Creating a new habit begins with a tiny step

I had the good fortune of meeting BJ Fogg a few times about 10 years ago; he used to live a couple of doors down from my cousin in California. I had recently redesigned my website and when showed it to him he leaned in and got really interested in it. It’s a conversation that has stuck with me ever since and was one of the many pebbles in the jar that led me to decide to do this web thing for a living.

BJ works primarily in the area of creating systems to change human behaviour, very often with computers. He wrote a really interesting book called Persuasive technology: using computers to change what we think and do. And edited another called Mobile persuasion: 20 perspectives on the future of behaviour change.

A couple of years ago I took part in a short experiment that he ran worldwide, via email, about starting new habits. This TEDx talk more or less outlines what we did. What worked for me was:

  1. Start small, e.g. floss one tooth a day.
  2. Tag your new behaviour onto an existing habit.
  3. Be accountable to someone.

I decided to start flossing my teeth (having been nagged by the dentist). I used a floss pick, which allowed me to floss all my teeth in about 30 seconds (that was tiny enough for me). I tagged it onto the end of my daily morning shower. So when I stepped out of the shower I would floss. And within the first few weeks I would email BJ to give him an update.

It worked! Even on the days when I consciously decided that I was running so late I would skip my teeth floss that morning I always found myself standing flossing my teeth after my shower thinking “Eh?! But…!”

If you want to take something up, I can thoroughly recommend BJ’s approach.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 48 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Scrum master at Vision Ltd, Dundee. Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and former warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Enneagram type FOUR and introvert, I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, write, draw and laugh… a lot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.