By Brad Beckstrom
I heard this story twice in the same week on two different podcasts. It’s a simple story about a guy who knew he needed to start jogging but couldn’t find the time to make it happen. It was always something, he was busy, he was traveling, so it was easy to find excuses. No need to list his excuses, we all know them.
One day a friend told him he needed an on ramp to get his run started. He wasn’t talking about the on ramp on the interstate, just a small ramp to get the ball rolling. His friend told him to plan on running five minutes a day. That’s it. Just five minutes per day.
The guy figured “Heck, I can roll out of bed for a five minute run.” Once the shoes were on, he was out in the fresh air 5 minutes seemed easy. It worked, those five minutes were his on ramp. He put the running shoes right next to the bed and blew out the door for five minutes, sometimes 10.
After a few months, it became 15 than 30. But here’s the point – it doesn’t have to become a 30 minute run ever. The key ingredient in doing the five minute run is establishing the daily habit. In fact, it’s much better that he didn’t try to do a 30 minute run for months. He may have started putting that 30 minutes in his head on a cold day before he established the habit. Instead, on those really cold mornings he said “Man, it’s good I am only out here for five minutes.” The most important point is that he started.
Start with a small scope.
This five-minute rule works is great for establishing all kinds of habits. For instance, to write this article, I scheduled five minutes of writing time before anything else. I had the urge to jump online to check some fact but I didn’t. I just committed to putting these five minutes in every day to establish a habit.
If I sat down and said, “I’m going to write one chapter a week until this novel is complete” or “I’m going to sit down and write a blog post every other day” it wouldn’t happen on a consistent basis. For me, that scope is too large and there’s no specific time limit. I might be checking email at noon and taking phone calls, thinking,“I have all day to finish that blog post.” It wouldn’t get done. Better to be like the runner and start with less. Pick a specific time each day when these small habits can form.
The Daily Practice
Once you get a few of these small habits in place, you can make them part of a daily practice. A daily practice is a flow of habits that happens every day. In my case, it’s 20 minutes of writing and 20 minutes of exercise. It’s best to start small and be careful not to carve too much time out of your day to establish habits or they will fall by the wayside. Start very small.
I tried to add five minutes of meditation to my already full daily practice. It didn’t stick. My scope had gotten too large. I may come back to it and try it later. Maybe two minutes per day of meditation. But I’m in no rush. I’ll start small.
Here are several books and a great podcast about establishing small habits and a daily practice.
Transform Your Habits James Clear
The Unmistakable Creative Podcast
The Power of Less Leo Babuta