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Stanford professor says new habits can form in just 30 seconds each day

By Xandra Clark | 26 Jul 2012

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BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, has created a new program called “3 Tiny Habits” that encourages participants to begin working toward goals with a series of very small steps that escalate over time. (Photo: Max Rebo Band/ Creative Commons)

Have you forgotten about your New Year’s Resolution? Have you been trying to keep up with a new workout schedule, or remember to eat enough vegetables, or call your mother? A Stanford University professor says he can help you — in just 30 seconds a day.

BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, has created a new program called “3 Tiny Habits” that encourages participants to begin working toward goals with a series of very small steps that escalate over time.

Signing up is easy: it entails submitting your email address to Fogg’s lab so that he can email you a quick reminder every day for five days. You commit to trying out your new habits for about 30 seconds each day and responding to each of Fogg’s emails with a progress update. To start, you might try flossing one tooth, reading one sentence from a newspaper or putting on workout clothes.

Fogg has taught classes on habit creation at Stanford and has led a series of Persuasion Boot Camps, in which participants design strategies for creating habits. Fogg’s research has shown that simplicity is key. If you start small, you can later expand on that habit. It’s easier than trying to start with a challenging goal or hoping to motivate yourself to do something very different than your typical behavior.

Fogg’s method asks that you hook your new habit onto an already habitual “anchor” in your daily routine—something you do every day that your new habit can follow. If you always brush your teeth and you want to start flossing, you might try picking up your floss directly after brushing each morning. You’re more likely to develop the new habit if you build up from simple and use a habit you already possess as a linking point.

If you sign up for Fogg’s trial, you’ll also commit to 12 minutes of “training” before the week begins; you’ll read a short packet that provides instructions and information about this method of changing behavior.

Although this experience will likely help you in your personal life, that’s not Fogg’s main goal. He aims to teach his students how to motivate others to create habits. Many of his students already work in startups, nonprofits, ecommerce ventures and government agencies.

For more information or to sign up for the next trial, visit Fogg’s website, tinyhabits.com. The deadline to participate in the current trial is Friday, July 27.

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