The Compounding Effect of Micro-Actions

There’s no shortage of books dedicated to habits.

You can learn about which seven are shared by those who are “highly effective.” The science and even biology of our habits. How to make small changes in our habits to have consequential changes and generally understand the psychology of how habits are formed and broken. Some powerful books on the topic include The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Just released is a new book by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy titled Choose Possibility: Take Risks and Thrive (Even When You Fail), which addresses the power of “micro-actions.” This concept really resonated with me during my recent On Leadership podcast interview with the author. As of late, we’ve heard a lot about “micro-aggressions” and “micro-stresses” and perhaps now, more positively, “micro-actions.”

Micro-actions. A simple but implementable strategy for everyone.

Or at least nearly everyone who has some modicum of control over their life. In most cases, your circumstance, mindset, physical or mental abilities, fears, passions, and goals can be improved with micro-actions. I don’t intend to officially define it here, but what it means for me is focusing on what’s in my control to change and progress. One micro-action at a time.

I have many professional goals, and as an entrepreneur now after a thirty-year corporate career, they are increasingly more closely aligned with my personal goals. In most cases, they are one and the same. Like never before in my life my professional and personal goals are indistinguishable. Good or bad, it’s true. And it can be overwhelming. So overwhelming that forward-moving progress has generally been replaced with sheer maintenance.

Cereal for dinner? No longer shameful but heroic! Just daily execution of tasks to keep our households on track, budgets in the black, our marriages, children, or relationships from spiraling, and our hobbies and our health basically tended to—those are major victories. Avoiding or surviving COVID is now for many sane people an obsession and herculean effort around which our lives revolve (just ask someone who’s lost a loved one...or is immunocompromised…their perspective is likely vastly different than perhaps yours).

That diatribe was just a survival list. None of it was about thriving or making significant improvements. Being joyful, bringing us meaning or fulfillment. Joy? What’s that? I’ve forgotten.

But it can’t stay this way and it doesn't have to. Choose to look at your most daunting or even most annoying challenges through the lens of micro-actions.

Perhaps you have home projects that have been delayed because of pandemic distractions. Likely the same is true about your physical health. Or your mental health. (Both are true for me…way too much ice cream during the early months of the pandemic and it shows, people.)

Maybe you have a side hustle languishing or a passion project vital to your emotional health, and it seems daunting to start. You may be thinking, as many of us, “What’s the point?” That’s normal, and I’m here to validate you. Increasingly for many of us, we struggle with the feeling of being overwhelmed. About our debt. Our education. Our careers. Heck—the laundry most days.

MICRO-ACTIONS, PEOPLE.

Tiny, easy-to-implement actions that psychologically can build momentum.

Dirty dishes on the kitchen counter blocking your view of the backyard? Wash one an hour for the next seven hours. Yes, that’s one cup or plate or fork an hour. Is laundry spilling out on the floor from your many baskets? Forget separating your whites. Who really cares anymore? (My wife apparently). Just get one load done today.

That stack of books now two feet high on your nightstand causing guilt? Put them under your bed (you may need to push aside the dirty laundry to make room). Just keep one out and read a single chapter each night instead of watching another episode of House Hunters International. (Plus…why are their rental budgets so tiny? Good grief! You’re fifty and moving to Stockholm and have $1,100 for your monthly rental budget? Dude, you need to rethink this move…)

You get the point—wherever you are in your overwhelm or excitement, put one foot in front of the other. Imagine if a month from now, thirty days, you’d taken one micro-action a day toward building or rebuilding your business or project—even thirty micro-actions is undeniably great progress.

With enough willpower, your kitchen counter could be clean…by next month…


Taking initiative in small, specific ways can help you reach your goals—for your team, your career, and your life. Download our latest guide to learn 7 ways to be more proactive - powered by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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