I recently got an Audible account and started listening to audio books during my drive time. I did it for two reasons:
- I wanted to increase the number of books I read in a year. (Now, I know that listening to a book isn’t the same thing as reading it, but I count it just the same.)
- Planet Fitness members get the first 2 months of Audible FREE! (I’ll give it a shot for 2-months at no cost! Turns out I really like it. So, I decided to keep the subscription.)
The last book I listened to really stuck with me. So much so, I’ve ordered a physical copy to keep in my library. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear has the subtitle “An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.” The title grabbed my attention immediately. There are some habits I would like to break, but more importantly some that I would like to build. I found some very practical tools to help me get moving down that path. I fully intend to review the entire book once I get my hands on a physical copy, but today I want to explain one concept I learned and have already applied: Habit Stacking.
The basic idea of Habit Stacking is to identify the good habits you already have in your life. Then, find a new habit you would like to incorporate into your life. Take the new habit and stack it on top of the already existing habit. In theory, adoption of the new habit should come along smoothly. This is how it has worked in my own life.
I had a couple of habits that I needed to add and a couple that I wanted to add. I’m diabetic. At the end of March this year, my doctor finally put me on insulin. This means that I have to check my blood sugar level 4 times a day and give myself a shot of insulin 3 times a day. This also means that I have to eat breakfast every day. Neither of these were regular habits in my life, but now they need to be.
The first of the two habits I wanted to add in my life was reading my Bible and spending some quiet time with the Lord every day. I know you’re probably thinking, “You’re a pastor! Aren’t you already doing that?” I understand the popular opinion of laypeople is that pastors basically sit around, read their Bibles and drink coffee until they have to visit a sick person or preach on Sunday. I used to think firemen sat around the firehouse playing cards and eating pizza, waiting for something to catch fire. Neither of these is true, by the way. I do want to have some quiet devotional time with the Lord every day, but most weeks I would have 5 days out of 7 on the scorecard. (The days I typically missed were Friday & Sunday. I don’t count the time I spend in the Bible specifically for sermon preparation or homework.) My goal is 7 out of 7 days! Not so I can have a perfect scorecard. My day starts out better when I start it with Him.
The second habit I wanted to add was writing daily. I want to write. I want to write well. I believe the best way to get to that point is to do it on some level consistently. Make it a habit. So try to follow along with me, as I lay out how this has worked.
- Since I started taking insulin, I have had breakfast every day. I either prepare it at home or stop at a Starbucks or sometimes a restaurant. With my breakfast, I always have coffee. Coffee became the trigger for the next habit in the stack.
- When I have that cup of coffee, I know it’s time to get out my Bible and journal. I do my quiet time over that cup of coffee with my Heavenly Father. Sometimes, we need a second cup to get through it all. If I’m at a breakfast meeting, I’ll grab a cup of coffee on my way to the office and spend the quiet time there. It’s breakfast, coffee, quiet time…in that order. I don’t move on to the next thing until it’s done. (The one exception is still Sundays. While I’m having my Sunday morning cup of coffee, I’m reviewing my sermon notes and praying for Jesus to please take the wheel in the pulpit.) This has worked well. I’ve been 7 for 7 since. I was feeling ambitious and ready to stack another habit.
- Now, when I close my journal, it’s time to write. I came across a great site, 750 Words, which gives me a private place to write whatever I want. This is based on the writing exercise known as “morning pages.” A writer can spend time writing three pages (roughly 750 words) to clear their mind of clutter, organize thoughts, vent emotions, or whatever else is in there to work out. It keeps track with a reward system for consistency. This site is now my go-to after my quiet time, and for the last 9 days, I have written at least 750 words a day without fail.
By this point, my newfound habit stacking success has me feeling ambitious. It’s why I started this blog. If I’m going to be writing every day, I might as well have some focus and use it to be productive and bless others. I have a few other habits on my list that I’m looking to fit in too. I believe this will continue to help me stay on track in my spiritual disciplines and be better, more productive in my ministry. I’ll keep you updated as the stack gets bigger.
How about you? Do you have any new habits you’d like to add to your daily routine? Try habit stacking and let me know how it goes!