Just give it a minute

A hazard of the writing life is that you spend too much time on your duff tapping away at a tiny keyboard, neither of which are good for your body, and my doctor assures me that if I’m going to grow old gracefully there are certain things I need to do, regularly.

Nothing on the list would shock you; the big ones are walk a lot, lift heavy things occasionally, and do stretches to combat too-much-typing disease.

About a month ago, thanks to a nudge from Donna, I made a simple little habit tracker in my journal to track these three things: steps, strength, and stretching.

(This is something I’ve done on and off for years; in fact, I blogged about an early version of it right here, which shows what my list looked like in 2013.)

What my habit tracker shows

Now that April is in the books, I have a whole month’s worth of results to look at, and they are … interesting.

The walking is fine; my steps are where I want them to be, I think because I’ve implemented habits throughout the day that make sure I get them in.

I’m doing great on strength. I took Donna’s advice to commit to doing one minute—literally, a single minute—of some kind of strength exercise every day. It’s so easy to do one minute. How could I not?

I do it right after I walk Daisy in the morning. That one minute usually turns into ten or fifteen, but even if I do just one minute, I get to check the box.

But the stretching. Oh, the stretching.

That part’s not going so well.

Habit change is hard

For her wellness challenge, Donna’s research-backed advice is to start small. Thus the one minute of strength.

So I decided to start small with stretching as well, and decided I’d check the box if I did either my series of too-much-typing stretches or a quickie Yoga with Adriene video. Both take about seven minutes.

Seven minutes is not a long time.

And I feel ridiculous telling you this because it’s just seven minutes—but I cannot get this stretching done, even though I have a reminder that goes off on my phone every morning. I’ve checked so few boxes for this.

Small steps add up

Like many of us, I tend to discount the power of small things, forgetting that all big things are done small step by small step. I’m writing in my book right now about the power of taking the first step— yet the first step sometimes seems so small I don’t want to do it. How much good could it do me?

But thanks to “one minute” (in quotes, because it so often turns into more) I can lift more than I could a month ago.

But with my lousy—but longer— seven-minute goal I can barely get the stretching done.

It sounds so silly to say I’ve accomplished anything if I stretch for a single minute but I’ve decided what I need to do is just give it a minute. Just one.

What will you give a minute?

If you’re interested in making some changes in your life, whether they’re simple (like one minute of weights) are trickier (I’ll let you fill in the blank here), I’d love to hear about it, and what you’re going to commit to, minute by minute, small step by small step.

Tell us all about it in comments. 

P.S. A shortcut to instant habits, you get what you measure, and one helpful piece of life (and organizing) advice.

P.P.S. Our May MMD Book Club selection is on sale today, in ebook, for $1.99. I just started this myself last night and even on the third time through it is SUCH a delight. I can’t wait to chat with the author at month’s end! Click here for more info (watch the short two-minute video for more of my thoughts) and to get yours.


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  1. I’ve actually recently committed to doing a daily meditation each morning. I try to do it before I drive to work (which is EARLY), but I find the best time for me to read the day’s passage is once I arrive at work and have made myself a cuppa. I’m at work before anyone else, so I can sit there for about 5 minutes, drink my tea, read the meditation for that day, and muse over it a bit. It usually brings me to a peaceful place, which is much needed after my harrowing commute and before I tackle the rest of my long day. It was hard to fit in those 5 minutes — just 5 minutes, like you said! that’s nothing, really! — but now that I’ve made the room for it, I really look forward to that time to help myself find a more positive outlook. Good luck with your exercises!

      • Deborah Ball says:

        Years ago I started with an early morning devotional by reading in my Bible and then as grandchildren entered the picture, journaling prayers were added. This keeps me grounded thru my day, and it is quite funny how these words will come round to me later in the day. Contemplative prayer is also very grounding, but quite honestly my mind starts to wander, so it has not become a habit.The small changes you listed Anne, are inspiring and make me want to get with it! Thanks!

  2. Nichole says:

    This is such good advice. I also find the stretching hard, but SO important as I get closer and closer to 40. I make myself do a little bit every evening before I can settle in to relax and try to throw in a longer yoga session (30 minutes tops!) a couple of times a week. I need to be better on the strength part and I like the idea of 1 minute a day…I can do that!

  3. Kacie says:

    Excited for May’s book club pick! I need something lighter and fun. I already have my hard copy of “Tell Me Three Things,” but I did see the kindle copy of her book, “What To Say Next” is also on sale right now. Grabbing it, obvs.

