Today is the 500th day in a row that I’ve completed at least a set (and nearly always 4 sets) of pushups. No exception, rain or shine, sick or healthy, on the ground, or in the air.

When I started out I could barely do a single pushup.

At my peak near the end of 2018 I was averaging over 150 pushups per day.

I’ve tapered off since, now averaging around 40 per day.

It’s been great. I’ve gotten better at pushups and, as was my original intent, started a positive trends towards investing more in my health.

It turns out, though, that pushups were only the beginning. As of today, I track 29 different habits, most of which have passed over 100 days.

It seems impressive, and over the span of a year now for many of my habits, I’m noticing real results.

But what’s actually important about my experience with habits and what I care to write about is how ridiculously easy I designed each of my habits to be.

They’re all tiny habits and, as such, even though I still have days where I don’t want to complete them, I do it anyway.

500 days of pushups is a big accomplishment for me. Yet it’s anti-climatic. I didn’t set out to get this far, I just decided that I’d pick something super easy, that I could do no matter what, and keep doing it.

Momentum is a beautiful, powerful thing. As much as I’m sure I’ll enjoy looking back on day 1000, that’s not what matters right now. I’ll complete today’s habits and do them again tomorrow.

I’m on Day #9 of a new tiny habit, which I’m tracking as “Prepare tomorrow morning’s routine (set out clothes if needed, water, etc)”.

Prompted by a few friends a few weeks back, I sped-read through a book called Miracle Morning and decided that it was time to give early mornings a try again.

I’ve historically been a big fan but got into the badhabit over the past year of both getting to bed really late and then staying in bed till my wife takes the kids to school (which, not a big surprise, she isn’t a fan of).

Now, for the past 2 weeks I’ve set my alarm for 5 AM on most mornings and so far I’m really happy with the results.

The biggest difference is time to be awake in the quiet and thinking, reading, and working before the day kicks in for everyone else.

It hasn’t been easy.. There were a few nights where I still got to bed late and got up early anyway. Those days were a bit rougher, but I made it.

If you’re interested in experimenting with early mornings, there are two key takeaways from my experience thus far that I’d like to pass on.

  1. The key tiny habit is to prepare the night before – I set out my clothes, fill up a water container, and put a book out by my couch in the living room. When I wake up in the morning I get up, get dressed, and go straight to my couch to begin my breathing exercises. I’ve prepared a routine for myself that I don’t have to think through in the morning. Figure out a routine for you that gets you out of bed without thinking about it.
  2. Your mindset matters – The most helpful thought for me from the Miracle Morning is this idea of telling myself, before I go to bed, that whatever sleep I get that night is going to be enough. It seems counterintuitive at first, but it works. I’ve felt anxious in the past.. “Oh man, I have to get my 8 hours in or the morning will be terrible..” and instead I’m saying “You know what, whatever I get tonight will be just fine. I’ve done my best and I’m grateful.”

Now time to get ready for bed.

I’ve been asking for feedback on ways to make the first edition of Tiny Habits more useful.

One suggestion I received was to write about the thought process behind choosing a habit.

My original motivation for experimenting with habits back in 2017 was improving my health.

I chose my first habit, pushups, because I believed it would get me started in the right direction. And it did!

But as important as exercise is, the big thing I wasn’t addressing with regards to health was my relationship with food.

See, for a long time I just couldn’t figure out how to form a helpful, momentum-building habit around food. I thought of a few different food related habits I could experiment with and they all just felt wrong.

The whole point for me behind experimenting with tiny habits was to choose things so ridiculously easy that I wouldn’t have any trouble keeping them up.

And that’s worked. I’m coming up on 500 days of pushups soon without missing a single day.

Food, though, I just couldn’t crack.

I kept thinking about it, though, and after a few months I settled on an idea.

I started tracking the following habit: “Take a picture of or record at least one meal”

Why a photo? What’s the point of that?

Well, my thinking went something like this..

Trying to limit what I eat or eat more of something is going to be hard to do, especially without breaking a chain. I might be in good shape for a week and then it’s a special event or we’re eating out all day, etc.

I don’t like the unsustainability of forming habits that restrict me.

What I actually want is to make it easier for me to make better choices.

