This year, one of the habits I'm trying to improve upon and track is my reading. I started outlining this episode and then I woke up in the middle of the night with some clarity and I've figured out what I needed to talk about. So it's almost 4:00 AM and here are my...
Hey friend, welcome to today’s show. This whole year, we have been going through a lot of information, helping us create change in our lives without using a typical New Year’s resolution.
In my podcast, episode 75, we talked about why resolutions typically fail. And a lot of it is because we’re trying to do something that seems big and daunting. We just don’t know how to do it or how to stick with it.
And we’ve been really going through a lot of information based off of the book, Atomic Habits, by James Clear, helping us figure out what are the mindset blocks we have, how do we change our environment?
And today we’re going to talk about habit stacking. So we’re going to start this off and I’m going to just tell you the story of a typical morning in my life.
So I wake up. Not to an alarm. And just when my body naturally wakes up. And one of the things that I do in the morning is we say to Echo, the Alexa device, we say
“Echo, good morning.”
And that queues Echo to tell us the weather for the day, it then reads to us, our devotion. Our church has a podcast that has a daily devotion on weekdays. And so we listened to that devotion. And so we’re starting our day praying, reading the Bible, hearing that devotion. During that time, it turns on the lights in our bedroom automatically.
And it’s not like the overhead lights, just the ones on the side, like our table lights and it’s, it’s just like, it helps me wake up in the morning. It’s it’s a really good start of the day.
So once that is done. My husband and I are talking to each other in bed and then I get my robe on and we make the bed together and I open up the blinds. So that is our morning routine. And that’s an example of habit stacking.
All of us wake up in the morning. We get to choose what we do next. And when you start creating habits, you think about the things that just automatically seem normal.
For example, when you go to the bathroom, this is something we all do. Hopefully you have a routine where you flush the toilet. You wash your hands and then you dry them. You don’t have to think about, “Oh, I just went to the bathroom. Maybe I should flush the toilet or I might just skip washing my hands.”
These are things that we just do so frequently and repetitively that one action of needing to go to the bathroom causes a chain of reactions.
So habit stack is when you take a habit you already have, and you tie it to new habits you want to have.
This is really powerful. You can intentionally stack habits with something that you already have on autopilot. Something that you do automatically, you don’t have to think about and you just add a new habit to what you already have as a regular habit in place.
Looking back at the example of our morning routine. James and I, we talked about what we want our morning routine to look like, because we wanted to start off our day well.
We want it to be relaxing. We don’t have an alarm. We typically wake up at the same time. Every day, we wake up at seven.
We realized we wanted to do a devotion together daily. And so we wanted to make it easy, something that would be taking all the reasons why we shouldn’t do it and all the reasons that hold us back out of the way. Having it just automatically have Alexa read it to us and listen to it without having to do anything was a game-changer for us.
And that’s been really helpful. And, we would get out of bed before we had this, this routine and I would always have to go look at my phone and check what the weather was because I wanted to dress according to the weather, and know what to look for for the day and be prepared.
And now I don’t have to have my phone in the room. I can have my phone charging in the living room. We have it underneath the kitchen cabinet, so it’s closed and it’s something that I don’t go and look at. And I know what the weather is, so I don’t have to use my phone right away.
There’s a lot of studies out there that show that when you use your phone in the morning, it starts you off on the wrong foot.
So that was hitting two things when we say Alexa, good morning. It tells us the weather and then it goes through that devotion for us.
We really liked adding the light to our room because it gently wakes us up. And it brought us to this more relaxed morning routine.
Another thing with our morning routine is we used to not make our bed. We probably have been making our bed for the last five years, maybe five or six. We used to feel like it was just a waste of time. But then we realized that it was much more inviting and our bedroom looks so much nicer with having a bed made, which is like an obvious.
And we noticed that when we were getting into bed, we’d have to make our bed so we could get into it because it would be all screwed up. So it would be making our bed anyways. So instead of waiting till the end of the day, We can enjoy it because we make the bed in the morning and it looks nice all day.
And then the last thing about our routine in the morning. Is that we put a plant in our bedroom. And so now. I open up the blinds each morning, because I want to make sure the plant has enough sunshine and it won’t die. I’ve realized that it makes a room much more cheery and bright.
