Stick with micro habits, not resolutions

I wrote few years back on my practice on having the Word for the Year, instead of resolutions.

Recently, I am getting hooked at implementing another life hack – it’s called habit-stacking. It’s about building a set of routines that we don’t have to think and deliberate that it becomes automatic and embedded as part of our daily schedule. Essentially, we stack micro (easy, small) actions that it removes our cognitive load and inertia from starting it.

It all started from listening to my daughter on getting her quest to finish reading the Quran last year. I was so impressed that she completed what she set out to do without much fanfare. So, I asked her how she did it – the answer was deceptively simple. She set a practice that she would read 2 pages a day after Isha’ prayer.

I thought if she can do it, so I can too!

I tried with one action first, which is to read a page of Quran (for 5 minutes) and I set it right after the Subuh prayer. Easy.

Then it goes to doing 5-minute meditation after that. Doable.

Then I also set my 10-minute exercise (Pilates, Qigong, walking or Yoga, whichever that I fancy for that day) right before I start working. No problem.

The list goes on, I hope you get the idea by now. It does not have to be super difficult, but just easy small acts that creates the momentum. It is best if you anchor it with another task that is already in your routine. The options are endless.

Some tips that worked for me:

  • Define a trigger for the habit (for example, I will set the same time to do the exercise. And if I miss it, I just move on to re schedule / re slot it another time of the day, (which is quite rare but happens sometimes)
  • If you need a tool to help you (ie workout mat, books, journal, vitamins etc), prepare it a day before or have a place for it that is easy to reach when you need it
  • Keep doing it. If you miss a day, reschedule and do again

There are lots of resources out there, from Charles Duhigg to this fascinating TedTalk by BJ Fogg, a Stanford faculty And don’t forget to celebrate your small wins!