tiny Habits cohort for free!
What can I do in 10 minutes? What questions can I come up with in an hour? How can I get a little bit of validation for that idea in less than a day?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has taken the concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and focused on the time limitations as a way to take action. I’ve found this an incredibly useful way to get myself unstuck and to give myself or my team permission to make mistakes. You can entertain almost any wildly out-there idea or approach as long as you give yourself a time limit and re-evaluate where you are at the end.