Katharine Brooks Ed.D.

Career Transitions

Changing Your Career Can Start With a Tiny Habit

Tiny Habits is a brilliantly simple system for changing your life.

Posted Apr 20, 2016

Thinking about a career change?  Need to do more networking? Time to upgrade your online profile or resume? Need to research further education or training? When faced with a large task, project or goal related to career development, many people procrastinate and get stuck in the process.  When there’s no absolute deadline you must hit, it’s easy to put off the less-than-exciting tasks related to the job search no matter how much you want to find the new job or career.  After all, as Steven Pressfield writes: “The more important a call or action is to our soul, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

Sound familiar?  Want a creative way out of your slump? Enter a clever system called “Tiny Habits.”

Created by Dr. BJ Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, the principle behind Tiny Habits is simple, yet surprisingly effective: instead of setting a large goal with many steps, you select one Tiny Habit that can be completed in 30 seconds or less.  That’s it. Dr. Fogg encourages you not to select a habit that would require you to count for 30 seconds since counting would distract you from the habit. (For instance, if your big goal is to “get in shape”, your tiny habit might be “Every morning when I get out of bed, I will do 3 push-ups.” No need to watch a clock or worry about the time. You can easily do 3 push-ups in 30 seconds.) Dr. Fogg also suggests you attach the habit to something you already do each day so that you have an “anchor” or a reminder to complete your habit.

I had been procrastinating on several writing projects, and because they were not deadline-driven (what Stephen Covey would call important but not urgent), I allowed work and life events to interfere.

In total frustration one day, after noticing that a month had passed since I worked on a particular project,  I signed up for the free 5-day online support and created my Tiny Habit: “Every morning when I turn on my office computer, I will write down a 'writing goal' for the day.”  Followed by: “Every afternoon when I turn off my office computer, I will draw a line through the goal if I have achieved it.”  That’s it: no requirement as to what the goal would be or how I would accomplish it, and no judgment (or punishment) if it wasn’t achieved.  Just a simple small goal that took only a few seconds to write down and even fewer seconds to cross off at the end of the day. 

The results? Amazing.  During those 5 days, I accomplished my writing goal each day. The project I had procrastinated on for over a month was done in two days.  I continued using the system for the next month or so with similar results.  Only on one or two days did I not “cross out” my goal at the end of the day.  And on those days, I simply kept the same goal for the next day and accomplished it then.   I also learned that the “anchor” component is crucial. My schedule was disrupted due to travel and I lost the cue to complete my Tiny Habit.  When I returned to the office, I didn’t start the tiny habit again—and my writing suffered. I went back to my old habit of thinking about what I needed to do rather than doing it.  I started my Tiny Habit again and the writing discipline returned.

From my perspective, here are the keys to making it work:

1. Go to the Tiny Habits site, read the information and sign up for the free 5-day trial, if you wish. (You don’t have to—as long as you study and follow the online instructions you can do it on your own.)

2. Select a project or goal that is important, but you haven’t been able to consistently work on.

3. Create your Tiny Habit.  (Make sure it can be done in 30 seconds or less.)

4. Create your anchor so you don’t have to think about it.  (In my case I put a small notepad next to my computer so it was easy to jot down that day’s writing goal while the computer was powering up.)

5. Remove judgment.  As long as you complete your “tiny habit” don’t worry if you don’t complete any larger goals.  The larger goal will evolve on its own.  It’s kind of magical.

I think the Tiny Habits system is brilliantly simple.  Try it yourself and see what it can do for you.

Disclaimer:  I am not in any way connected with the Tiny Habits site or program. I have not been compensated in any way for this endorsement. I just think it's great. 

©2016 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved.  Find me on Facebook and Twitter

Photo credit:  "Odd One Out" by RawDonFox  / Flickr Creative Commons