Odds and Ends


Interesting things, habits. I like what James Clear has to say about them, and I thought you might like to read it too.

Habits guide: how to build good habits and break bad ones

I like it because his work is not your typical rah!rah! speech. He bases his work, which includes a range of behavioural issues, such as sleeping better or creativity,  on research and science; his documents are clear and logical. He talks about different strategies to try, that are again, based on research.

One way to help build habits is to Habit Stack.

You probably have very strong habits and connections that you take for granted each day. For example, your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises … or thousands of other daily habits. You can take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits. 


The quickest way to build a new habit into your life is to stack it on top of a current habit.

This is a concept called “habit stacking” because you stack your new habit on top of a current habit. Because the current habit is strongly wired into your brain already, you can add a new habit into this fast and efficient network of neurons more quickly than if you tried to build a new path from scratch. (Note: I’m not the first person to figure this out. )

Danny Gregory says a similar thing about developing a daily art practice. He says to put your sketchbook next to your kettle, and while it is boiling,  draw your tea cup.

And a little example from my life….

I am terrible about drinking enough water over the day. I know I should, I know the health benefits, I know how my body reacts when I don’t, but I could never seem to get into the habit. Just Do It never seemed to work for me.

I always admire friends who carry water bottles with them. I tried this, but found I forgot to take it, forgot to drink from it, left it somewhere, or most ridiculously, didn’t take it because it was too heavy. Ridiculous because if I drank the water it would be lighter!

So then I thought about habit stacking ~ I’ll drink a glass of water every time I wash my hands. But there was the barrier that I usually wash my hands in the bathroom but the glass was in the kitchen. By the time I had walked into the kitchen I had lost the momentum or been distracted by the myriad other things that distract me. I bet you worked out the solution quicker than I did ~ move a glass into the bathroom!

I have been doing it for about a week now, and the number of glasses I drink has shot up. Go Me! Now to break some of those bad habits….

What strategies work for you to build or break habits?

By anne54

Botanic artist

24 replies on “Habits”

lol – yes, habit is one of /the/ most powerful things in the world. I have a morning routine that involves feeding the animals, making coffee and checking my emails and blog. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to make myself swap writing for social media first thing in the morning, and I think it’s because I’ve grown to associate the other two ‘habits’ [feeding animals and drinking coffee] with social media.

That habit stacking concept is very interesting and I’ll give my stacks some serious thought. 🙂

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My emails are aways open, so that when I start my computer they pop up, and I look because there might be something bright and shiny in my inbox. If your computer is set up the same way would it help to have all your social media closed so that you have to actively open and login? Or have your writing be the first thing you see when you open your computer? We need to make the good habits easier to do than the bad ones. James Clear has some good strategies for various behaviour modifications.


Wow…no way I could have my emails open up with my pc! I have to consciously open/check my emails so that’s not an issue. It’s my lack of self control that’s the problem. Like you, I need to know if there’s anything shiny in there before I can focus on the truly important stuff. Of course, that doesn’t explain the days on which it’s suddenly lunch time and I’ve been on social media the whole morning. 😦


I have found that things slip if something breaks my routine… so if I am blogging regularly, I keep doing so, but if something happens that means I stop for more than a couple of days, I find it very hard to start again. I guess that means I’m good when there is momentum, but can easily get a severe case of inertia!
The thing I am most proud of this year is having developed a habit for exercise… I now go swimming at 7am three times a week. I started going twice a week at the beginning of the year, but I have managed three times per week since the beginning of October. I think being proud of it means I’m trying very hard to maintain my record… my mother would say it’s because (like my late father) I am bloody-minded!

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Yay to bloody mindedness! Your swimming routine is fantastic, and I admire you for getting up that early and then exercising. I am sure that you will be able to maintain it through the gloomy Winter mornings because it is a strong habit that you are proud of. Do you feel that if your morning routine is disrupted you would find it easy to get back into the swimming?


Your routine sounds quite firm, definitely set in your ways! James Clear reminded me that we get pleasure from our habits, both good and bad. You are giving yourself so much positive feedback with your swimming.

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The idea of stacking works well for me, too. And the other thing I do is use a “to-do list” app for my phone. I am ridiculously attached to my phone and I love ticking things off my list. When I am working on a new habit, I put it on my list so, as soon as I tick it off, it pops up for the next day. The only problem is that there are so many better habits I could have!

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I love to-do lists too. (I sometimes add in something that I have already done, just so I can tick it off!!) I don’t use them on the phone, paper and pen for me. However, I do like the idea of a task being able to be rolled over each day. As for the many habit….oh I get that one! Sometimes you have to start small, working on one thing at a time.


I used to have a lot of trouble remembering to take the multiple medications I needed for my back pain on time. Then I stacked it with assembling the coffee tray. We are ridiculously self-indulgent, and have a coffee machine *in the bedroom* for the best possible start to the day :-). Every night, I put together a tray with cups, water, a thermos of milk, a cloth to clean the steam needle after steaming the milk, and the pills. Works like a charm…

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Great post, Anne! I’ve heard of this technique before, but I’ve never heard it referred to as stacking. I like it! I encourage this behaviour with my clients, when possible, as they are often learning new organizing skills as we go along. I’m happy to have a new name for it.

I’m guilty of falling out of good habits when something changes. For instance last year our lemon tree really started to produce for the first time. We had about a dozen lemons the year before, then close to 100 last year. Every day I brought in a few and we drank lemon water with our breakfast. Eventually, of course, the lemons were gone. I started buying them, but missed the flavor from the tree lemons and then the good habit drifted away.

Food for thought…pardon the pun.


It’s a great technique, and I am glad that I have been able to give you a name for it. It did strike me that we seem to have mania for naming everything in sight…..

I love lemon drinks too. Do you still have the lemon tree? Or know someone who can share their lemons with you? Which reminds me that I need to ask my friend for some more lemons from her tree……


Your comment reminded me of a wonderful children’s book called The Old Woman Who Named Things. I’ll find the link. The book is beautifully illustrated, and the story so sweet.

We do have the lemon tree. The fruit is starting to turn yellow, and if it is anything like last year, we’ll have lemons from November through March. I’m excited!

Here’s the link to the book.


That’s a beautiful story. Thanks for the link. It reminded me of my aunt and my nana. Aunty Aud often called her ‘Alice’ rather than ‘Mum’, as there were very few people left in her life who still called her ‘Alice’. I don’t know that I could do that, because I am part of a very special group who can call my mum ‘Mum’, but I understand the sentiment.


the stacking habit has merit- but as I browsed some of your links, I saw a story about the Helinksi bus system and that started me to think about what is about to happen next year. I just won a scholarship to continue my art/creativity journey – but there are “things” I need to line up so the experience is not so stressful as the last journey. And the reasons given in the article are certainly going to help.


I appreciate the reasons and strategies he gives because they are based on research rather than motivational memes. I am glad you have been able to find some useful things. It seems like a good time at the moment for you to rethink past practises ~ new house, new ways!

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