You know what’s amazing to me?
Just how many of us, when we set out to create a new habit, decide to do it with huge, sweeping changes in our behavior.
“I want to be more productive” = “I’m going to put together a minute-by-minute schedule of my day so that I can always be getting something done.”
“I want to get healthier” = “I’m going to go to the gym every single day and won’t even inhale near a carb.”
And so on…
The trouble with this approach — as anyone who has tried it knows — is that, for most people, it simply doesn’t work.
It requires a ton of willpower, something that neuroscience researchers have shown that we have very limited amounts of, and it sets us up for failure.
Small Wins, On The Other Hand, Lead To Lasting Change
It’s a lot less sexy, but by making small — starting by going to the gym for 5 minutes, for example — changes to our behavior, we can use the pride and sense of accomplishment from actually doing what we set out to do, build on that progress and achieve lasting change over time.
So when you think about accomplishing more every single day, forget about your ultimate goal of hyper-productivity, and focus on little things that you can easily do to help you secure those critical small wins.
A 60-Second Productivity Trick
One of my favorite examples of “little wins” is something that you were probably nagged about as a child.
It takes less than a minute, but when you do it first thing in the morning, it sets the foundation for a productive, successful day ahead.
It’s making your bed.
This graduation address by four-star Navy Admiral Willian McRaven is one of my favorite speeches.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you’ve seen it, watch it again. It could end up being the most transformative 20 minutes of your week.
In the speech, Admiral McRaven says this about being forced to make his bed in SEAL training:
It was a simple task–mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we’re aspiring to be real warriors; tough battle hardened SEALs. But the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
If that 60-second habit is good enough for a four-star Admiral, then it’s good enough for me.
So tomorrow, that’s my challenge to you: before you do anything else in the morning, make your bed. And then build from that.