Back to overview

We do not change by snapping our fingers and deciding to be someone entirely new. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit. We are continually undergoing microevolutions of the self. —James Clear

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the power of anchoring your habits. For any new habit you want to start, it needs a trigger to kick off. This trigger is most often something that happens on a regular basis. For instance:

Before I brush my teeth I will floss them.

Or:

After I come home from work I will read for 10 minutes.

The triggering part is powerful. Learning how to design those triggers has been crucial for my own progress.

For the last two years I have been doing meditation on and off in the mornings. But I haven’t always been up for it. There are days when I feel that an extra fifteen minutes in bed is more important than a meditation session, so I could as well skip it. And after I do that for a few days I’m off the bandwagon. I know this. And boy, is it hard to get back up again.

In Tim Ferris’s book Tribe of Mentors, Tim O'Reilly mentions how the first thing he does when getting up in the morning is a planking exercise for two minutes. "Huh," I thought as I read this. "That’s pure genius!" It seems so simple. Let’s try it.

The first thing after I wake up I get down on the floor and do a plank for one minute (I figured one minute has less resistance to it than two.) I have done this for a couple of months now. It was hard to remember at first but after I got a few successful days in a row, it started becoming more automatic. Now it’s the first thing I do in the day. It’s become part of who I am. After I get out of bed, I do a one minute plank session. That’s it.

In the beginning this was my only focus for the morning.

“Have I done my plank? Good, then it’s a successful morning.”

I have a tendency to start too many things at once—which ends up with failure and a deflated confidence as result. So this initial laser focus on one thing was important.

But as I got the plank under control, it turned into my most important anchor.

After I do my one minute plank session, I sit down on my chair, open the Headspace app on my phone, pop in my headphones, and start a ten minute meditation session. I don’t give a thought about how I don’t want to do this—after the plank is done I sit down and put in my headphones. That’s simply the way it is.

Great, I got my next anchor.

After meditation practice is finished, I bring my notebook to the kitchen table where I fill out a morning reflection and have breakfast.

And that is now my morning schedule. A strong foundation. A positive one. It sets off my day in the right direction. I have created this little chain of good activities, one being the trigger for the next. When I start thinking about all those things I do in the morning now it seems like a lot, I don’t know how I can keep it up day after day. But it all just starts with that single minute.


Things I write.

Personal blog by Johannes Holmberg.
Thinking and musing.