Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fixing Your Failed New Year's Resolutions

Find it difficult to make time for a hobby? Rather than resolutions, I suggest habit stacking because it forces you to start small.

And I mean small. Like 5-minutes.
Yes, 5-minutes. For a week. Everyday. 

Then the next week, add a minute and do that for a week. The third week, add another minute and do it for a week. Continue doing this until establishing the amount of time you desire to regularly perform the activity.

I first learned the term habit stacking here in this book by Courtney Carver. The Kindle version is only $2.99 on Amazon. This book changed how I use my time, and now I am a recovering workaholic enjoying her life. And I did it using this method.

If you want to know more about Courtney Carver, click here. She seems connected to the minimalists, and I admit, I got hooked on those blogs last year. Fascinating stuff. But no, I don't want to live in a teeny tiny house, nor do I want to own just one fork. 

And workaholics? Maybe you are one too. Click here. For another $2.99, you can find out and scare yourself like I did.

Here's how habit stacking works:
  • We all have routines that we perform in a certain order that we consider habits.
  • Pick the front, middle, or back of the routine and add just five minutes to it and perform the new desired activity.
  • Do it for a week.
  • The next week, do it for 6-minutes each day.
  • Do the 6-minute method for a week.
  • The next week, add a minute. You get the idea.

I wanted to make time to write every day. Just write. No revising. No brainstorming. Just write. I added it my nighttime routine—five minutes before I flossed my teeth, showered, and brushed my teeth.

Do it only five minutes everyday for a week. Do not do it longer—even if you want to. The idea is to establish a desire to perform the habit. By delaying the additional time, your system will be eager to keep this habit going.

It may sound simple, but it will work if you commit to something you really want to add to your life. 

Here's how to do that:

  • Brainstorm what you wish you had time to do.
  • Pick two items off the list.
  • Decide what time of day will work best.
  • Think of the routines you already have established at that time of day.
  • Decide what routine to stack it to.
  • Commit to doing it and actually do it for an entire week.
  • Do not add the minute until you have actually done the task for five minutes a day for a week. Yes, that means you might be stuck in the five-minute mode for a couple weeks.

Eventually, my writing daily became a habit. I don't always do it right before bedtime anymore because it's something I make time for no matter what. I don't even have to habit stack it anymore. It's just a given that I do it.

Who doesn't have five minutes? Just five minutes?

If you don't, then I suggest you read The Overload Syndrome by Richard A Swenson, MD. Click here to find out about this book.

What if you don't have a routine at the time of day that works best for your new activity? 

Then think of one thing you know you always do near that time. For example, put the dinner dishes away. Perform your activity after that. Or, if you start a load of laundry every day at 6:30, then spend the next five minutes performing the activity.

Maybe this will help some of you who want to exercise and think you don't have time. Or you can't imagine getting on that treadmill for 20 minutes. Then do it for five minutes every day for a week. Start small. Five minutes is better than nothing.
Remember, for the next week add only 1-minute to the 5-minutes for a total of six minutes. Do it that way for another week. Keep adding like that. If you're really into it, you'll want to add time right away. Restrain yourself from doing so.

Carver admitted it might seem odd to do the activity for only five minutes, but she wrote that in doing "it more slowly and intentionally, [she was] much more successful." And that rang true for me too.

So instead of beating yourself up for already breaking those New Year's resolutions you set 20-some days ago, try habit stacking. 

What activities might you try this with? If you do attempt this, I'd love to hear the results in the comment section below on the blog page. Please note, if it asks for your website, you do not need to fill that in.



  1. Hi, Melodie! I'm going to try habit stacking with my prayer and meditation time. It's hard for me to sit still and focus when there are distractions, but I think I can manage five minutes to start. Thank you for the info on how this works!

    1. Good luck, Liz! Let me know how it goes. I'm trying to build upper body strength so I even shortened the time. I am doing various arm lifts of two cans of refried beans for 2-minutes straight. I missed yesterday because I forgot, so I will start again tonight. Lol.