All of these things were tied to a routine waking up in the morning. And what we did is we habit stacked all these different habits we wanted to have in the morning, like do a devotion in the morning. And not look at our phones right away, but we still wanted to know that the weather. All these different things. So we habit stacked in making our bed like making things routine, opening up the blinds. It becomes this thing that we do automatically now. And we don’t even have to think about it. It has simplified the process.
One of the things that James Clear says is,
“No matter how you use this strategy, the secret to creating a successful habit stack is selecting the right cue to kick things off.”
And I think that’s really important. So if you are wanting to change something in your life, you need to figure out what habit you already have that would be a good place to fit that new habit and stack it.
So if you want to create a, a daily habit, but you tie it to something that you don’t do on a daily basis. Maybe you drive your kids to school, but that’s only Monday through Friday and you want to tie something to that event on a daily basis, you’re not going to be doing it on the weekends. What kind of thing do you do every day that you could tie those habits to.
Think also about the timing of when you want that habit to occur and tie to something during that time of the day. Like, if you want to do it in the morning, maybe you sit down and eat breakfast in the same spot every day. We are creatures of habit to begin with so If you can start tying what you are currently doing to that it makes your life so much easier.
The last thing you need to make sure you do is you make it easy.
Us saying ” Alexa, good morning,” and it just tells us everything. We just lay there and we don’t have to do anything. It’s not like we are actively reading our Bible, we’re listening to it. We’re just absorbing it.
What things could you do to break down all of those barriers to make it really simple and easy?
Another thing that James Clear says is that:
“goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”
Creating habits and stacking them is the system to get to the goals you want to have. It’s all those little tiny actions that create the success that you’ll eventually get.
What habits do you already have?
You probably don’t even have to think about them because they are so ingrained in your daily life, but try to think about how you could stack something new that you want to add into your routine.
So I want to give you some more examples. And most of these are from my own life.
For us, our breakfast, we have a lot of routines in our morning. When we sit down for breakfast, I have a bin that has all of our vitamins in it. It has our devotions. We do an M and M for each person. When say our breakfast benediction. I talked about on a previous episode.
What we do is we just pull that thing down and it has all the things that we need for the morning.
Once we have finished eating breakfast we do our morning devotion. And then we hand out the vitamins, to their kids and to us. And then we do our breakfast benediction. We recite that together and we give each other one M&M and then we’re done with our breakfast routine.
I was wanting to take vitamins on a daily basis and I wasn’t tying it to an event until we started tying it to breakfast.
Then we realized, we just make sure that when we are sitting down for breakfast, we do vitamins at the same time.
We started off doing devotions just with our kids in the evening time before bed. And then we started talking about it would be really nice to do devotions in the morning and at night. And so we started adding devotions into it.
Then we started adding in the breakfast benediction. It’s just been one habit stack on top of the other to, really figure out what type of morning routine we wanted to have.
Here’s another example, one thing that you hopefully should do at least twice a day is brushing your teeth. When you brush your teeth, you could use that time to get like a little bit of exercise, you could do squats during that time. You could pray, you could be silent and present and just brush your teeth and pay attention to it.
If you’re wanting to add just a little bit of workout in your day. Add it to your brushing of your teeth, or if you want to make sure that you are spending time with God and praying more frequently. Tie it to brushing your teeth. I mean, there’s things that you can do to really help you.
I’ve even noticed driving to certain locations, I’ll talk to the kids about different things. Like we’ll do some different homeschooling things while we drive, I’ll ask the kids, how many eggs are in a dozen.
Well, my daughter just figured out how many feet are in a mile. And what temperature is boiling and asking these questions. And we do that on our way to church.
We volunteered at the food bank and so we do that on the way there, and it’s tied to that routine. We do that once a week going there. That has become a routine for us because it’s a habit stack where we do this on Wednesdays. We don’t do it on the typical days because we’re not driving anywhere. We’re normally at home.
But you can tie things to different things that you do.
