Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lessons From Mr. Perfect Habits

photo by austinevan
30x500 officially starts in November, but we are already getting homework. Last week, we registered into free Tiny Habits program by BJ Fogg. If you don't know what 30x500 is, please take a look at my brand new Resources page!

Tiny Habits is a method for installing new habits. New group start every week and you get to pick 3 new tiny habits you want to install - on any area of life you want to improve.

I chose the following tiny habits last week:

  • After I switch on PC, I'll draw one quick sketch
  • After I start email app, I'll stretch one part of my body briefly
  • After I put my head to the pillow, I will say one thing I'm grateful of

Why Should You Be Interested?

As Amy explained it, studies tell that 40% of the things we do daily are habits. We do what we have always done, like little rats. Do what you have always done and you'll get what you have always got. To create a new income stream or a product, you'll need to install a habit of working on it.

Installing new habits is fun and benefits you on many levels. Better yet, changes can be applied to all areas of life.

However, I was super excited about tiny habits for another reason. It seems that tiny habits formalizes one of the organizing methods my husband uses.

How I Learned To Be Organized

I grew up in an entrepreneur family with chaotic habits. While it was an inspiring environment for a kid, it had downsides. Everything revolved around work and anything personal would come second, often a distant second. When I moved away to live on my own, my apartment was a mess - I had no habits to keep it organized. Bigger problem is that as long as your home is a mess, it takes away from your energy to learn other good habits. My disorganization stretched to almost all areas of life - except getting my work and studies done.

Then I married Mr. Perfect Habits. Step by step he started to teach me little methods to organize my life better. Today we have relatively organized home and lifestyle, yet we use very little effort maintaining it.

Today I'm going to share couple of organizing methods I have learned from him. These methods are stupidly simple, yet very effective! You'll read them and go: "Oh.. why didn't I think of that!"

Lessons From Mr. Perfect Habits

The main idea in all these methods is to make things easier in a way that is natural to yourself. Instead of learning someone else's process of organizing their lives, you'll be creating your own as you go.

If you know these methods already, you may laugh at this post - this is all so trivial. Feel free to laugh. After seeing the Tiny Habits program I realized there are plenty of people like me. People whose parents never taught them these things.

Trigger Habits (aka. Tiny Habits)

Trigger habits help you to install shiny good habits.

When you do something you already do by habit, you use it as a reminder to trigger your new habit.

Examples of trigger habits:

  • After I finish eating, I'll wipe the kitchen table 
  • After I switch on my computer, I'll check my TO-DO list

I really recommend you try out the Tiny Habits program. It explains the method well and it formulates a superb way to create triggers in a way that you'll really end up doing your new habits.

Trigger Items/Places

Trigger items remind you to perform tasks that are rarely needed.

Trigger items work on the premise that all household items have their "home location". Whenever you use anything, you'll return it where it belongs. When you leave something to a place other than its home location, it works as your trigger.

Example of trigger item:

  • An empty toilet paper shell on the corridor chair means I need to buy more toilet paper
  • A bill on the keyboard means I should pay that bill

When the trigger item has done it's duty, I'll trash it or take it back to its place, depending on the case.

Trigger Containers

Trigger Containers prevent things piling up.

Trigger container is a basket, shelf or some other container of a space equal to the size of the task to be performed. When you have items that need further processing, you use the container to hold them until you have enough of them to perform a task.

Example of trigger containers:
I have a small container for the unread magazines. When I get a new magazine, I'll put it in the unread magazines container. Whenever I read one, I'll move it to another container - the container for magazines to be trashed. Or when dealing with books, to the bookshelf. 

If the unread magazines container fills up, it is a sign you clearly don't have time to read them all! When the read magazines container fills up, it works as a trigger to take them away.

This works wonderfully for tasks like dishes and laundry. With laundry we have several containers, one for each washing program that we use. At first it took me some time to learn to empty the pockets and close the zippers already when putting the clothes to the laundry baskets. I was used to doing that when putting the clothes to the machine. But now when I am used to trigger containers, I just love them - they make the house so much more cleaner and tasks easier.

How To Make Triggers Work

In order for the triggers to work, you need to make things easy for yourself. Try to place items near to where they are used and make them easily available. Be smart. Organize triggers so that they make sense to you and support your existing habits.

Not all of the habits are going to stick. But that just means you have picked poor triggers or try to place new habits where they don't come naturally.

Couple of years ago I tried to install a new habit of doing chin-ups before going out the house. That didn't work, even though I placed the chin-up bar right next the front door. When I'm leaving the house, starting to exercise is the last thing I'm interested in. In a way, the trigger happened inside another action and I ended up not doing it.

I also have several habits I have installed successfully, but then dropped them after a vacation or some other break. That just means they were not a logical enough sequence of habits to continue.

When that happens, I often just change things a bit. Doing chin-ups is perfect match for switching on electric sauna, for example.

Just try it out and see how it works for you!


  1. Hey Jaana. Great post. Have you used the behavioral modification app Lift ? It is based on BJ Fogg's methods to install habits. I was reading about it yesterday and then I read your post. Weird...must be that law of attraction thing i keep hearing about haha

    I've heard good things about the app (Tim Ferriss is a part of it too I think). Thought it might be useful to you. Best of luck!

    1. Hey Mat!

      Wow! Thanks for the tip, the Lift looks good:

  2. No problem. I'm gonna use it to develop some good habits to start building a products site over the next month. Hopefully I'll make good progress with it. I'll keep you posted. How are things going with your new SaaS service? Have you started any work on it?

    1. No, I have not started yet. To tell the truth - 30x500 did good job of putting down all the ideas I had for it. LOL.

      During the first 2 months we will practice the process. During the last 2 months we do it for real. So if everything goes fine I should emerge from the course with a target audience and an idea for the product. So I could be building earliest at March 2012.

      But there are a lot of alumni in the course who did not make it on their first try. And it does look like the course if going to be hard. But in a good way - it is as much self-development as product creation. Loving it this far.

  3. That's awesome! It sounds like the next few months will be fun and challenging. I believe that's the best part of being an entrepreneur. Not only do you provide value and make money but you also learn to develop yourself in the process. Looking forward to hearing your review as you go through each step.