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Stack Tasks to Form Healthy Habits

New healthy habits can be tricky to adopt, especially when our schedules are already full. This has led researchers to look for ways we can incorporate new habits into our existing routines. For example, a recent article, reported on in the Wall Street Journal, suggested that commuting by biking or walking could turn your usual commute into exercise. More recently, USA Today interviewed several specialists in human behavior who reported that piggybacking or “stacking” healthy tasks (like doing a set of push-ups or meditating) with tasks that are already a part of your routine (like brushing your teeth or drinking your morning coffee) may help the new task stick. The idea is that doing the routine task acts as a trigger for the new task, linking them together in your mind and minimizing the amount of willpower you need to continue the new behavior. Ideally these new behaviors will then become as automatic as the old ones, forming a habit. If you want to give stacking tasks a try, here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Find triggers that work for you. Pinpoint things you do every day, like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or closing your laptop at the end of the day. These are your potential triggers.
  • Make specific plans. A specific action like taking a drink of water every time you hang up the phone is a better goal than a vague plan to “drink more water every day.” Also, try to make the new task easy to do (in this case, you could set a bottle of water by the phone).
  • Start small. Limit time spent on the new task to five minutes or less. Increase the time once you are more comfortable with the task.
  • Zero-in on your goals. Stacking tasks is unlikely to work if you choose new tasks that you don’t really want to do. You’ll have the best shot at success if you choose tasks that you really want to turn into habits.

Source: USA Today

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