Habit Stacking: The Trick to Getting Habits to Stick in Your Morning Routine
If you are having trouble establishing a new habit, you might need to slow down and add some supporting habits first. For example, if you are working to establish a new habit of eating a healthy breakfast every morning, but you walk in the kitchen and it is a mess, the chances of you muscling through all of these obstacles to start cooking something healthy isn’t great.
Establishing supporting habits so that you CAN follow a morning routine for success often makes the main habit much easier. If one of your habits takes force, discipline, or is too hard to do on a regular basis, you are probably missing some supporting habits.
Supporting habits that are usually needed to cook dinner (or breakfast) are:
- Having ingredients already on hand (Eat Well habit–check)
- Meal planning and having recipes on hand (Eat Well habit–check)
- Putting ingredients on the counter in the morning (Eat Well habit–check)
- Having a clean kitchen, ready for cooking
- Have needed dishes/appliances/cooking utensils on hand
- Having energy even at the end of the day (Move Well habit with regular exercise is the solution here!)
- Eating lunch so you aren’t starving by dinnertime (Eat Well habit–check)
We are going to put a few more supporting habits into your life to follow the morning routines of successful people.
Morning Routine Checklist
Today you will add a mini habit or two to your already existing morning routine. Don’t try to add more than one or two at a time, as that isn’t how your brain works. The slow cut is the short cut! Especially if you do need to lose weight.
You will slowly build your morning habits to include all of the supporting habits you need so that you eliminate all resistance to cooking dinner each day. After the habit feels reflexive, and doesn’t require a reminder or discipline from yourself, consider that habit “set” and add on another.
As an example, here is my current morning routine. Please keep in mind that it probably took me six months to a year to build up all of these routines so they don’t require discipline, motivation, or force. I do them as reflexively as putting on a turn signal when I am driving. I don’t have to think about it–I just do it. Habits! If you need more guidance on how to set up habits in the first place, check out this blog.
- Wake Up
- Clean bathroom counter
- Get dressed
- Put away 3 items of clothing (often naturally leads to more)
- Put a load of laundry in
- Fold 3 things (often naturally leads to more)
- Let the dog out & brew coffee
- Stretch out my back (my mini habit)
- Sink of hot soapy water
- Put food out for dinner
- Journal, daily planning & meditation time (see Card Salad Be Well program)
Hot Soapy Water: My Morning Routine
When you build supporting habits into your routine that are enjoyable, you are more likely to be able to follow the morning routines of successful people. Whenever you can incorporate your five senses, do it! Lighting a scented candle before sitting down to journal, pouring yourself a glass of wine while you cook, turning music on while you get dressed are all supporting habits that feel good and make you enjoy the “real” habits more.
One habit that I love is to make a sinkful of hot, soapy water. This is a great supporting habit to do before I wipe down the counters. I love the sound of the water, the smell of the soap, the sight of the steam rising, and the feel of plunging my hands into water that is the perfect almost-too-hot feel and wringing out the dish towel. Wiping down the counters becomes enjoyable and almost meditative as I return to ring out the dish towel in the hot soapy water. I enjoy that hot soapy sinkful of water that I make one whenever I am in the kitchen; in the morning to clean the counters, after work before I start cooking, and in the evening after dinner.
Develop Good Habits: Use a Dish, Clean a Dish
If your household already has the habit of no dishes left in the sink, you can ignore today’s habit and pat yourself on the back. If your household runs like mine did for most of my adult life, with dishes piled up and food crusted on them most of the time, keep reading this habit blog!
I had a husband and four teenage kids “already baked” in their ways for 20 years when we added the habit of never leaving a dish in the sink. I tell you this to let you know that however long your previous habits have been in place, all is not lost. Just because you have done things a certain way for a very long time does not mean that they can’t change.
Today you will start the habit yourself of washing a dish the moment after you use it. If the dishwasher is empty, simply immediately rinse the dish and put it in the dishwasher. If the dishwasher is full, which is usually the case in my house, you will immediately wash the dish and place it on a drying rack (purchase one if needed).
Practice doing this for yourself today. You will introduce this habit to your family tomorrow. If you have settled for a life of a messy, always full sink, this is the habit that will probably make the biggest impact on your mental well being. There is something good for the soul that happens when you walk in the kitchen and it is already clean. Waiting for you to brew a sink of hot, soapy water and make dinner with your family.
A Good Morning Routine: the Key to Getting Your Family Onboard
If your family is the dog or cat variety, it will be easy to get them on board with your plans of following morning routines of successful people. If your family is of the human variety, today might be a bit of a trick. If your family includes young children, you get to set the rules for your household, and you get to change the rules when you find something better. My kids didn’t love the use-a-dish, clean-a-dish policy when I introduced it. They were already fully baked teenagers, remember?
Here is a step-by-step method to introduce change in a perfect world. Don’t be surprised if your human attempts involve a little yelling and tears. Alas.
- Have a family conversation about WHY we were changing things.
- Ask for their opinions and concerns. Don’t solve them or defend them, just listen and acknowledge.
- Problem solve, accommodate, or hold firm as needed. This process might be messy. Humans, remember?
- Put index card signs next to the sink, reminding them of the new policy.
When someone leaves dishes in the sink, ask them about it. Ask them if they forgot, chose not to, etc. Aim for understanding and patience. (This is the step I really wish I had done more when I introduced this in my family!)
It will probably take a few weeks of frequent reminders/discussions to get the new use-a-dish/clean-a-dish habit set in your family. Here are a few pointers that I found helpful in the process:
- When kids leave dishes in the sink, call them down to wash them, even if it is just a fork. They will soon learn that they can’t leave even the little things.
- After a few weeks of setting the habit, when the kids leave dishes in the sink, call them to wash the dish as well as do an extra quick chore. It doesn’t need to feel punishment-like. It can be just a quick, happy announcement that their extra chore is to take out the trash.
- You might find that your kids will start leaving dishes all over the house, in an attempt to avoid leaving them in the sink. The same rule applies for this habit–an extra chore.
I unfortunately have no good advice on introducing this dishes policy of habit stacking to your spouse. Husbands and wives are a completely different animal, and only you know the best way to navigate that territory. It can be a challenge when one spouse wants change and the other does not. For my marriage, it required a few unsuccessful conversations and a fight or two before we came to a meeting of the minds. Our final resolution is he usually cleans his dishes, and I try to chill out on the occasions when he leaves them.
By following these tips in habit stacking, you can not only build, but follow the morning routines of successful people.