63 Micro-Goals to Keep You Healthy (Without Knowing It)

Paul L. Underwood
by Paul L. Underwood
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63 Micro-Goals to Keep You Healthy (Without Knowing It)

They say a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Well, the journey of hitting your daily step goal — or achieving whatever fitness goal you’ve set — is a similar situation. If you say to yourself, “Self, I’m going to run a marathon someday,” you may or may not get there. Using SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based — goals is a solid technique that could help in this journey. But if you break that goal into smaller goals, and then break those goals down into even smaller goals, well, eventually you’ll hit on something called micro-goals.

For example, start with buying a good pair of running shoes, then commit to running a mile, maybe get a friend to join you in a 5K race, then a 10K, then a half-marathon. Before you know it, you’ve marked your calendar for that marathon and the “someday” has a date. You get the picture.

Micro-goals are pretty much exactly what they sound like and are growing in popularity as a way of boosting your productivity. Blogger James Clear defines them via Newton’s First Law of Motion — essentially, that objects at rest tend to stay at rest, while objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The key to achieving your goal, then, is to just get started doing something, anything. This applies whether you’re working on a big assignment for work, writing an article on deadline (cough), or, yes, looking to improve your fitness.

That’s the thinking behind micro-goals, and recent research suggests they might be the most helpful way to hit your fitness targets. Why is that? First, there’s the obvious answer that smaller goals are, by definition, easier to achieve than bigger ones. But more than that, accomplishment causes your brain to release dopamine — you experience physical and chemical pleasure based on your achievement, and it turns out that feeling is literally addictive. So using micro-goals is a little like forming a healthy addiction. Once you’re hooked, there’s no stopping you.

So in that spirit, we’ve compiled a list of 63 micro-goals to help you get moving, stay moving, live healthier and overall help you turn big-deal resolutions into mini-accomplishments over and over.

You may find that, though these are micro-goals, they often lead to outsized success.

LOSING WEIGHT

1. Clean your refrigerator and pantry.

2. Organize your cabinets (including your spice rack — and put turmeric at the front).

3. Make a grocery list of healthy staples — fresh produce, lean protein, eggs and so on — and then use that whenever you shop. 🍎 🍊 🍋 🍌 🍉 🍓 🍈 🍒 🍑 🍍 🥝 🥑 🍅 🍆 🥒 🥕 🌽 🌶

4. Better yet, save that list in your phone, so you can add to it throughout the week (and so you don’t show up to the store hungry). 🤳📱

5. Save frequently eaten meals in MyFitnessPal. (This cuts down on how long it takes to log.)

6. Get MyFitnessPal Premium and join a MyFitnessPal plan like Macros or High-Protein — to get coaching, actionable tips and education daily.

7. Aim for one meal a week (or day) that’s 100% whole-food based and contains no processed food, then grow from there.

8. Skip the vending machine on Wednesdays, then add days from there.

9. Make breakfast dates with friends instead of drink dates. 🍳 🍳 🍳

10. Meal plan, even if it’s just writing down what you plan to eat next on paper or in your phone or maybe start batch cooking proteins.

11. Making a healthy meal? Prep enough for two meals, so you can bring the leftovers to work for lunch. 🥘 🥘

12. Pack a healthy lunch for work once a week, then build from there. 🍱

13. Cut back on sugar. Read labels. Don’t keep sweets around the house (or at your desk at work).

14. Add fiber to your diet (hello, more fruits and vegetables).

15. Eat a banana for breakfast on work days. It’s a great source of fiber as well as prebiotics for gut health

16. Designate at least one “dry day” a week.

17. Cut back on soda by choosing one other day per week to do without it.

18. Carve out an hour or two one night a week (i.e., Sunday) to batch cook food for the week ahead. Because prior planning prevents poor (meal-time) performance.

19. Meet for coffee instead of drinks. ☕️☕️☕️

20. Take your coffee without cream or sugar (or both) once a week. ☕️

21. Write out your meals in advance on your digital or physical calendar of choice …

22. … In a relationship? Share your plan with your partner.

23. Swap unhealthy sides for fruit, veggies or a salad every other time you go out to eat. (Then build from there.) 🍎 🌽🍆

24. Set aside a portion of your meal at restaurants before digging in. This manages portion sizes and ensures you have leftovers for lunch.

