Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Creating habits to meet your goals? Make them easy and convenient.
If you visit a new website, do you appreciate it being user-friendly and easy to navigate?
If you are searching for a new recipe, do you look for easy-to-follow instructions?
If you are learning a new skill, do you look for ways to simplify the process?
Yes. Yes. Yes. We have a natural affinity for anything that makes our lives easier.
When we create habits, we need to use approaches that make them easier, not more difficult. Let’s explore habit hacks that make habits easier.
Creating habits? Use the hack of convenience.
Convenience involves setting up your environment to encourage practicing a habit. Let’s look at some examples:
Keeping your gym bag packed and ready to grab going out the door.
Preparing your lunch the night before and storing it in the refrigerator.
Prepping meal components ahead of time for easy supper preparation.
Carrying a reusable water bottle so staying hydrated is convenient.
Keeping a writing or study location set up and uncluttered.
Creating convenience is itself a habit that needs to be practiced. You can use the previous hacks of scheduling and monitoring or employ the hacks of habit pairing and habit stacking. Read on…
Pair new habits with established habits.
Habit pairing matches new habits with old, established habits that logically or conveniently go together. This takes advantage of our brains being wired to complete our old habits, making adding new neural connections easier than starting from scratch.
You likely pair habits already… brushing your teeth after putting on your pajamas, fastening your seatbelt after getting in the car, and washing your hands after using the toilet. What other habit pairs can you think of?
If you need to adopt a new habit, what could you pair it with? Need to remember to take a new medication? Pair it with brushing your teeth. Want to start walking after dinner? Pair it with finishing loading the dishwasher.
Let’s look at an example. You may want to establish a habit of regular physical activity and find it difficult to motivate yourself to exercise daily. You might consider showering an essential daily task, one that you are highly motivated to accomplish daily. Pair showering after exercise, a convenient and logical sequence.
Create habit stacks for positive habit routines.
Go a step further when you want to establish habit routines that include multiple habits, both new and old. These are referred to as habit stacks. Typical examples include morning routines upon waking and evening routines before going to bed.
Productivity examples include habit stacks that set up your daily work routine and wind it down at the end of the day. These might include reviewing your schedule and scheduling priority tasks at optimal times, and determining when to respond to mail, email, and phone calls.
Habit stacks that work for one person may or may not be appropriate for someone else. Everyone has different motivators and barriers. If you want to instill a particular habit into your daily routine, stack it with tasks you are motivated to do. Place rewarding tasks after less rewarding ones as an incentive.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you want to start a writing habit and never seem to find the time. Start small, possibly just 15-30 minutes daily, as part of your morning start-up routine when your brain is fresh. In addition to placing it in your morning habit stack, put it on your schedule and monitor your progress.
Your turn to make new habits easier.
Want to make a habit more convenient, or use habit pairing or stacking? If you’ve completed the initial steps outlined in the post Do First Things First, you are ready.
For each goal and habit you want to create, determine ways you can set up your environment and your routines to make the habit easier and more convenient.
Try out pairing or stacking the habit with habits that are well-established. Utilize the hacks of scheduling and monitoring to assist you. Evaluate your progress and adjust as needed.
The next post in our series will explore ways to replace or reduce negative habits.
“The idea is to make it as easy as possible in the moment to do things that pay off in the long run.” ~ James Clear
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