Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Make Mini Habits!

“Focus on the process and you’ll be able to change your circumstances.” (Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results)

Another lesson I learned on my sabbatical was that my goals and desires outstripped my willpower.

I had high hopes and high expectations for the three months of the media “fast,” but I rarely was able to stick to my very carefully crafted daily schedule. It wasn’t the interruptions or distractions either. I simply felt overwhelmed by the goals I had set, even though I KNEW I had plenty of time to do them.

I hadn’t scheduled 12-hour writing days or anything. In fact, on paper, they looked quite easy for the days I was home alone all day:

  • 2 hours writing  
  • 2 hours of the DIY MFA studying  
  • 1 hour reading and research

Piece of cake, right? Especially since this was work I really, really wanted to do!

Willpower Burnout

I’ve survived and pushed through and gritted my teeth and met deadlines and ignored headaches for decades…using willpower. But as I faced writing the adult mysteries I signed contracts for, my willpower took a hike. I have no idea where it went, but it’s gone into hiding. When the willpower left, the panic arrived.

And then I read the book pictured above. I read a lot of books on focus, self-management, and the like. Most I don’t finish. Many I never get past the first few chapters. I had finally decided that there was nothing new under the sun.

But reviews for Mini Habits were wonderful and by people struggling with the same issues I was. I bought it and started it, not with any real hope, to be honest. But I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a day.

Mini Habits

The author’s scientifically researched, experience based, easy-to-read and understand book says this:  

You can succeed without the guilt, intimidation, and repeated failure associated with such strategies as “getting motivated,” New Year’s Resolutions, or even “just doing it.” In fact, you need to stop using those strategies if they aren’t giving you great results…It’s only when you start playing by your brain’s rules and taking your human limitations seriously–as mini habits show you how to do–that you can achieve lasting change.

From Hopeless to Hopeful

I couldn’t wait to try it. I was honestly amazed that something this simple could be so effective and stress-free!

And what are my new (silly sounding) daily mini writing goals?

  • Write or revise 50 words  
  • Read and do one page of my current craft book (My current one is called Voice Lessons.)
  • 15 minutes of research or professional reading

Has it worked? YES! For me, feeling overwhelmed and getting started has always been the hardest part. Having mini goals in order to create habits is so EASY. And just as he predicted, most of the time you’ll go over your mini habit goal. [For example, I am writing this blog using my "write 50 words today" goal. Until now, I forgot to check the word count, but it's up to 406 right here.]

However, the next time I sit down to write, I will NOT tell myself I must write 400 words. No…my internal resistance to that idea is almost immediate! A goal that size uses a lot more willpower. (Maybe not for you, but it does for me. We’re all different.)

My new writing goals for the day are so EASY to do, so non-threatening, that I don’t miss a day. The writing habit gets ingrained, my mind believes that getting started is now easy, and later I often WANT to sit down and knock off another 50 words (which, more often than not, stretches past 1,000 words before I want to stop.)

Stay Tuned!

In the coming blog posts, I’ll share some more insights I got from the book, but not so many that I plagiarize or anything.  By the time I’m done, though, I expect you’ll want to get this book. It was only $5.99 on my Kindle, although I read it with my free Kindle-for-PC app. (676 words written with no resistance!)

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12 Responses to Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Make Mini Habits!

  1. Stephanie Ascough says:

    So helpful, I love your reminders and examples. I love mini goals. Getting time alone to work on mine today! (Hooray)

    • kwpadmin says:

      Time alone!! How precious that is. :-)
      This book and his ideas has had more impact on me than anything in quite a long time. I’m excited about the changes I am seeing and how EASY it has been!

  2. Vijaya says:

    I love mini-goals too! Thanks for the timely reminder as we all get into a more the new school routine (and productive writing groove).

    • kwpadmin says:

      Vijaya, it is the easiest thing I have ever tried for getting my writing habit re-established. In fact, if your mini goal or mini habit is small enough, you can do it every single day without fail. Then you don’t “get out of the habit” so you have to get back into it.

  3. :) Excellent! This would work for all kinds of chores. Thank you!

  4. I’ve been looking for a strategy to help keep my creative writing going once I go back to teaching in a couple of weeks. I’ve had a really productive summer between creative writing and freelance gigs, and I don’t want to lose the momentum. Mini habits are exactly what I need. Thanks for passing these tips along.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Heather, you’re so welcome. They’re great for getting into the habit and for keeping the writing habit going!

  5. Donna McDine says:

    I love mini goals. I will have to check this book out. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Hi, Donna! Besides getting into the habits, I love how it de-stresses me. The challenge is small, and the automatic feeling is “I can do this–no sweat!” And I consistently, so far, have gone over my mini goals. Tonight may be the exception to the rule, as I’m pooped!

  6. Rads says:

    Dear Kristi,
    I always enjoy your newsletter updates. Thanks so much for this article on mini-goals. It’s a revelation for me – I never thought tricking the muse this way would produce such fantastic results! I am going to try this right away :)


    • kwpadmin says:

      Rads, I hope you do try it. You will be amazed! I wish I had read this book thirty years ago. Getting started has always been the hardest part for me, plus the feeling of “I SHOULD do more.” But mini goals takes care of both things. Good luck! Developing the HABIT of writing will pay off in ways you can’t imagine.

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