Micro-habits are the new resolutions

I don’t do resolutions.

They feel like recipes for failure and shame. They’re often difficult to keep, seem pretty much designed for consumer brands to get you to buy stuff you don’t need, and also, don’t even bring us joy.

Also, y’all it’s 2019 and I’m so tired of the pressure from the world to constantly self-improve in a really big way that isn’t really always self-improvement but often just what this world wants me to be.

OK, but all of that said, I did want to share something that’s been working really well for me—and even bringing me joy—the last couple of months.

It all started with my email inboxes. Historically, I’ve been very, very bad at keeping a clean inbox. I’m talking like thousands of emails unread and so many more just sitting there. I was always very anti-inbox zero, but mostly because it felt so unattainable. Looking back, I’m not sure exactly why it seemed so hard, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the shame and anxiety I felt about not being on top of it (especially the sinking feeling of being behind on responding to people), rather than any actual level of difficulty.

In November, on a day when my anxiety was through the roof and I felt like I just needed to do something to bring it down, I spent an afternoon going through both my personal and work inboxes. I deleted things that could be deleted, archived things I wanted to keep but didn’t need to respond to, added labels to things that I wanted to easily find later, and only kept the things I needed to take action on in my inbox.

It felt good. Like, really good. It was a relief to open up my email and not be bombarded with messages. I didn’t realize how much it had been stressing me out until I did something about it.

All that said, I’d done this before, probably every 6 months or so over the last couple of years. And, inevitably, the emails in my inbox would stack up again and I’d get behind and overwhelmed again. But this time, something was different. I was different. I mean, I guess so, because it’s almost 2 months later and my inboxes are still under control.

It seems to be a habit now—a really small, seemingly insignificant habit that’s given me so much inspiration that I am capable of making other small changes that’ll benefit my life. It’s like a micro-habit.

I didn’t invent the term micro-habit. Some research (read: quick googling) has led me to what seems to be one origin of the term, though I’m using it a little differently.

For me, a micro-habit is when you take on one small change at a time until it’s a habit. I started with keeping my email inboxes under control. The one I’m working on now is a bit bigger, but super important for my health: taking all of my supplements for my chronic illness. (I’m 2 weeks in—crushing it.)

So while I’m not interested in resolutions, I am interested in small changes that lower my stress, lead me to feel less shame, and ultimately make me happier. While I don’t yet know what habit I’m going to try to build next, I’m pretty optimistic about how I’m going to be feeling by the end of 2019.