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“Habit Stacking” Is the Key to Crushing Your To-Do List

It’s a productivity hack born from an old psychological concept.




Habit Chaining

Want to get a bunch of small things done on a daily basis? Just do them, one after the other. That’s pretty much the advice of an ebook by blogger S.J. Scott, Habit Stacking. The basic concept behind Scott’s (very brief) book is an old one in psychology: “habit chaining.” The idea is to pick something you have no problem motivating yourself to do — brushing your teeth is the classic example — then link to it some habit you want to acquire: flossing, say. Habit stacking is just the nuclear-powered version. Make a list of small habits that take no more than five minutes each and 30 minutes in total, Scott advises. Then you’ll need to remember, and find motivation for, only one new piece of behavior: to rattle through the checklist once a day. Before long, you’ll jump from bed to drink a glass of water, eat one of your five-a-day vegetables, answer one long-neglected email, meditate for five minutes, do 10 push-ups and read your bulletin from Signs of the Times.

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