  4. Soleil says:

    I love yoga with adriene! She has helped me develop a daily yoga practice. I love that she posts routines of varying lengths. I am also doing Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Project Experience and that has helped me keep focus on what works for me and makes me happier and healthier.

    What I am doing recently that helps me is using my fitbit to remind me to get up and walk every hour. It gives me a reminder at 10 minutes to the hour and it helps. I also, on the days I work remotely, turn up the music while I am preparing my lunch and dance a bit. It’s only a few minutes but it’s fun and gets my energy back up.

  5. Marybeth says:

    Add a Downdog to your routine every day. It stretches and strengthens. Think about breathing slowly and mindfully and you have added a meditative quality that will follow you throughout the day. I pop into Downdog any time I need to stretch, find my breath, reconnect…best part is you don’t need anything but a surface…

    • Rikilynn says:

      Yes! I brought a yoga teacher to work for 6 Mondays to help us learn simple stretches and meditation. One thing she taught us all was a 5 minute routine to use everyday. 5 stretches, 1 minute each. But if we couldn’t do that, she made us promise 1 minute a day in child’s pose. Now THAT I can do! It’s a great relaxing stretch and with your face down and eyes closed, you can block out the world. Just. One. Minute.

      • Andrea says:

        Thank you Rikilynn! I used to do a downward dog and child’s pose a couple times a day and you just reminded me I haven’t been doing it. And my body hurts! Crazy how I don’t forget my bad snacking habits, but if neglect stretching for a few days it can turn into months!

  6. Paying for something motivates me to follow through. As a writer and an introvert, I too spend a lot of time at my computer. I know, though, that I need social interaction AND exercise. By paying my YMCA monthly fees I can’t stand the possibility that I’m not getting what I pay for. So I attend classes three times a week. A spirit of camaraderie has developed among a group of women. That way I get social and physical needs met.

    Isn’t it also true that weight-loss programs with an attached fee are more successful?

    • Britany Arnold says:

      Yes, Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s the Four Tendencies? She talks about how you handle inner and outer expectations. Paying for something helps get over your tendencies to skip it. Plus, accountability for group sessions also helps those notions too.

      • hillary says:

        I read that also, so I took a deep breath and paid for the whole tone it up program. I lost 14 pounds in the first month, and I can almost touch my toes, and I am feeling better every day. I am not going to lie; in the beginning, it was HARD. I had gained soooooo much weight. But a month and a half later??? I shocked myself when I realized that I can now do what they call a duck pose. The hard part IS getting started but once you have that momentum it becomes s a habit, and now I refuse to start my day without doing that days workout.

  7. Deborah Larson says:

    Ironically, I committed to reading this blog post during the five minutes I waited for the water to boil for my tea. Timer beeped just as I was finishing the post. 🙂

  8. Susan Fisher says:

    Anne, you should try Essentrics to get in your stretching. Check it out at Essentrics.com. I became an Essentrics instructor two years ago and at age 62, my body feels better than ever! Staying flexible is the key to aging well.

  9. Janean says:

    This incremental habits concept reminds me of Atomic Habits by James Clear. I’ve always been a dive in strong type – all or nothing – workout 7 days a week for an hour or nothing. It never works and I fail within days, aching from injuries. I never learn. I eat whatever I want or I eat perfectly. I’m not good at the gray areas. I’m discouraged by small, incremental changes. I want the big rewards and I want them fast. Atomic Habits was the first book to really SELL me on the power of small, daily changes and how they don’t just work, but how they are the deciding factor between success and failure. These type of small changes are what make champions. I’ve started making these changes and, for the first time in a long struggle with certain habits, I’ve found some success. Great post and keep fighting the 1 minute or 10% fights Anne! Like we’ve said, the fact that you’re thinking about these things and being intentional about your process means that you’re doing better than you think. 👌🏻

    • Lori East says:

      Janean, Thanks for this book recommendation. I, too, am the all-or-nothing sort and it wreaks havoc most of the time. I have started implementing small day-by-day changes, but can always use help. Thanks again! (Ooh, have you read The Power of Habit?)

