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Implementing Tiny Habits

Sep 11, 2022
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Table of Contents

I’ve recently been re-reading Tiny Habits by B J Fogg. I love the philosophy of making habits so small and trivial at first (e.g. do 2 pushups or floss one tooth) that it’s easier to do them than not do them. I’ve been adopting the approach personally since January this year and have had excellent results. Here are some of the ways I’ve implemented tiny habits.

  • Running: I started with a 5 minute run every morning and gradually built it up by one minute per week. Six months later, I’m comfortably running 30 minutes every morning.
  • Pushups: Similar to BJ’s pee and pushup approach, I’ve got a micro-workout habit going on where I do 80 seconds of pushups/squats/lunges/burpees/lifting weights every 20 minutes. I started with a 30 second microworkout and have gradually built it up over time.
  • Yoga: I began with 5 minutes of yoga and have increased it over time to 10 minutes.
  • HIIT: in January, I was following along to 5 minute HIIT workouts in the morning. I’ve progressively increased it over time and am now doing 30 minutes every morning.
  • Meditation: I started with 5 minutes and have built it up to 15 minutes
  • Journalling: 5 minutes to 10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 3 minutes of Duolingo in the morning grew to 3 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.
  • Anki: 3 minutes of flash cards in the morning expanded to 3 minutes in the morning and 3 minutes in the evening.
  • Recording youtube videos: I’ve got a fifteen minute Youtube content creation time slot in my evening. It’s not a lot of time but I get a lot more videos done each week when I do it in these short blocks than if I try and carve out an hour.

In some cases, I started small and built up over time. In other cases, I started small and stayed small because that’s all I needed to do. Initially the habits seemed laughably easy. I told a friend I was going for 5 minute runs in the morning and she basically responded “What’s the point?”. It was a fair question given that I was pretty capable of running for an hour. However, what I was aiming for was consistency. Looking at it in isolation, a 5 minute run is ridiculous. Looking at it from a long term perspective, a 5 minute running habit that grows over time is a great way to get fit. The same goes with most of the other habits. Three minutes of Mandarin study in the morning isn’t enough for me to really learn any new vocab but it is enough for me to maintain what I’ve already learnt. Coupled with the second evening session, I am improving my ability to speak Mandarin. It’s not an overnight process but over months and years, I’m getting there.

One interesting part of the Tiny Habits book is where BJ talks about setting the context for habits. At one point in the book, he argues that there’s no need for apps, that you should find natural anchors for your habits. I do agree with the power of anchoring/habit stacking but I’ve found there’s a place for apps as well. My morning routine is much more compressed if I rely on anchors alone. By using environmental cues from the Focus Bear app (the cues are very overt — not subtle push notifications but TAKEOVERMYWHOLECOMPUTER prompts so my ADHD brain can’t ignore them), I’m able to link together a 3h morning routine.

Without the app, 30 minutes is about all I can manage for my morning routine before I start getting might distracted. With the app, I can go much longer because it taps into the key levers in Fogg’s behaviour model.


BJ argues that unless you have a prompt, you won’t do the habit. Focus Bear helps massively with this. When I wake up in the morning, I can open up my phone, computer or iPad and all of them show me the same thing: Focus Bear asking me to do my morning routine. I can’t use any other apps unless I ask my wife to put in the password.


The model states that if a habit is beyond your abilities, you’re not going to do it. That’s why BJ is so big on starting with tiny habits. There are three ways Focus Bear helps here:

1. It makes bad habits much harder — I can’t check my email or read the news first thing because those apps are blocked.

2. It also makes my other habits easier because it eliminates the decision fatigue of “What should I do next?” and it makes yoga/HIIT/deep breathing easier for me by showing me an embedded Youtube video I can follow along with (without the distractions of the Youtube feed on the right hand side).

3. It gives me a tiny routine option if I’m truly overwhelmed: I can choose the “My habits are too hard” option if I need to and my 3hr morning routine will condense down to 10 minutes.


I personally find seeing progress really motivating. We have a feature in the app where we show a graph after you complete every activity so you can see how consistent you’ve been with a habit over the last month. It’s encouraging for me to see the graph looking steady and going up over time.

The other aspect of motivation for me is making the activities fun. I don’t really enjoy doing HIIT on my own without any instruction but put a youtube video in front of me with some nice music and I’m happy to crank it out.

One other thing I’d like to have in the app is a vision board feature in where you’d spend some time looking at your vision board at the start of the day. For now, I have a habit at the start of my routine to visualise the type of person I want to be.

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This blog post was first published in Medium

Sep 11, 2022

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