This article is part of a series of articles which the goals are to help you be more successful in your personal challenges. These tips come from my personal experience as well as from the feedback from participants of Challengers (30 day challenges).
Challenges stated in this article can be of many sorts, but in any case are targeting long lasting challenges (i.e. habit creation or new skill learning) which require daily action or near daily action.
Tip 7: Better do the minimum than skipping a day
When building a habit, repetition is the key. You need to reinforce the trigger that will lead you to your daily task. The thing is, the daily preparation and beginning may be the most important part in this habit building process, especially when you are thinking of skipping a day.
Let’s take the example of you are building a habit of daily run. Going out for a run on difficult days, your minimum will be to run 1 minute, which will be a lot more beneficial than completely skipping the day.
The main reason for this benefit is you are still working on your daily routine of getting prepared, putting on your running cloth and shoes. While doing this, your mind is building the connections that lead to a daily running habit. You are reinforcing the automation that leads you to go running as soon as you wake up, get home, or whenever you decided to go running. You are maybe only running 1 minute, but you’re reinforcing the trigger that leads to your habit.
The other benefit that may happen is that once you started, you actually feel better than you expected and feel like doing more. If you just go out for a 1 minute run because you don’t feel like doing more, as you start running you may feel like in a better mood to run more, maybe 5 minutes or 10 minutes. If it is the case, go ahead and enjoy it, you have just shown yourself you just needed a little push, and that you don’t need to fear your challenge so much. You are actually enjoying it, you just need to get to it.
In any case, every time you do your daily task, doesn’t matter how small it is, you deserve a pat on the back for keeping pushing on your new habit.
This can be applied to most challenges. Any workout can challenge, instead of skipping a day, do 1 push-up, or 1 sit-up. If you are writing every day (diary, blog, book…), write one word. If you are learning a new skill, practice it for 1 minute.
However be careful not to do this every time. Don’t make it a habit of only doing the minimum. This is a way to work through a few difficult days. If every day is a difficult day, you should think about adjusting your challenge and goal for it to match better your schedule/life. (see Tip #5)
Next tip: Have fun!