  10. Donna H. says:

    I’m so excited that my blog helped to inspire you to give things ‘just a minute’! I’m having similar success on doing a 1 minute workout (I tie it to the habit of brushing my teeth and the reality is it often turns into a 5 minute routine but I tell myself I only have to do 1). But at night I turn into a TV Lump or Reading Lump and I’m not getting up and moving around like I want to. I keep telling myself that that’s part of the fun/challenge of this and how great I’ll feel in a few months when they’re just a part of my routine. Thank you for inspiring me to keep trying!

  11. Darlene says:

    I’ve had success at getting up and moving regularly throughout my workday and at going for a walk most days, but I haven’t done well at stretching, either. I’m going to try one minute of stretching as I set the table for dinner. One minute really is better than nothing at all!

  12. Raelene says:

    I have always had a hard time getting up earlier. I know – everyone says to get up before the kids to start the day off great, but I just have never been able to. Until this week. We just brought home two baby goats who need to be fed on a schedule – including an early morning feeding. Need motivation to get up half an hour earlier? Get goats. Just saying’ – it’s worked wonders for us (ha!) and means both that the goats get fed and we get a hot breakfast – cause we’ve got extra time now before the bus comes!

  13. Something I’m doing this year is jumping rope for 300 days out of the 365. That gives me roughly five days a month to forget or be sick or just not feel like it. So far so good! Like your strength training, I jump after I walk the dog or sometimes take my rope to the gym. It’s been really fun to track the commitment.

  14. Mary Hunt says:

    I went to a workshop on productivity and the leader recommended a 90/90 routine. For every 90 minutes you sit at your desk, get up and walk/move for 90 seconds. I have set an alarm on my watch to remind me. But now I think I will rotate activity. 90 seconds of walking, 90 seconds of stretching and 90 seconds of lifting. I can almost get each one in twice a day. Thanks for the thought!

  15. Jenny Womack says:

    Meditate every morning using Calm or Headspace app, yoga with Adrienne (even a quickie), & daily journaling including listing 3 things I’m grateful for each day… but I’m curious what Anne’s 7 minute stretch session is

  16. Stephanie says:

    A friend mentioned that she stretches her legs (by putting a heel up on her bathroom counter) while she brushes her teeth. One minute per side = 2 full minutes of brushing. I can’t believe what a difference this daily habit has made for my hamstrings!

  17. Judy says:

    I’m making a gardening “menu”, with little chores that will take me 15 to 30 minutes. On nights after work, when I don’t have a lot of energy, I can refer to the menu for a task I can complete in a little time. I hope picking off little chunks of yard work on weeknights will make my weekend chores less daunting!

  18. I started practicing French using the free version of Duolingo last year before a planned trip to France. I’m still practicing now, because it takes less than ten minutes to complete my daily goal, and I almost always do it right after I eat lunch. It helps to have a specific, small goal, and a set time to do it.

    This discussion reminds me of James Clear’s excellent book Atomic Habits!

  19. I’ve had to start stretching a lot (and foam rolling) in the past couple years too following a back injury. I do a series of some back, hamstrings, and calves every morning and then foam roll before bed. I also love Jasyoga videos (online subscription)…she has a 5 min series that targets individual body parts. So, I’ll do those if a specific part is hurting. So fun getting old!!

  20. Julia says:

    This post is so inspiring! I needed to be reminded that every little step helps. I really need to add a minute of stretching every day. I just can’t seem to figure out when to do it.

    On a totally unrelated note – I love your blouse in the intro video for the May book. Is it from Stitchfix?

  21. Ali says:

    I love the idea of one minute goals. One of my favorite quotes is from Vince Lombardi, “Inches make champions.” What we do consistently, no matter how small, is what makes a big difference. Currently, my small post-dissertation goal, is to try to work on academic writing/editing for at least a half hour a day. It is a lot less than what I was doing when writing my dissertation, but it is the amount I can reasonably do and maintain consistency.
    Also, stretching has always been incredibly difficult for me too. When all else fails, I’m a big fan of just putting my legs up the walls. I set my timer for ten minutes and read a book — ten minutes later, hamstrings are stretched and a nice amount of reading has been accomplished.

  22. CAROLYN LANG says:

    If you are still struggling with stretching, try yoga trapeze. It is fun and you can stretch every part of your body. I discovered yoga trapeze when my physical therapist brought her trapeze into the office for me to try. Immediately, I was hooked. I started with one at home and I use the one at home daily. About 6 months after I started using the trapeze at home, I found trapeze group classes near my home. I attend group classes 3-4 days a week. I find I do some of the stretches every day at home and avoid other stretches until I am with a group and we are all doing the same stretch.

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