The Minimum Consistent Dose: How to Guarantee Success

I want to introduce a concept I call the Minimum Consistent Dose.

It’s related to a few other “minimum” terms.

Maybe you’ve heard about the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

That’s a big entrepreneurship term about shipping your products early and often.

In business, the MVP lets you learn if you’re on the right track early.

Or maybe you’ve heard about Tim Ferriss’ Minimum Effective Dose (MED)?

That’s the idea that you want to do the minimum work to trigger the change you’re looking for.

If 20 pushups are going to trigger your muscles to adapt, then you don’t need to do 30.

In exercise, the MED helps you avoid overtraining, getting injured, and missing weeks or months of training.

And in this article, I’ll explain how the Minimum Consistent Dose (MCD) can be an equally useful concept.

Particularly when it comes to sticking to your habits and achieving your goals.

The Minimum Consistent Dose

When it comes to goals, there’s always a big risk to you’ll fall off the wagon.

For instance, the most optimistic measurements of New Years Resolutions are that 92% of people fail.

Enter: The Minimum Consistent Dose:

What is the smallest version of your goal that you’d be willing to give yourself credit for?

So often, we only define the ambitious, everything-goes-right version of our goal:

“I want to run ten miles a day for the rest of the year.”

But what happens if you get sick? Your streak is ruined.

What if your MCD was to jog half a mile?

Then that sick day, you could still drag yourself out of bed to get your legs loose.

Or better yet, what if your MCD was run in place for 30 seconds?

On most days, you could still go out for a proper run.

But on your worst days, you’d still get to keep your streak alive.

If you are someone who gives up entirely after a single missed day, the MCD is a way for you to keep going.

By defining your minimum, you’ll create a defense against failure.

My Minimum Consistent Doses

To give you some examples, let me share some of my MCD:s.

  • My usual exercise is to run, swim, or bike. My MCD is pushups and body-weight squats. Ten pushups and ten squats are enough to keep my exercise streak alive.
  • My MCD for my todo list is 1 item. But I don’t wait until the end of the day to do that one item. I do it first and feel like I accomplished something. I am more productive once I feel like the rest of the day is optional. It triggers a sense of pride that I’m doing extra credit.
  • My MCD for a blog post is a repost from some other content. It turns out that I have lots of drafts. So when I’m really, really not feeling inspired, I know I can dig some bit of email or personal advice out and turn it into a post.
  • For eating, I try to eat one vegetable. Of course, my ideal is a huge kale salad. But a carrot stick will do on my worst days.

Is the MCD Right for You?

You might wonder if the MCD encourages you to consistently take the easy way out.

A: If this strategy makes you do that, stop using it. Some concerns have trivial answers, and this is that trivial answer.

B: No.

People are motivated by fear and pride. If you take the MCD approach, then you end up with both.

Firstly, every day feels like you’re doing extra credit. This generates pride and a feeling of momentum.

Secondly, once you have a streak, you will become afraid of losing that streak.

In the past, when you didn’t have the energy to give yourself a Mega Dose of training, you might have missed a day, and then a week, and then given up your goal altogether.

The Minimum Consistent Dose can help you keep the momentum going at all times.

And there is no better guarantee for success.