New Years is usually a popular time to set goals and start new habits, but for a lot of families that revolve around a school calendar, this time of year can be a great time to entrench those habits. School starting back gets families back into the 'normal routine' of waking up earlier and having days packed full of activities versus the usually less-structured days of summer. So now is as good of a time as any for people in those situations to introduce (or re-introduce) those habits they want to employ. There is a method called habit-stacking developed by S.J. Scott that can be especially helpful in starting and keeping those habits. Here are the 8 elements of a habit-stacking routine:
Each habit takes less than five minutes to complete.
It’s a complete habit.
It improves your life.
It’s simple to complete.
The entire routine takes less than 30 minutes.
It follows a logical process.
It follows a checklist.
It fits your life.
Scott says the purpose of habit-stacking is to create simple and repeatable routines that you manage by a checklist. The goal is to get this out of the cognitive load, “because all you have to remember to do is follow the checklist,” and not each individual habit. You do this by doing the same set of actions in the same order and way each day. Checklists, do more than simply tell you what you need to do next, they help you deal with complexity and increase productivity.
“Linking habits together is a way of getting more done in less time, resulting in a positive change in your life. As you perform the stacked actions every day, they become part of your daily routine.”
I think the key component about habit-stacking is it takes out the decision making process of developing a habit. It's almost more like a life hack that uses Pavlov's law against ourselves in linking one trigger to lead us to an intended reaction. It takes the thinking and decision making out of starting a habit which helps prevent us from choosing to not do something based on how we feel about it in the moment. It's kind of like when we have the urge to use the restroom, we don't sit and think of a way to try and get out of it. We don't try and rearrange our schedule to make it more convenient to do it later in the day. Instead, we finish what we are doing and make it our mission to find the nearest restroom. And that is the goal with healthy habits - make them something we are going to do and do them right after the trigger we have placed right before it.
So I encourage you to think about what are some habits that you want to re-implement? Which ones can you erase by creating positive triggers that help you avoid them? How can you use a new routine to re-vamp your day and get back on track with your yearly goals?