Stacking Habits

Having the right habits in place is important to our businesses and our lives. When it comes to breaking old habits or creating new ones, one thing that can help is to use existing habits as cornerstones to change. The idea of stacking habits is when you add a new habit directly after something you already do habitually. “When I do “X”, I will then do “Y”.

To use this you first have to acknowledge those things that you do automatically throughout your day. Say your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do first? Second? Third? In example, I know I 1) get up, 2) go to the bathroom, 3) make myself a cup of coffee, 4) sit down and read emails, then 5) go through social media, yada, yada… Once you have created a list of your habits, you can start to tack on an additional task in the appropriate place.

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Say, you want to start writing a blog. Your evening routine is to eat dinner, clean up the dinner dishes, watch tv until 11pm, brush your teeth, and go to bed. You could stack writing into that schedule. “When I finish cleaning up the dinner dishes, I will sit down and write for 30 minutes before I turn the tv on…” You’ll have to keep reminding yourself for awhile, but this will soon become habit.

That’s to add a new behavior. You can also stack habits to help break or change bad habits. Maybe you come home from work and, before you even change out of your work clothes, immediately snack on chips or some other junk food. You could insert a behavior to help break that one. “As soon as I get home, I will go to the kitchen, take 5 minutes and eat an apple, then change my clothes, and then, if I still want chips, I can have them. The fact is that once you’ve cut your hunger by having an apple, and stalled the routine further by changing your clothes, you will find yourself in more control and be less likely to want the junk food.

By linking a new behavior to something you are already doing (stacking habits), you create an anchor for the new behavior and are much more likely to stick with it then if you just tell yourself to do the new behavior at some random point.

Try it out. I’d love to hear how this works for you.

 

Don’t Break the Chain

As the story goes, when a young comedian asked Jerry Seinfeld if he had any words of wisdom, Seinfeld said, “Don’t break the chain.” What he was talking about was that he set a goal for himself of writing X number of jokes every day and when he accomplished this, he would cross off that day on the calendar. This created his “chain” or consecutive days of achievement.

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The idea of this chain, or consistency tracking, is a way to motivate you into creating a habit that helps you work toward your goals. Currently, I’m using Duolingo to help me learn Japanese. The app sends me a reminder every day to not break the chain.

duolingoThere is a definite desire to build that consistency record. Whether you are marking the days that you work out or eat correctly or practice your instrument…. checking off those days feels good and does add motivation. And… the longer your chain or record goes, the more you try not to break it.

Now, probably, at some point, you will miss a day/break the chain, and you need to jump back on and start again from scratch (as far as the chain is concerned), but having worked at that consistency, we are already ahead of the game, both in what we have accomplished goal wise and in the building of a habit.

So, start now and again as often as you need to. Build that chain. Build those habits that will lead you to your goals.