Half Habits

by Haider on December 21, 2008 · 9 comments

in Habits

I’ve come across quite a few personal productivity experts who recommend that you only attempt to change one habit at a time. That way you don’t end up overwhelming yourself, and can ensure that you have fully developed that habit before moving on to the next.

While this approach certainly has its advantages, I don’t think I have the patience to focus on a single habit at a time. Besides, the bad habits I want to get rid of and the good habits I want to adopt will take me several lifetimes to adopt into my character if I plan on taking on one habit a month.

Instead, I go by an approach I’d like to call “half habits.” Rather than attempt to fully develop a new habit, try to take a step in its direction. Don’t change your diet completely, but make slight adjustments to your meals or snacks. Don’t start a strict exercise regimen, but start becoming more active around the house, or begin with a few exercise sessions a week.

You move in the direction of a positive habit, or away from a negative habit, without feeling pressured or overwhelmed.

With this approach you can take on a great deal of “half habits” at a time, and the likelihood that you’ll stay committed to developing the habits completely is pretty high.

I started waking up early, cut down on junk food, began exercising, write one blog post a day and have mini-habits forming here and there without feeling burdened by the changes. In fact, I think some habits are supporting the formation of other habits, which is making my work much easier!

Give this approach a try, and see if you can begin to change your habits for the better and at a faster pace!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nawal December 22, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Hmmm… I will give this a try and let you know:)

2 Haider December 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Try it out, but don’t half try it out… that’ll just be silly :P

3 Eaman December 31, 2008 at 3:41 am

In biology, there is the “all or non law”. Either a pulse or or no pulse. No half’s : D
I do this most of the times. Maybe that why I have troubles not only with habits but also with ppl! LOL

4 Haider December 31, 2008 at 7:34 pm

I don’t think “all or none” is a law. Even with a pulse, it can vary.

Biology accepts the existence of growth, where there is a transition from one state to the next. A tree begins as a seed but gradually grows to become a towering tree. It doesn’t happen in a single step.

5 Eaman December 31, 2008 at 7:54 pm

I agree with U. I was just being sarcastic abt myself ( :
And there is such a law in biology:

6 Haider December 31, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Did you write that Wikipedia page? :P

I thought you meant the law covers all biological processes. Sorry about the mix-up.

7 Eaman December 31, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Don’t fuss with a biology teacher! (J/K) :D

8 Crystal November 23, 2009 at 6:02 pm

It is funny because I actually stumbled upon you blog while reading a post on Zen Habits about the importance of focusing on one habit at a time and I remember thinking the same thing, if I work on one habit at a time I will never change and I also remember thinking that if I changed one habit it would actually help me change the other so working on changing habits simultaneously would actually re-enforce them. It wasn’t until yesterday that I re-read the blog (because I was obviously unsuccessful the first time around, okay a few times around) that I found your post and I have to say that I totally agree. In-fact yesterday after I got done reading you “Leaky Boat Analogy” I thought to myself how much sense it all actually made, so I had dinner early and took a walk afterward, I was actually able to get up this morning at 7:45a.m ,which is a huge accomplishment in itself (you don’t even know), I ate a banana for breakfast drank some water and went to the gym for a class, by 9:45a.m. I had eaten breakfast, taken a shower and gotten ready for my day and even had 30mins before I had to take off to my french class to get some work done. All that before 10:15a.m. which is the time I usually get up to get to my class which starts at 10:45a.m!!!! So thank you!!!! Thank you for being so honest in your blogs and just some how knowing what I am going through and giving me the perfect advice and how to go about handling it all. I feel so great today and full of energy and now I can say “I will do it again tomorrow because I did it today and I know that I can!!!” Thank you!!!

9 Haider November 24, 2009 at 11:12 am

Wow, Crystal.

I’m thrilled to read about your accomplishment!

I actually wrote the first Zen Habits article in response to Leo’s New Year’s Resolutions challenge, which asked people to commit to a single habit for 30 days, working on it for 15 minutes per day. I actually believe that changing habits is easier when we work on them simultaneously. Plus, some habits don’t need time to get done, so why not fit those into our lives as well? Hence the half habits and the timeless habits. :)

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think the primary issue holding us back is our habits. The reason why we find it so difficult to change is the negative impression we have of ourselves, and the constant negative self-talk that seeks to reinforce that self-image. When we fail, we see ourselves as failures, and play that part.

I believe the best thing we can do to lead a better life is to stop judging and condemning ourselves. Rather than ask: What does this failure say about me? We should focus on how to overcome that failure. I wrote a post about this, which you might wanna check out:


Wish you all the best, and thanks for letting me know about your progress. ;)

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