Habits: Small Actions can have Big Results

October 31, 2016

Habits are a fascinating thing. They can be good can be good (like brushing your teeth or working out) or bad (like not having breakfast). Recently, there’s been a boom of articles that promise our lives to improve by 10x by just following “these 5 easy tips.” We want to achieve greatness straight away even if we are fully aware that it isn’t that easy.

Our biggest problem, whether it’s improving ourselves or our products, is that we want to achieve maximum results with minimal effort. Strangely, we’re often not even willing to put in the minimal effort.

Establishing habits can be hard

Personally, I know I feel better when I’m reading regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, business related, or an autobiography, just the act of reading will spark my mind. Tony Robbins mentions how he developed his mind by reading tons of books as a kid. His ambition was to read a book per day and his result was nearly 700 books over three years so not bad!. One of the blogs I read regularly is FarnamStreet. They published an article on how having a habit of reading just 25 pages per day and would transform your thinking and shape a more successful you. 25 pages per day is something that surely anyone could achieve, right? Turns out, not that simple.

All we said was that reading 25 pages per day was a habit that almost anyone could form, and that it would lead them far. But you still have to do all the reading. You have to do the thing. That’s the part where everyone falls away.

We suspect that some people thought it would be easy to read 25 pages per day. That the pages would essentially “read themselves”, or that the time to do so would spontaneously free up, just because they starting wanting it.

The instant change fallacy

We are in a instant gratification society. We want all things to happen instantly and have a hard time investing energy into anything that takes longer than a couple of days, much less years.

Changing the way we think is incredibly difficult. We overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in a decade. So instead of chasing the quick-fix (The 7 minute Workout is still one of the most downloaded apps worldwide) we should learn to set long-term goals and divide them into smaller, more manageable chunks.

To be healthy, you need to eat the broccoli. And for many days in a row.


Even a really well-designed system can only cut up the broccoli into little pieces and sneak it into your mac-and-cheese. A popular examples would be a fitness system whereby you do one pushup a day, then two pushups the second day, then three the third day, and so on. It makes the habit digestible at first, as you get used to it. This is plenty smart.

Most articles you read about self-improvement will almost always focused around getting up earlier (early bird gets the worm!), meditating (often mentioning a partnering app that you can use) or exercising (just 7 minutes a day!). Here’s a better way.

The way I think about it, if I can get 5% wiser and better every year, then I will be about twice as wise as I am now in less than 15 years. (Go ahead, grab your calculators.) In less than 30 years, my return will be 4x. This is how the non-gifted among us can surpass otherwise more intelligent people.

There is power in the long-term effects of compounding. What starts out as a minor change in behavior can turn into something great if you’ll just allow it to grow. That’s partially why I don’t use an annual goal for my business, but use a ten year goal instead. It gives me the opportunity to look back every year to see if I’m on track and make the small adjustments that will result in compounded returns in the long-term.

Think about it this way… You’re out playing golf with a friend and you decide to up the stakes with a few friendly bets. The first hole is merely 10 cents, the second hole 20 cents, the third 40 cents and so on. This all sounds like pocket change right? But when you get the 18th hole, how much do you think is at stake for that hole by itself? More than 25.000 dollars. That’s the power of compounding.

This works in the exact same way for our products and services. Just like I’ve mentioned how Changes are Quick, Results Take Time, we believe that just because we can do the changes quickly, we expect the results to roll in just as fast. This is hardly ever the case as quick changes are easy, but often leverage little to no results. It doesn’t matter if it’s website conversions or eating healthy broccoli, changes that create great results take time and require you to do the work. 🙂

And besides, if it was easy, then everyone would do it right?

It’s honest, authentic, and accessible.

I love sharing my experiences working in design and what’ve I’ve learned along the way. Join a community of thousands of designers, developers, and product professionals by signing up to my newsletter!

Not quite ready to sign up? I totally understand! Why not start by reading some of my past issues?

Great! Just “one more thing”...

You need to confirm your email to confirm your subscription.

  1. February, 2024

  2. January, 2024

  3. December, 2023

  4. November, 2023

  5. October, 2023

  6. September, 2023

  7. August, 2023

  8. July, 2023

  9. June, 2023

  10. May, 2023

  11. April, 2023

  12. March, 2023

  13. January, 2023

  14. December, 2022

  15. November, 2022

  16. September, 2022

  17. August, 2022

  18. July, 2022

  19. June, 2022

  20. May, 2022

  21. April, 2022

  22. January, 2022

  23. December, 2021

  24. November, 2021

  25. October, 2021

  26. September, 2021

  27. August, 2021

  28. July, 2021

  29. June, 2021

  30. May, 2021

  31. April, 2021

  32. March, 2021

  33. January, 2021

  34. November, 2020

  35. October, 2020

  36. September, 2020

  37. August, 2020

  38. June, 2020

  39. May, 2020

  40. April, 2020

  41. March, 2020

  42. February, 2020

  43. January, 2020

  44. December, 2019

  45. November, 2019

  46. October, 2019

  47. September, 2019

  48. August, 2019

  49. July, 2019

  50. June, 2019

  51. May, 2019

  52. April, 2019

  53. March, 2019

  54. February, 2019

  55. January, 2019

  56. December, 2018

  57. November, 2018

  58. October, 2018

  59. September, 2018

  60. August, 2018

  61. July, 2018

  62. June, 2018

  63. May, 2018

  64. April, 2018

  65. March, 2018

  66. February, 2018

  67. January, 2018

  68. December, 2017

  69. November, 2017

  70. October, 2017

  71. September, 2017

  72. August, 2017

  73. July, 2017

  74. June, 2017

  75. May, 2017

  76. April, 2017

  77. March, 2017

  78. February, 2017

  79. January, 2017

  80. December, 2016

  81. November, 2016

  82. October, 2016

  83. September, 2016

  84. August, 2016

  85. July, 2016

  86. June, 2016

  87. May, 2016

  88. April, 2016

  89. March, 2016

  90. February, 2016

  91. January, 2016

  92. December, 2015

  93. November, 2015

  94. October, 2015

  95. September, 2015

  96. August, 2015

  97. July, 2015

  98. June, 2015

  99. May, 2015

  100. April, 2015

  101. November, 2014

  102. April, 2013