We all have habitual behaviors we wish we could jettison: biting fingernails, interrupting spouses, eating candy bars while watching reality shows. And of course there are many behaviors we don’t have that we wish we did: regular exercise, healthy meals, daily writing, perhaps? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could make those desired behaviors as habitual—as easy to do and as hard to avoid—as the troublesome ones?
Well, it’s not exactly easy, but if you follow the program Doepker sets out in this slim but thoroughly packed volume, you’ll almost certainly see changes. Everyone has something they’d like to do more of or do more regularly. I challenge you to give Doepker’s program a go. When I began reading this book, I was having a difficult time keeping up with the physical therapy exercises prescribed for me after an injury. I decided to follow Doepker’s 5 Minutes a Day program and see if it worked for me. And I must report that, even though I didn’t stick with his daily plan exactly and didn’t do all the handy end-of-chapter lists and reviews, the program did work for me! And frankly, I was a bit surprised, because going through that boring and sometimes painful set of exercises is not something I ever expected to become routine.
There are tons of ideas and suggestions along with the core program in this book, but I think that there are two main reasons this program is effective. First, he’s dead serious about 5 minutes a day (at first, and as long as you need that), and though it sounds like “why even bother,” it really does work. It’s much easier to say, “Okay, I’m going to do these stretches and lifts (or do conjugations or peel a tangerine, whatever it is for you) for 5 minutes than to say “Okay. I’m going to change my life and exercise every day no matter what.” The plan really is simple and workable. But perhaps even more important, Doepker really is there for you as a coach and support buddy. His friendly, encouraging voice is extremely helpful when struggling with this kind of thing—and it is a struggle, Doepker just makes it a struggle you can overcome.
In addition to the daily program, Doepker collects the best advice and tips from the many books, articles, web sites, and programs that aim to help with developing good habits. Suggestions such as linking your new habit to an established habit (that one worked well for me) or use the cues and triggers of an old habit and replace it with a new one (for example, every time you sit down to surf the web, take five minutes—just five minutes!—to work on your language-learning program, or write a paragraph on your short story).
I won’t include a spoiler here, but toward the end of the book, Doepker makes a surprising revelation and excellent observation that gives you a nudge for carrying on the plan after you’ve finished the book. He also includes loads of back matter—links to helpful web sites, other books on this subject, and summaries of other people’s ideas and approaches.
This friendly, kind book may be all you need to make some deep and lasting changes in your life. And if you give it a try and it doesn’t work, you’re only out a small amount of money for the book and five minutes a day. But I’m betting it will work for you, too.