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The original lead developer for WordPress used the set the minimum technique

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

The original lead developer for WordPress used the set the minimum technique

Scott Miker

If you have read many of my articles you know that I promote a technique I call set the minimum.  The idea is that you set a ridiculously easy goal but commit to doing it daily.

This gets you started on the path of building a new habit.  It is so small and easy that you actually stick to it.  After doing it over and over it starts to become an ingrained habit and then you can add more to it once it is automatic and you aren’t using willpower any longer.

This technique isn’t anything knew.  In fact, I come across people using this technique all over.  To keep it easy to remember I call it setting the minimum but in reality you can call it whatever you want as long as you follow a few principles.

First, make sure it is incredibly small and easy.  Second make sure you do it over and over again.  Third, don’t keep trying to out-do yourself.  Always go back to the minimum that you set until you really, truly have it so automatic that you don’t really think about doing it any longer.

Jennifer Aniston uses it to stay in shape.  Jerry Seinfeld uses it to write jokes. 

As I read Tim Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans I am constantly seeing examples of this technique being used by some of the most successful people on the planet.  Ferriss takes sections from his interviews with these individuals from over the years and often times they promote doing something small over and over until it becomes habit.

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and original lead developer of WordPress, talked about how he got in shape.  He did a push-up every day before he went to bed.  He said in the book, “No matter how late you’re running, no matter what’s going on in the world, you can’t argue against doing one push-up.  Come on.  There’s no excuse.  I often find I just need to get over that initial hump with something that’s almost embarrassingly small as a goal, and then that can become a habit.”

Anyone can use this technique to get started on the right path.  Whatever goal we have set for ourselves can be started with a very small piece done over and over again.  The more we do this the more it starts to feel natural.  It is sort of a fake it till you make it strategy but really is just a way to get around the fact that willpower doesn’t actually last.

Next time you set a goal for yourself take a moment to think about what you can set as a minimum.  Then do this no matter what else goes on.  Add more whenever you want.  Go to extremes right away.  BUT keep the small minimum and keep doing that regardless of how motivated you feel.  It might just be the glue that helps keep you sticking to your goal long after you tired of the extremes and the reliance on motivation and effort.