• Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg | The Big Ideas and Best Quotes

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

A book summary of Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg

Tiny Habits Summary - The Small Changes That Change Everything - BJ Fogg

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3 Big Ideas:

  1. Create a constellation of habits, tiny in size but big on impact

  2. B = MAP – Behaviour happens when motivation & ability & prompt converge at the same moment

  3. Behaviour change is a skill that can be mastered

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“There are three ways to change behaviour: have an epiphany, change environment, change habits in tiny ways.”

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“There are 7 steps in Behaviour Design:
  1. Clarify the aspiration

  2. Explore behaviour options

  3. Match with specific behaviours

  4. Start tiny

  5. Find a good prompt

  6. Celebrate successes

  7. Troubleshoot, Iterate & Expand”

Toby's Top Takeaway

This is one of my all-time favourite books about habits and behaviour change. BJ Fogg does an excellent job in writing an easy to read and super practical book. After reading this book I could easily put into practice the ideas.

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Big Idea 1 – Create a constellation of habits, tiny in size but big on impact

Anatomy of Tiny Habits method (ABC):

  1. Anchor moment

  2. New Tiny Behaviour

  3. Instance Celebration

Tiny Habit Maxims:

  1. Help people do what they already want to do

  2. Help people feel successful

Change creators:

  1. Have epiphany

  2. Change the environment

  3. Change habits in tiny ways (Most likely to lead to change)

Core Concepts:

  • Start with three very small behaviours, even just one

  • Create a constellation of habits, tiny in size but big on impact

  • Keep changes small and expectations low

  • People change by feeling good, not by feeling bad

  • B = MAP – Behaviour happens when motivation & ability & prompt converge at the same moment

  • Willpower is a myth. Bad habits are due to design flaws, not character flaws

  • Removing a prompt is the best first move to stop a behaviour happening (e.g. remove chocolate from the fridge, remove the phone from the bedroom)

Big Idea 2 – Behaviour happens when motivation & ability & prompt converge at the same moment (B=MAP)


  • Lack of behaviour is not a motivation issue. It's often an ability or prompt issue.

  • Motivation is a bad lever to push. The motivation monkey tricks us into setting unreasonable goals.

  • Motivation is like a party-animal friend. Great for a night out but not someone you would rely on to pick you up from the airport.

  • Motivation is like a wave. It arrives in temporary surges. It’s unpredictable and unreliable

  • Hope and Fear strongly influence motivation. They push against each other.

  • Motivation and Ability have a compensatory relationship

Ability Chain:

Things that make the habit easier/harder

  1. Time

  2. Money

  3. Physical Effort

  4. Mental Effort

  5. Routine

Untangle habits using the same process you grow them. Break the ability chain.

Make it easier:

  1. Increase skills (requires high motivation and often time)

  2. Get tools and resources (often requires money)

  3. Make it tiny

Golden Behaviours:

  1. Impactful (aspiration)

  2. Want to do (motivation)

  3. Can do (ability)

Golden behaviours can be done on your hardest day! Monday morning!

Types of Prompt:

  1. Person – Your internal reminder e.g. memory, physical (bladder)

  2. Context – Environmental – e.g Sticky on my fridge

  3. Action – Habit stacking – After brushing my teeth i will floss

Prompt management is one of the most difficult tasks in modern life. Limit the noise

Troubleshooting Habits:

  1. Check to see if there’s a prompt to do the behaviour

  2. See if the person has the ability to the behaviour

  3. See if the person is motivated to do the behaviour

Habit Categories:

  1. Uphill – require ongoing attention to maintain but are easy to stop

  2. Downhill – easy to maintain but difficult to stop

  3. Free-fall – extremely difficult to stop unless you get professional help

Habit Personas (Applied in groups):

  1. Dolphins – High motivation, high ability (Focus here)

  2. Turtles – High motivation, low ability (Focus here)

  3. Crabs – High ability, low motivation (Require incentives)

  4. Clams – Low ability, low motivation (Ignore)

Big Idea 3 – Behaviour change is a skill that can be improved

Skills of change:

  1. Behaviour Crafting – Knowing how many new habits to do at once and when to add more

  2. Self-insight –  The skill of knowing which new habits will have meaning to you

  3. Process (Systems Thinking) – Knowing when to push yourself beyond ton and ramp up the difficulty of the habit

  4. Context – Redesigning your environment to make your habits easier to do

  5. (Growth) Mindset – Embracing a new identity

Behaviour Planning:

  1. Aspirations = abstract desires e.g. wanting kids to succeed in school

  2. Outcomes = more measurable e.g. getting straight A’s second semester

  3. Behaviour = something you can do right now e.g. open textbook read five chapters

You can only achieve aspirations or outcomes over time. A behaviour you can do right now

Swarm of Behaviours

Brainstorming possible behaviours to help achieve an aspiration or an outcome

If you plant behaviour in the right spot it will grow without coaxing: Where might this habit fit naturally in your daily routine?

When designing a new habit, you are designing for consistency


  1. A most important part of the approach

  2. Emotions create habits

  3. The celebration must come immediately after or during the habit for it to stick. E.g A message two days later won't work

  4. The celebration is habit fertiliser

  5. A celebration is a skill — It does not always come naturally

©2020 by Toby Sinclair.

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