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Domino Effect Examples: The Power of Habits


Mizzen+Main founder Kevin Lavelle sat down with Cristina Lynch to discuss entrepreneurship in an episode of our Founders 15 podcast. As the founder and CEO of Mi Golondrina, Cristina constantly travels for work. When asked how she stayed sane, she replied that 30-minute Tabata-style workouts made her a “new person.”

Sound nice? We thought so too. Thirty minutes is a small chunk of time, yet it hugely impacted Cristina’s day. How?

Cristina set our wheels turning about the power of small changes. Look, we all want to be happier, healthier, and more productive. But managing work, family, friends, hobbies, exercise—sometimes all of it feels overwhelming. 

Can one small change really impact other areas of your life? Cristina says yes and her workouts are an example of something called the Domino Effect. Let’s talk about it.

What is the Domino Effect?

If you remember dominoes (or this meme), you know that tapping one creates a chain reaction, knocking the rest over. The Domino Effect for habits works similarly. One small behavioral change can trigger a series of changes that make a significant impact over time.

Domino Effect examples

Let’s say you skip the espresso on your morning commute and make a veggie-packed protein shake instead. The nutrients from the smoothie will give you a steady stream of energy all morning without the crash of caffeine, increasing your likelihood of squeezing in a midday run. 

After this run, you’ll gain focus, enabling you to get your work done faster.

And since you finished all your tasks before 5 pm, you log off early and knock out the errands you usually save for the weekend. Instead of cleaning on Sunday, you fire up the grill and barbeque with the family. 

While you didn’t plan for this to happen, one healthy choice led to another, impacting your overall productivity and mood. This is the Domino Effect in action.

Remember Uncle Ben’s wisdom, “With great power comes great responsibility,” which rings especially true with the Domino Effect. Positive habits can create a snowball into positive behaviors but so can negative ones. If you watch a marathon of Stranger Things episodes until 2 am on a weekday, chances are you’ll need to mainline coffee on your way to work just to stay alert—and crash later at 2 pm. We’re not saying Stranger Things isn’t worth it (it is), but you get the picture.

Find out how the Domino Effect improves productivity with these Domino Effect examples you can start practicing today.

Make your bed 

Making your bed in the morning affects your entire day. 34% of bed-makers described feeling very productive at work compared to only 21% of non-bed-makers.

So what’s the secret? Why does making the bed seemingly boost productivity? According to U.S Navy Admiral SEAL William H. McCraven, it sets the tone for a productive day. In his commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin, Admiral McRaven said, “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.” Admiral got it right.

Practice mindfulness 

All types of people practice mindfulness, including some of the world’s most successful business leaders. While mindfulness differs from person to person, people generally understand it as the practice of being fully present in the moment. Research shows that incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine can significantly improve your focus, decrease anxiety, and more. Practicing mindfulness helps you work more efficiently so you can spend less time at the office and more time doing other activities you love.

But what does it look like in your daily life? Start with daily meditation. Apps like Headspace and Calm make mediation easy to learn—annual treks to Tibet not required (although we’re in if you are). Simply taking five minutes to breathe deeply before starting your day can make a world of difference.

Go to bed an hour early

Late nights working or late-night happy hours contribute to a lack of sleep. It happens to everybody; up to 70% of Americans say they feel tired regularly. While a few sleepy afternoons sound harmless, over time this behavior causes your productivity to nosedive. Reducing your sleep by just 1.5 hours can negatively impact your alertness the next day. And sleepiness messes with your memory and ability to process information.

On the flip side, a good night’s sleep will increase alertness and improve your problem-solving skills. Both of these attributes are essential if you want to increase your productivity in the office.

That said, the Domino Effect relies on behaviors you can consistently commit to. So, if you can’t get in bed by 9 pm every night, that’s cool. Try to hit the sheets an hour earlier than you usually do. Just one hour of additional rest can greatly impact your overall performance.

Small changes appear insignificant at first. But when they become habits, they lead to more small changes, and the accumulation of these behaviors will have a big impact over time. You don’t have to implement all of the above examples at once. Pick one and test it out for a week. We bet you’ll notice a bigger difference than you imagined.

You can learn insights like these from entrepreneurs like Cristina in our Founders 15 podcast.