Mini habits – Book summary

mini habits book coverThese are the raw notes I made as I read Stephen Guise’s book on Mini Habits. I decided to read this book due to the crossover with the work of BJ Fogg on Tiny Habits.

Mini Habits – Introduction

People struggle with change:

  • Big intentions are worthless – intention actually harms self confidence.
  • People overestimate their ability to self control


  • Doing a little bit is better than doing nothing
  • Doing a little bit every day is better than doing a lot one day

Primary motivation for change is positive towards something rather than negative away from something.

Mini habits ARE smaller versions of new habits i.e. 1 push up a day rather than 100 push ups. Writing 3000 words becomes 50 words.These are “stupid small” steps. Small steps consistantly!

The complete system is: Mindset, positive feedback loops, self increasing efficacy and leveraging small steps into habits.

Mini habits – About habits and the brain

45% of behaviour is from habit. Created over time by repetition. Neural pathways formed.

Habits take time, more than 21 days BUT 21 days is an easy target (see here).

How your brain works

Repetition is the language of the (subconscious) brain.

Basal ganglia: Strong, pattern following habit machine but slow to change.

Prefrontal cortex: Smart “conscious brain”, short term thinking and understands consequences and benefits. Can override ganglia which “pushes”us.

Need to use two parts – form and then continue habit. Connects to motivation & willpower.

Motivation vs Willpower

Motivation is unreliable as it is based on how we feel.  We are not naturally motivated towards most behaviour changes we wish to take on. Enthusiasm generally decreases over time.

Willpower is reliable and can be strengthened. Triggers help maintain.
5 causes of will power depletion:

  1. Effort
  2. Perceived difficulty
  3. Negative effect
  4. Subjective fatigue
  5. Blood glucose levels

The strategy of mini habits

Effort: Small steps reduce chance of depletion. Small start means hardly any effort is required. You build up afterwards.

Perceived difficulty: Design is to reduce this, Mini goals reduce difficulty. Starting is the hardest part as it carries the brunt of commitment. Rather not start if we think we will not finish.

Negative effect (experience of unpleasant feelings): Focus is on adding good things. A mini habit does not impact greatly.

Subjective fatigue: Focusing on present not future reduces subjectiveness.

Blood glucose levels: Key energy source, mini activity has hardly any impact.

One small step + desired behaviour = high probability of further steps

Resistance in two parts: Resistance to do action & Resistance to do more

Mini habits – 8 Small steps to big change

Step 1 – Choose you mini habits & habit plan

  • Quick list of habits
  • One week flexi plan – Do habits & reflect at end of week (mark on cal!)
  • Single mini plan – Focus on one area
  • Multiple mini plan – Multiple areas
  • Minify to the max
  • Hybrid mini habits i.e.  This or that
  • Ensure they are written down

Step 2 – Use the WHY drill on each mini habit

  • Applying 5 Whys to the mini habit
  • Increases clarity and motivation

Step 3 – Define your habit cues

  • Common cues: time based (at X o’clock) or activity based (before work).

Step 4 – Create your reward plan

  • Rewards restore willpower.
  • Choose those that fit with you / environment and do not defeat habit.

Step 5 – Write everything down

Use a big calendar (visual reminder)

Use digital if that fits – make visible not hidden

Step 6 – Think small

Step 7 – Meet your schedule and drop high expectations

  • Refuse bigger targets

Step 8 – Watch for signs of habit, but be careful not to jump the gun

8 Mini habit rules

  1. Never, ever cheat
  2. Be happy with ALL progress
  3. Reward yourself often (especially after a mini habit)
  4. Stay level headed
  5. If you feel strong resistance, back off and go smaller
  6. Remind yourself how easy this is
  7. Never think a step is too small
  8. Put extra energy and ambition towards bonus reps, not a bigger requirement

Those are my notes. There are some very applicable ideas here for my works as a coach, facilitator and trainer. It is also very applicable on a personal level: Push up mini challenge started and I have switched my 2 blog posts a week to 100 words a day.

If I had to rate this book I would probably give it 3 out of 5 stars. Core concept is solid but the book feels very padded out. Saying that, the website is very good and worth visiting.

Thanks for reading, Andi

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