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You can achieve new SCN goals in 2012, the “3 Tiny Habits” way

The re-tweet by SAP TechEd US keynote speaker Jane McGonigal caught my eye:

@BJ Fogg My “3 Tiny Habits” group invests 3 min/day for 5 days to change life. You can apply for my next session here

Change my life in 3 minutes a day for 5 days?? Sounds crazy but, what did I have to lose? So I took the link, completed the application, and crossed my fingers. A few days later an email welcomed me to the program.

Maybe your experience with developing new habits has been like mine: I start off with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, but somewhere along the way it fails to stick, whether it is a new exercise routine, an improved dietary plan, an intellectual betterment program like learning a new language, or another worthy goal. Why is it so hard to stick with these new habits, despite a heartfelt desire at the outset? BJ Fogg’s “3 Tiny Habits” program is deceptive in its simplicity; his way to develop to new habits is to start out small, in fact tiny, make it quick and easy, and to piggyback the new habits onto habits you already have well entrenched.

You might be saying to yourself, “Ha, she doesn’t know me, I have no good habits.” Sure you do. You brush your teeth every morning, don’t you? You have something to drink first thing every morning, a cup of coffee or tea, perhaps? Excellent! You already have the basis for some of your new Tiny Habits. If you stop to think about it, I bet you could come up with quite a few things you do every day without even thinking about it.

The next part is important: make it tiny. This is not the time to set a goal that this year, you will run a marathon, or even finish a 10K, if you are not already a daily runner. No, his method is to start TINY. Perhaps something like: After my morning cup of coffee, I will go for a 30 second walk. Remember, AFTER something you already do habitually every day, now you will do something tiny.

After my first cup of coffee, I will write one sentence.

For me it was: after I brush my teeth,  I will do one stretch. Not an entire yoga routine, just one stretch.

Yes, one. Remember, quick and easy. Tiny. Nothing burdensome or painful. If it’s painful, he says do something else.

If you are going to write, you will have your tablet or preferred device on the table in the morning, to make it easy to remember. If you are going to walk, your walking shoes should be right there as a reminder. The last part is also important: you will reward yourself for your new tiny habits. In fact, you should give yourself a mental “Atttagirl/ Attaboy” for even remembering to do it, then again when you actually do the new habit, you can celebrate again. You did it! Yes, you did! That’s the way! Good on you!

Once your tiny habits are well established and you are feeling good about them, then you can gradually start to make it bigger. Eventually, that one sentence could be your new blogging habit, and you will be on your way to higher contributor status on SCN. Your new reading habit could get you a new SAP certification. I am already feeling much better with my new stretching habit. But it all starts with 3 Tiny Habits. I encourage everyone to give this program a try. My thanks to BJ Fogg for accepting me into the program, and to Jane McGonigal for the re-tweet that started me on this path. Here’s to lots of productive new habits in 2012!

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  • Thanks for sharing this awesome tips!
    I started actively contribute in SDN forum for the last 3 months, and today, i just get my Silver Badge, i’m so glad to share my knowledge and help others. Also, i’m slowly develop the habit of writing blog, and guess what, i’d 2 blogs published in SCN now (although i don’t like blogging), but i’ll take your advise and make it a habit. 🙂

    Happy New Year,

    Nicholas Chang

    • Congratulations on achieving the Silver badge in only 3 months, Nicholas! Stick with it the 3 Tiny Habits way, and I predict we will be hearing a lot from you this year.
  • Yes, I do love the idea.  Knowing myself it will be a very hard thing to do.

    I have trouble breaking things down.   I tend to set up large goals.  If I break those down the large goal doesn’t seem to get done.  Alas I’m probably doing it wrong….

    Also think of it this way – my small goal is to complete program ZYX.  (Z first for SAP)  Now to complete the program I need person A to work with me.  Person A is working on project B.  To free up person A, I work on getting project B done….

    It quickly becomes a mess.  I know that wasn’t what you were thinking when you wrote the blog.  I just like to apply things to work.

    So – my small thing I could change.  Write three positive things about work at the end of the day.  Maybe that will improve my mood for the  next day.  MMmmmm… maybe I should write them the next day.

    Great blog!


    • Michelle,
      “Complete program ZYX” sounds to me like it is way big for a “tiny habit.” I would go with something more like:
      After lunch/ my first cup of coffee at the office/ the morning staff meeting/ whatever, I will write two lines of code on program ZYX.
      Of course, I’m sure that a lot of thought would go into those two lines, and maybe even that is not exactly tiny, so don’t make the tiny step painful. But, chances are good that once you get into that daily habit, you will be writing more than two lines each day before you know it, and voila, it will be done. At least, that is the idea.

      Of course, applying it to goals outside of SAP/SCN is great, too. Good luck, and thanks for your comments!


  • Hi Gretchen,

    I’m just catching up (well, going through some old stuff I bookmarked long ago). So, after 2,5 years how would you assess this 3 Tiny Habits method? Do you still form new habits this way, or have you meanwhile abandoned it? Or …(just fill in yourself)?

    I mean, it sounds interesting and could totally make sense, but I’ve seen more of these ‘things’ that sound like they make sense, but then in the end don’t deliver on their promise.

    And since this is something you can only really assess after a relatively long period, I’m very curious how you’d evaluate this 3 Tiny Habits way.

    Thanks in advance 🙂 .

    Cheers, Fred

    • Fred,

      Thanks for asking. I would say that I still form new habits that way. I suppose I could say that the “3 Tiny Habits” way has become my new normal, so I still recommend it.

      If you try it, I would be interested in hearing how it turned out for you.