Try This One-Week Experiment to Cement Any Smart, New Habit at Home
Apartment Therapy Weekend Projects is a guided program designed to help you get the happy, healthy home you’ve always wanted, one weekend at a time. Sign up now for email updates so you never miss a lesson.
I think I can say that listening to James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” changed my life, and I for sure hope that’s the case! I learned about the explosive power of tiny, incremental behavioral changes and felt like the veil was lifted on the mysterious questions of why bad habits are so hard to break and why forming good ones is such an uphill battle.
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Among the many eye-opening and practical perspectives he shares, he talks about the concept of habit stacking. Simply put, habit stacking involves adding a habit that you want to build to a habit you already have, preferably a habit that’s so ingrained that it’s second nature and always happens, like making coffee in the morning.
By inserting a habit into a routine that’s already established, you’re shifting your target habit from being triggered by time and space to being linked with another action. You’re taking advantage of the already strong neural pathway, or synapse, that’s been formed by your existing habit and kind of piggy-backing off of that. The chances your new habit will stick using this method are much higher than if you were to try to form a brand new inroad in your brain.
This weekend, you’re going to dip your toes into the wonderful world of atomic habits and try your hand at habit stacking. You’re going to pick a new desired habit to tie in to an old one and then practice it throughout the week.
This Weekend: Choose one tiny habit to tie in to an existing one.
Here are some examples of new habits you could stack with some existing ones. Psssst: it helps if you also “tell yourself” what you’re going to do, as I’ve worded the ideas below:
- When I sit down at my desk, I will read a page of my book.
- When I turn off the remote, I will put the pillows back on the couch and fluff them.
- When I brew my coffee, I will unload the dishwasher.
- When I brush my teeth, I will stand on one leg. (Yes, really. It’s good for you.)
- When I put on my slippers in the morning, I will take three deep, cleansing breaths with my eyes closed.
- When I walk in the door, I will take off my shoes.
- When I wash dishes, I will listen to an audiobook.
- When I get in bed, I’ll write in my journal.
Once you’ve decided what habit you want to stack onto another, make a commitment to try your stack for one week, anytime the trigger motivates you to do it. By the end of the week, you just might find yourself on auto-pilot.
What tiny new habit will you try?
You can catch up with weekend projects right here. Share your progress with us and others by posting updates and photos on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #atweekendproject.
Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.