Add something new to your life, in small increments.

Last fall I mentioned to someone with experience in nutrition how I wished I ate better. Instead of going on a diet, it was suggested I consider introducing, or adding healthy foods into my diet. For the next few months, and to this day, I always have a few local, fresh fruits or vegetables on my counter. This is handy, as when I have the urge to snack, the easiest option is something healthy. It’s also a lot easier, and has less guilt, then removing things from your diet.

It does get to a point, over time, where you’ll start making decisions about removing unhealthy things from your diet, but by the time you start making those decisions you’ll likely realize it was this slow incremental process that led to it becoming an easy decision.

I had a great chat with Steve Ballard at the BIL Conference today about incremental additions in a health context as well. Instead of going from couch potato to crossfit, consider dedicating just 20 minutes a day to exercise. You could do push ups, walk, jumping jacks, anything. You could even just stretch. What matters the most is dedicating the slow, easy, additive nature of it, as by the time it becomes a habit, you’ll realize what an impact it has had.

The other thing Steve and I both appreciate, it measuring progress along the way. The Quantified Self movement can help you along that route if you’re interested, and often recommends reading material. Measure something that might sound silly, but could prove interesting. For example, measure for one week, how much water you drink per day (1/2 your lbs of body weight in ounces?), and how many times you urinate (~2 hours?). I’ve learned recently that even though I wasn’t consciously noticing it, I was dehydrated.

I’ve been happy with the KeepTrack app for Android, as it doesn’t store my private information in the cloud, and it turns my data into graphs over time. The more I do it, the more interesting the graphs, yet another reward. A few ideas for things you might want to consider keeping track of:
How long you sleep every night, how much alcohol/coffee/cigarettes you consume, how long you bike/walk/workout, how many pages you’ve read, how much time you’ve spent on a MOOC, etc.

I realize there are a lot of things I’ve been doing incrementally, in short segments, for some time. I opened my Duolingo account tonight, and after doing a few lessons I passed level 11. There’s no punishment if I miss a day on any of these things here there, but the compounding benefit over time is amazing, and are only found if you start! C’est fantastique!

If you find this inspiring, pick one little thing you’d like to add to your life, commit to adding it in — in just a small increment, but regularly, and measuring it.