25. Consider going meatless or meat-lite one dinner a week.

PRACTICING BETTER SELF-CARE

1. Get outside. It really is as simple as that. If you have the option to get up and spend even a few moments in nature getting fresh air and soaking up vitamin D, make that part of your routine.

2. Stretch. Spending long hours sitting is not great. While a little bit of stretching won’t (completely) counteract that, it helps fight body tension in your shoulders, back, stomach and so on. This also helps you reduce any stress you’re feeling from the work itself.

3. Aim to go to bed at the same time on the weekends. Then extend that to weeknights. Then try to wake up at the same time each morning until your sleep schedule is the same most nights.

4. Set your bedroom temperature to 65–68ºF each night to sleep.

5. Invest in a new pillow or set of bedsheets. Sleep and recovery are important, too. 🛏

6. Put your phone and computer to sleep an hour before you head to bed yourself. 📵📵

7. Charge your phone away from your bed (or better yet, outside of your bedroom) on the weekends. (See above re: sleep and recovery.) 📵🛏

8. Schedule social media time until you’re ready to delete social media apps from your phone. Not having access on your person at all times drastically reduces your FOMO. You can do it. You can still see all your friends’ posts online from your computer.

9. Practice mindful breathing, and/or gratitude breaths. You don’t have to full-on meditate. You can even just begin your day with a few grateful breaths, thinking about the things you’re grateful for with every breath. Even 5–10 breaths a day helps you get centered.

10. Stay curious. In a famous 2006 study, researchers discovered cab drivers (who take a different route with every fare) have a better-developed memory than bus drivers (who take the same route every day). The point is, your mind enjoys exploring new territory. Shake up your routine by, say, exploring music from a new culture during your commute (this writer’s current go-to) or reading books by authors from different backgrounds. (No time for a novel? Keep a book of poems or other short pieces near your desk at work, and pick it up once a day.)

11. Save for a massage or make time for a bath (recovery is important, after all). 🛀🏾

GETTING FIT

1. Take the stairs on Tuesdays (then add days of the week).

2. Add one foam-rolling session to your week. Start rolling whatever’s tense and go from there.

3. Switch date-night dinner-and-a-movie for something active (like a tennis lesson) or even something where you’re on your feet, like a cooking class. 🎾🎾

4. Do pushups or hold a plank during commercial breaks when you’re watching TV.

5. Walk or bike to coffee, brunch or work instead of driving. 🚲

6. Use small breaks in the workday to do squats, a few pushups or another quick-and-easy, no-equipment-required activity you can still do in your work clothes.

7. Set a calendar reminder to get up every hour … 🗓⏰⏳⌚️

8. … then get up and walk, even if you just do a lap around the office. Think of it as an old-fashioned smoke break, except it’s good for you.

9. Invest in a good gym bag.

10. Organize your fitness gear.

11. Invest in a good water bottle …

12. … and fill it many times a day. 💦 💦

13. Schedule one walking meeting a week (then build from there). 🚶🏻‍♀️ 🚶♀️

14. Walk to a coworker’s desk instead of Slacking them.

15. Make a list of local parks with trails and make a point of exploring a new one every month. 🏞🌳🐾🍄

16. Once a week, take a 15-minute walk before or after work. Schedule it in your calendar.

17. On gym days, commit to at least 15 minutes of movement, especially when you’re not motivated, then build from there.

18. Park an extra level up at parking garages or further away from your destination.

19. Keep your running shoes (and workout clothes) in your car. You never know when the urge will strike!

20. Meet for squash (or some other physical activity) instead of drinks.

21. Travel a lot? Pack a jump rope.

22. Don’t jump rope? Pack resistance bands.

23. Get your coolest friend to make you a one-hour workout mix. 🎧 🎼

24. Make a folder of workout playlists in your favorite music streaming service for easy access later. 🎶🎶

25. Prefer podcasts? Listen to one as you walk.

26. Or try an audiobook.

27. Just. Get. Moving. 🤸‍♀️ 🤸‍♂️ 🤸‍♀️ 🤸‍♂️

About the Author

Paul L. Underwood
Paul L. Underwood

Paul is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He tweets here, he Instagrams there and he posts the occasional deep thought at plunderwood.com. He’s probably working on a run mix as you read this.

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