In order to make better choices I need to know what choices exist and that requires awareness and keeping the subject matter in mind.

Speaking of awareness.

Take a random skill, like juggling, card tricks, calligraphy, playing an instrument, learning a new language, etc.

Now, look back over the past 10 years of your life.

For one of those skills where you don’t currently have any ability, if you had thought about that skill at least once each day, would that have made a difference?

I suggest it would have. When you’re aware of something you’re more likely to take action, however small. You’re more likely to ask a question, given a relevant opportunity. You’re more likely to pay attention a moment longer when you notice something related.

So, while I’m my thoughts and ideas on the matter are still in development, I’d sum it up like this.

Take a big, difficult “goal” (I don’t like the word goal, but that’s a topic for another time) you have in mind like improving health. Break it apart into “sub-goals” like eating better or exercising more, then form rediculously tiny habits that you can start that build momentum towards that goal.

And, if you can’t think of anything tiny enough (e.g. the equivalent of pushups), start by just forming a habit around awareness (e.g. taking a photo).

I started an experiment with my kids recently that might inspire you with an idea for your own kids.

I wrote Tiny Habits for my kids, to encourage them to form tiny habits of their own. This last weekend, I helped them each setup their first tiny habit: 5 minutes of cleaning.

Once they’ve completed their habits for the day, I give them a “Wold Coin”. I bought the coins from a craft store along with a wood burner and made them myself. I’m happy with how they turned out!

My kids can then spend those coins in the “Wold Store”.

So far, my store offers two items for purchase:

  1. Video production – I’ll film and produce one 2-3 minute video for a coin.
  2. Website development – I’ll setup a new website for 10 coins.

My daughter (5) is having me produce YouTube videos for a private channel.

My son (8) is saving up for his first website. (Which will be on WordPress, of course!).

The experiment is in it’s early days and I’m curious to see where it goes.

The running water in North Idaho is always cold, but especially in Winter. I hesitated this morning, as I usually do – then I stepped in.

Just over a year ago, I decided to start taking straight cold showers every day. Inspired by a close friend and encouraged by some YouTube videos of Wim “The Iceman” Hoff, I jumped in.

It was rough.

For over a decade now I’ve ended nearly all of my showers on cold water. It’s good for your circulation and takes away the cold feeling you often get otherwise when you step out of the shower (I know, it seems ironic, but it works).

Starting on cold and staying cold is a whole different story, though. There’s something about cold water in the morning that just isn’t the same as a nice hot shower.

My secret for the first few months was deep breathing. I loosely followed the Wim Hoff method and practiced several rounds of breathing in the morning before I took the shower. That made a noticeable difference in my tests. Deep breathing charges the body with oxygen and, for some reason, takes the edge off the cold.

After awhile, though, I adjusted.

I still do deep breathing every day, but often not right before the shower (the affect of blocking cold wears off within minutes). And as the water gets colder here in Winter, I face that daily question.. “Hey Jonathan, are you sure you want to do this?”

Beyond the question, though, I don’t really think about it anymore. This week marks an entire year of taking a cold shower every day. It’s a well engrained habit that I don’t plan to change.

So, why not? Why would I do this to myself?

Well, a few reasons.

It’s good for me. Call it a placebo or not, I don’t get sick as much as I used to. (Here’s an article on Healthline that lists some of the benefits of cold water)

Even more than that, though.. in a world where the luxury of hot water is often readily available, a cold shower is a choice, a self-imposed obstacle. And by choosing to embrace that obstacle, especially at the start of the day, I’m giving myself the gift of a sense of accomplishment. On some days, it’s no big deal. On other days, though, especially difficult ones, knowing that I can get up and do something and that even if the day is falling apart I can complete my tiny habits, is just what I’ve needed to keep momentum going.

It’s still not easy, cold water is cold water. But I’ve grown to love it.

If you want to try it for yourself, I suggest you either start by ending on cold for awhile while you get used to the idea (that’s a great first habit!). If you want to jump in, start with Wim Hoff’s breathing technique. You’ll get the benefits of better breathing and a cold shower together!

P.S. The first edition of the Tiny Habits book is in print and ready to order! Buy your copy today for $10 (with free shipping!) and I’ll send you a personally autographed copy. I’ll also send you a free digital copy as well!