In a graduation speech to the University of Texas, Naval Adm. William H. McRaven made the following statement:

"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."

In case further context is needed, the full transcript of this speech can been seen at the following link: https://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/mcraven-urges-graduates-to-find-courage-to-change-the-world

I have also found that completing a simple task can "get you going", and imagine this quite a widespread observation.

As a result I wondered: Does anyone know if a formal name for this general phenomenon exists? Eg "The McCraven Effect"? Or if it could be considered as an example of a broader principle, eg "Task motivation bias"?

  • $\begingroup$ I call it "overcoming psychic inertia" but I don't know the real name $\endgroup$
    – faustus
    Jun 29, 2018 at 7:56

1 Answer 1


It would be nice if more systematic sources were found on this topic, but since you mainly inquire about terminology here, I think the closest term is "small win":

Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform. [...]

Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.

Whether making your bed in the morning counts or not as a "small win" depends however on what interests you in life, personality factors, and so forth, so while making your bed may be a motivating "small win" for the army types, I wouldn't bet it's like that for everyone (although other things may be). I suspect that many routine chores that can be "outsourced" if you have enough money (like cooking food, driving etc.) many not be that motivating for a number of people.

Amusingly enough I found a survey about bed making:

In a survey of 68,000 people by Hunch.com, 59 percent of people don’t make their beds. 27 percent do, while 12 percent pay a housekeeper to make it for them. Here’s what disturbed me: 71 percent of bed makers consider themselves happy; while 62 percent of non-bed-makers admit to being unhappy. Bed makers are also more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested, whereas non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired. All in all, bed makers are happier and more successful than their rumple-sheeted peers.

Since these factors show correlation but not causation, this does not mean that non-bed-makers can’t be happy and successful, but the odds are stacked against them. And it makes sense, since an organized environment can positively impact our mental state—and given it only takes 30 seconds, it could lend a small sense of accomplishment at the very start of the day.


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