In last week’s blog post, I shared with you a vital strategy for getting up at 5AM to get your day off to a great start.
This is a big issue with many people. Just last week I conducted a poll on Facebook and LinkedIn to find out what time people get up in the morning and got a huge response. I could tell I hit a nerve.
But how many of us make strategies around this subject?
I’ve learned that if I really want to succeed at what’s most important in life, I have to develop strategies.
A big reason why the New England Patriots (whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em) are one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports, is not because they always have the best athletes on the field. Look at their wide receivers from this past year’s championship team...pretty pedestrian compared to other teams. It’s because they develop dominant strategies and great game plans to set their players up for success and give them an advantage.
The same thing applies to rising at 5AM.
The first strategy we discussed was having an Implementation Intention. An Implementation Intention (from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits) is a “plan you make beforehand about when and where to act.” It is simply a very specific step that you write down along with a time and a place.
In the case of rising at 5am it could be...when the alarm rings I will count backwards from 5 to 1 (like a rocket getting ready to launch) and immediately sit up and put my feet on the floor.
Research has shown that we are much more likely to succeed in developing new habits when we have written down what we intend to do.
The second strategy that many habit researchers write about is called Habit Stacking. Habit stacking is just like it sounds. It is adding a new behavior on to an existing behavior. The existing behavior is something you are already doing effectively. With habit stacking you simply leverage the habit you have already implemented as the cue to start a new one.
The formula that James Clear talks about is:
“After (current habit), I will (new habit).”
For example, one habit I am really working on involves writing for 20 minutes every morning. Writing is hard work for me. It is something I have a tendency to put off. When it comes to writing, I suffer from that dirty 15 letter word called PROCRASTINATION. Often times, when my deadlines come for producing an email, I end up cramming, which forces me to produce a piece of content in one sitting...which becomes even harder AND the quality of my writing suffers. This is a problem I’m looking to remedy.
Instead of permitting procrastination, I am choosing to write every morning for 20 minutes at 5:30am. I am stacking this new habit onto an existing habit that I have already built -- the habit of prayer and Bible reading.
So, here’s my formula: “After finishing my prayer and bible reading, I will turn on my computer, open my Google docs folder where I keep my content for my emails and write for 20 minutes.”
Here’s another example of how this gets applied. I don’t like to get up at 5am, so I have to give myself every advantage in order to succeed when the alarm clock goes off.
In order to do this, I have applied the habit stacking strategy to my evening routine before I go to bed. For me, success starts the night before. With this being said, I have created an evening routine that sets me up to effectively get out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5. It involves a series of mini habits stacked on or connected to each other. This has become an evening ritual that I do without fail. Here's how it looks:
Every night at 10:30 before I go to bed -- I go to my closet and set out my clothes for the next day.
Every night after I set out my clothes for the next day -- I turn the iron on, press them, and hang them up.
Every night after I turn on the iron -- I press my clothes and hang them up. Then, I get my vitamins and place them on the counter by the sink.
Every night after I set out my vitamins and place them by the sink -- I grind my coffee beans and set the coffee maker for the next morning's brew.
Every night after I grind my coffee beans and set my coffee maker up to brew -- I plug in my computer at my desk and set out the books I want to read for my quiet time the next morning.
After this series of stacked habits, I am free to get up at 5AM and start my morning ritual -- brewing coffee, going to my office, having my quiet time, doing my 20 minutes of writing. I can even do all of this without even turning on a light! This is key because if I wake our German Shepherd, everyone else in the house would be up soon thereafter. ;)
Habit stacking is all about creating momentum. It is about leveraging the power of existing positive habits to cultivate new ones.
Ok. It’s your turn. I want to encourage you to try habit stacking if there is a new behavior you want to implement. Maybe even start this at the microscopic level if you are doing it for the first time.
For example, if you want to build more gratitude into your life, your habit stack formula could look like:
“After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.”
The possibilities are endless.
I hope this helps.