Microhabits are small habitual actions you can employ over time at little to no impact to the rest of your life with the idea that doing a little bit of something each day adds up to a lot of something over time — whether that’s sleep, healthy eating, learning through reading or podcasts, exercise, or good financial habits. Below are some of the ones I’ve been using lately and loving. I’m excited to build in even more and see where they take me. Some of them might sound large, but you’ll see that when implemented one or two at a time, over time, they really feel like small or “micro” shifts in your routine.
1. Go to bed a little earlier so you can wake up a little earlier. The microhabit of shifting my bed time from 10-11 to 9-10 has allowed me to get up 1-2 hours earlier and be more productive each day by giving me a few hours in the morning to get things done. Even though I’m still sleeping the same number of hours, I find that I’m more productive in the morning when I’m fresh than I am after work when all I want to do is lay around and eat. I make waking up a little easier with microhabit #2 below.
2. Implement a morning routine that you actually like. Give yourself a little “chocolate” first thing in the morning to make getting out of bed a treat. Probably not literal chocolate, but something that gives you the same feeling. For me, that something is freshly ground, locally roasted coffee that I make in my French press. There is something about the ritual of boiling the water, grinding the coffee, and curling up on my couch with my dog to drink it leisurely while I read a good book or journal that makes waking up something to actually look forward to. This ritual is one of my favorite parts of my day, and I know if I sleep longer than I intend to, I’ll have to skip it or it will be rushed. That thought alone is often motivating enough to get me out of bed in the morning (or into it on time the night before). As an added incentive, building in a routine like this means you get to keep the $3-4 you would normally spend at a coffee shop daily if you’re like me and tend to purchase it when you’re running late.
3. Work out in the morning. UGH I know, I sound like one of those people. The people we hate! The people whose shit is way more together than ours. I used to hear people talk about working out in the morning and stare at them in disbelief. But how do you exit your bed before you absolutely have to when it’s so COMFY? I would wonder. For me, what really worked was adding this microhabit in once I already established the first two microhabits of getting up a little earlier and making it something to look forward to. Once I’m up and finished caffeinating between 6-6:30, I don’t really have an excuse not to jog two miles, do a 30-minute online yoga class, or a 25-minute workout DVD before I hop in the shower. Although I don’t always have time for this, I do it at least 2-3 times per week and it feels so good to get my blood circulating and work up a sweat all before my day begins. It also makes me feel better if I don’t feel like doing anything after a long day at work when I get home or I go to an unplanned happy hour because I’ve already put a little sweat equity into my day. It also ensures I behave myself at happy hour and get to bed at a normal time so I don’t have to skip out on the morning habits that make me feel good the following day.
4. Be more productive with your downtime. In this day and age, it’s so easy to get sucked down a 20-minute rabbit hole on social media when the only reason you picked up your phone was to read a text. I actually have several microhabits I employ to avoid time-sucks like that:
- Turn off push notifications for all social media apps. This way, instead of being told when to open these apps by your phone, you don’t open them unless you think to. This microhabit results in me wasting much less time on these apps because I essentially forget about them until I go to use them intentionally.
- Replace some of your music-listening time with the news and educational podcasts. I also love listening to music, which is great, but over the years I’ve opted to sometimes listen to the news and educational podcasts when I might otherwise be listening to music. Don’t get me wrong, I still love music, but I love mixing it up and learning about something like finance while cooking dinner or getting ready in the morning. I love the five-minute NPR newscast that’s updated every hour for while I put my makeup on in the mornings and for educational podcasts, I love Farnoosh Torabi’s So Money and Laura Adams’ Money Girl. I love financial podcasts because they provide useful information for my personal life, but I also work in finance, so it’s a double bonus. In addition to these types of podcasts, I’ll occasionally listen to fluffier podcasts that interview creative entrepreneurs and social leaders and get to see the world from their perspective.
- Read instead of watch TV. For me, this one’s always been pretty easy since I’m not much of a TV person. Personally, for me, this could read “read instead of scroll through social media.” I used to sit on the couch and do that while I drank my coffee, but I made it a point to start reading instead. It’s much more fulfilling and enjoyable to be learning, or at the very least, enjoying the way a brilliant novelist strings words together to form beautiful sentences.
5. Walk instead of drive. Most of us city dwellers can do better than we’re doing in this regard. I try to do this when I’m not rushing to be somewhere. I am within walking distance of the river, the lake, parks, trails, two of my favorite grocery stores, my library, numerous restaurants, bars, shops, friends’ houses, and when I have at least 45 minutes to spare, even work! I often joke that my entire life is pretty much contained within a 2.5-mile radius. This means if time is on my side, I really have no reason not to walk somewhere instead of drive. I’ve often fantasized of getting rid of my car and getting to keep the chunk of money I fork over to the insurance company monthly, although I think that will have to wait until Nathan is back in Milwaukee next summer. Bonus: walking is better for your health and the environment.
6. Incorporate microhabits into your eating routines. I mentioned one of my other microhabits in my last post — making a batch of smoothies Sunday night for breakfast for the following week. I like this type of autopilot healthy habit because it means I automatically get robust servings of fruit, veggies, healthy fats, and plant-based protein first thing in the morning, even if the rest of the day goes awry, eating-wise. I also mentioned always having frozen wild salmon and veggies on hand for a fall-back healthy meal a couple times in a busy week or when I get back from traveling to reset.
Now I’m curious…what are your best microhabits?