One of the things, when my daughter was going to public school, I was riding my bike and we have a cargo bike. And so I would ride our kids to school each day and I would pray out loud over both of our kids on the drive there. That was something that I created into this routine because I was going there every day and I tied that to something I was already doing.
One thing you could do too, is think about you go to the bathroom frequently. Maybe at the beginning of the day, you wipe the counters with the Lysol wipe, and then you wash your hands after it making sure your bathroom was a little bit cleaner.
It’s just these little things that once you start doing them, it compounds.
Maybe when you wake up and you turn off the alarm, you go and you make your bed right away. And then you open the blinds.
For cleaning, this is something I’ve really tried, figuring out different routines and habit stacking to make things easier.
Like when I am making a meal, instead of waiting till the end of the meal to put things away, putting things away as I go. When I take something out, I put away afterwards, even if I might have to pull it out again it’s worth it for me to just continually be putting things back into the original place. And That has become a routine that I don’t even have to think about anymore.
Another thing is when we have the dishwasher unloaded, we try to unload it as quickly as possible, and then just fill it up with all of the dirty dishes. So there’s not dirty dishes hanging out in the sink. Because I’ve realized that when I have dirty dishes in the sink, then we have pots and pans that are dirty and I don’t have room to wash them. And it just becomes this cycle of having a really messy house.
And so doing some little things right at the beginning, creating some habits and then stacking them with things that you already are doing, just makes life a lot easier.
One thing, when you go into your house, having a routine where you hang up your keys in the same place, you put your shoes away, all of these things, it sounds like common sense, but how can you tie things to what you already are doing?
Maybe you don’t have those routines in place. How can you start doing that? And a lot of it is just putting things in place to really help you be successful and just doing one little thing at a time.
These habits are really small. But those small habits make a huge impact on your life. When you look at it for the rest of your life because they become routine. And then you can add more of these little habits that help you get into the direction you want to go.
Okay. I have one more example for you.
So when you’re making a meal and you’re plating your food, maybe your goal is to always put vegetables on your plate first, because you want to eat more vegetables. Doing those little things will help you get healthier. And that’s just a little tiny habit that you can stack onto what you already do.
You already are putting food on your plate. Why not just start putting things in your favor and stacking those habits.
So, the homework that I have for you today. I want you to come up with some ideas on how you can create a habit stack that will get you closer to becoming the person you want to become.
Think about a routine that you already have. Maybe it’s your morning routine or your evening routine. If you have kids, these are the routines I would go and look at first.
Try to figure out how you can automate a lot of these things.
Our evening routine. When people come to our house, they probably think we’re like the craziest people in the world because what we do in our house, like James has made our house very tech savvy and everything’s automated.
One of the things that we do is at 7:42, the lights flicker in our house. And so they just like pulsate. And when people come to our house, they’re like, what on earth is going on? Because the lights just start going a little crazy.
And then that’s just the warning that an announcement is coming. And then Alexa, through our whole house goes and says,
It’s time to get ready for bed. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.
And then there’s a six minute timer and our kids know that when the lights flicker, they’re already bolting out going and getting ready for bed and they wanna beat that six minute timer.
We don’t have to be the ones telling them, okay, it’s time for bed. Bedtime’s getting close. We don’t have do any of those warnings. We’re automating it. We’re stacking these different habits to help them get their stuff done and putting it on this timer and we’re making those routines just simplified.
Most people who are parents they really struggle with the morning and the evening routines.
Think about which one is bugging you the most. What is just driving you crazy? What could you tweak on your morning or your evening routine that will really help your family? It will help you feel more sane, more fulfilled.
How can you stack some new habits that you want to create? Maybe you want to make sure that you have devotion time with your kids, but you just haven’t set it up and it doesn’t seem like you can be consistent. How can you tie it with your bedtime prayers or even maybe you don’t have a bedtime prayers and you want to start implementing it.
How can you start creating a routine that will work for your family?
And it’s going to look different than mine, and it’s going to look different than your friends.
Come up with something that will really work for you and hopefully today’s episode has given you some ideas.
This is endless. You can do so many different things when you start stacking these habits and those little things will make a world of difference in your life.
Thank you so much for listening to today’s show. I’m so glad that you’re here and make sure you tune in to next week’s show.
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