PP3: Habit stacking – Habits are hard, but routines are routine

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

I learned this third productivity principle from S.J. Scott’s excellent book, Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness. The idea behind this principle is that there are many small habits that would improve our lives if we did them every day, but we often don’t do them because they are so small and easy to forget. Some we learned as children and do automatically, such as brushing your teeth, but there are others we would like to do but we leave undone day after day. Habit stacking helps you incorporate these small habits into your daily life by organizing them into routines.

For example, two habits I always had difficulty establishing were taking vitamins and drinking water. Both are small enough tasks and easy to do, and yet I would continually forget to do them. Now they are part of my morning routine. The first thing I do when I get up is drink a glass of water, take two vitamins, and then drink two more glasses of water. Then I’m off for my morning walk. As habits they were hard to develop. But now that they are part of my morning routine, they are automatic.

Two other habit stacks I have incorporated into my day are: 1) tea and stretches routine – doing five minutes of stretching and planks in the morning while I wait for my tea to brew; 2) ready for work routine – when I get to work, I fill my water cup, quickly clean/organize my desk, review my MITs for the day and pray. There are many others, of course, but that should give you the idea.

Habits are hard, but routines are routine. There are many small habits that would improve your life if you did them every day. If you try to do them individually, you will inevitably fail. But when you stack your habits into routines and tie them to specific parts of your day, they become automatic. Give it a try!

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