Translating James Altucher’s Daily Practice into Tiny Habits

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey raises an inspiring question: What one new thing could you do on a regular basis to make a tremendous positive difference in your life?

For answers, we can turn to James Altucher’s concept of a daily practice. James urges us to do something every day that promotes health in four dimensions — physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

This suggestion becomes even more powerful when we translate James’s general suggestions into Tiny Habits as suggested by psychologist BJ Fogg.

The Nature of Tiny Habits

Tiny Habits are behaviors that:

  • You do at least once a day
  • Take less than 30 seconds
  • Require little effort

For example:

  • After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.
  • After I pour my morning coffee, I will text my spouse a loving message.
  • After I start the dishwasher, I will read one sentence from a book.

Tiny Habits work because they’re “baby steps” — easy to do. This eliminates any need for “motivation” or “willpower.”

Tiny Habits also tend to expand naturally. If you start flossing one tooth on a regular basis, for example, then you’re likely to start flossing more of them.

Designing Tiny Habits

BJ Fogg urges us to put Tiny Habits in writing and state them in a precise way: a trigger (After I pour my morning coffee) followed by the specific behavior (I will text my spouse a loving message).

Following are examples of Tiny Habits from BJ Fogg. (For more ideas, see Designing Behavior Change — An Introduction to the Work of BJ Fogg.) I’ve grouped these examples into the four categories of daily practice. Remember that triggers vary from person to person: Choose a daily event or stable habit that you already have.

Tiny Habits for Physical Health

  • After I start the shower, I will do two push ups.
  • After I start the coffee maker, I will step on the yoga mat.
  • After I get home from work, I will put on my walking shoes.
  • After I shower, I will fill a glass of water.
  • After I get dressed, I will throw out one bad food item in my house.

Tiny Habits for Emotional Health

  • After I turn out the lights, I will kiss my wife.
  • After I get dressed in the morning, I will go downstairs and give my husband a hug.
  • After I arrive home, I will kiss my wife and baby.
  • After I get out of the shower, I will kiss my husband.
  • After I get out of bed, I will hug my partner.

Tiny Habits for Intellectual Health

  • After I clean up breakfast dishes, I will list one idea for a blog post.
  • After I plug in my cell phone to charge, I will write one sentence.
  • After I plug in my laptop to charge, I will write three words in my journal.
  • After I turn off the TV, I will recite one line of poetry.
  • After I get on the bus, I will I open my workbook.

Tiny Habits for Spiritual Health       

  • After I turn on my computer, I will take two deep breaths.
  • After I step out on the deck at night, I will look up at the stars.
  • After I floss, I will smile.
  • After I sit down at my desk, I will address a thank you note to one person.
  • After my feet touch the floor in the morning, I will say “It’s going to be a good day.”