The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
In his amazing book Atomic Habits, Jame Clear speaks about making tiny, infinitesimal habit changes that will reap disproportionate rewards over a period of time. I was able to watch the magic work in my own life when I made some pretty simple changes in a bunch of areas of my life and saw significant changes.
By thinking small, I was able to build some long-term habits which I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. For example, when I wanted to meditate regularly, I found it hard to sit for 10 minutes straight. I would try for a few days, feel discouraged, and give up for a few weeks before attempting again. Then I asked myself what would be a doable target. Would I be able to meditate for just 3 minutes every day? How about one minute? By lowering the bar, I was able to get myself to become consistent. Once I’d locked in the consistency, I was able to increase the time I meditated to 5 minutes, then to 10, and finally settled on 15. Now meditating daily is second nature to me.
Yet another change that was easy to make that brought me massive results was switching off all devices at 10 pm and being in bed before 11 pm. I’d always wanted to be an early riser. For the life of me, I wasn’t able to wake up a second before 8 am. But when I changed from sleeping past midnight to before 11 pm, I found that my body naturally woke up between 5:30 and 6:30 am.
Turning off devices at 10 pm had some unexpected benefits too. My brain got enough time to wind down after being abuzz with online activity the whole day. It slowed down and became calmer. I used the time from 10 pm to 11 pm to do an end of day review using the infallible tool called pen-and-paper and read fiction for about 30-40 minutes. At the end of it, my mind was in the twilight zone, ready to go to sleep. This made sure that my sleep was restful too which lead to deliciously productive days.
As I mentioned above, I do a 15-minute end of day review at the end of the day. This practice was very easy to incorporate but helped me become 10X more productive and effective in my work! I do three things as a part of the EOD review: a) Assign a subjective rating to the day (how did the day go, on a scale of 1-10?) b) Write down the things that I thought went well c) Write down the things I thought could have gone better. This practice immediately improved the quality of my days. Here’s why – by giving a rating to the day, I automatically thought about how I could make the following day a better one or have a day as awesome as this one. Looking at things that went well gave me a sense of satisfaction and pride. It also helped me consciously make note of what behaviours, skills, or actions I’d want to emulate. By defining the things that could have better, I was giving my brain specific areas for improvement and not just a nebulous sense of dissatisfaction to chew on. That helped me make effective changes to the way I took action.
This post could just as well have been named, ‘my end of day ritual that works great for me’. 😀 But I wanted to emphasize the utility of making small, easy changes to incorporate habits that can help us optimize life in a large way. If you haven’t read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits already, I’d highly encourage you to do so!