A friend of mine told me she was trying to get up earlier in the morning so she could get more things done and she decided to set her alarm clock 1 hour earlier than she normally gets up. Not surprisingly, this was really difficult.
And the reason is, and I think a lot of people experience this when they’re trying to change a habit, making a radical change is pretty difficult.
There’s a concept called the “just noticeable difference.” It’s also known as Weber’s law. Which is the degree that something has to change for you to notice it. And it tends to be about 10% of the value of whatever the thing is that we perceive.
So for example, if you were listening to music and someone started to slowly turn it up, there’d be a point where you couldn’t detect that difference until it was about 10 percent louder.
This has implications for changing habits because a lot of people find it’s easier to change habits by making small incremental changes, than changing everything at once. And I shared with my friend how I started getting up earlier, by simply setting my alarm clock five minutes earlier and saying how many nights it took me or mornings it took me to get used to that. It wasn’t very long. So then I started setting it five minutes earlier than that and eventually moved the time that I get up from 6:30 in the morning until to about 5:30, with really not noticing much of that change because I was doing it over time.
Studies have found this helps increase, by the way, the degree to which people save in the retirement accounts by increasing the amount that they put away by small amounts over periods of time. Same thing for exercising, running, things like that.
And so if there’s a habit you wish to change or a change you want to make in your life, and you’ve had trouble before when you’ve tried to do that in big steps, try small steps using the “just noticeable difference” method and make some small incremental changes as a way of getting to your ultimate goal.