When there’s too much to do, or the amount of work seems too complicated or too cumbersome, we often default to doing nothing. When you feel this happening, use the Micro-Behavior Technique.
As a coach to men and women all over the world, I see my fair share of resistance manifesting in people. In all honesty, I experience a lot of resistance myself as well. It’s a part of being human.
Sometimes resistance is due to true overwhelm. Sometimes, as I’ve written about before, it’s much more than that.
Either way, the Micro-Behavior Technique can work wonders for overcoming resistance, friction, and overwhelm. It’s a simple, but powerful strategy.
When someone is facing resistance with executing on self-care habits, I often scale them back to a single, stupidly-simple habit. Something so incredibly effortless (relatively speaking) and seemingly insignificant that all the friction goes away.
For example, I’ve had numerous clients who I told, “For right now, I want you to forget everything you think you need to do, except for one thing. I want you to drink a tall glass of lemon water first thing when you wake up. That’s it. Stop thinking about everything else but that.”
Now, this seems silly, right? What is a glass of lemon water going to do (no, it has nothing to do with “detoxing”)?
In fact, I tell them up front, “this is going to seem really silly. Just entertain me.”
So they start implementing this micro-behavior. One day. Then the next. Then the next. I don’t give them any other direction.
Sometimes it only takes one day. Sometimes it takes a week. Here’s what inevitably happens, though. They end up reaching back out to me and saying something like, “Okay, I did what you said and then I got ‘this feeling.'”
“What feeling?” I ask.
“This small feeling of momentum. Once I drank the water, I started telling myself how it wouldn’t be very difficult to collect another win in the form of a real-food breakfast. So, I whipped something up. That bled into lunch where I wanted to keep the momentum going. So I made a great choice for lunch. I didn’t do much snacking and then I ate a healthy dinner, too.”
Taking away all the friction and the resistance by asking them to do one silly, simple micro-behavior, often motivates a positive chain reaction with much more powerful consequences.
It also lays the groundwork for repetition. The micro-behavior is just as easy to perform the following day and has the potential to set off the same chain reaction.
Another larger behavior that’s important is intentional walking. I like my clients to consistently collect 45-60 minute walks a few times a week. If there’s resistance to doing this, I use the Micro-Behavior Technique and again scale their task back to a level that’s borderline absurdity.
“Okay, just entertain me here. All you have to do each day is put on your walking shoes and walk to the end of your driveway and back. If you do that, we’re going to consider it a win.”
Then I get an email a couple days later…
“Kevin, I did what you said.”
“You walked to the end of your driveway and back?”
“No, I walked to the end of the driveway and felt like it would be ridiculous for me to turn around and walk back inside. I put my headphones in and walked for an hour.”
This technique works for anything. Dave Ramsey famously uses it for his “debt snowball.” Instead of having people do the usual tactic of paying off the highest interest rate credit card first, he asks them to pay off the card with the lowest balance. Smaller task. Less friction. Bank a win and create momentum. Leverage the momentum to tackle the next task.
You can also use the Micro-Behavior technique for “habit anchoring,” which I’ll talk about in a future article. For right now, though, take a look at some tasks that you’ve been putting off or engaging with inconsistently and see if you can implement the Micro-Behavior Technique to get things moving in the right direction.