Those of you who have researched the psychology behind habits (perhaps reading the work of James Clear, S.J Scott, BJ Fogg, or Charles Duhigg), may already be familiar with the phrase “habit stacking.”
It’s a psychological phenomenon that takes advantage of a series of unconscious associations our brains make. When trying to adopt a positive new habit or get rid of an old unhealthy one, you can “piggyback” on the inertia of your current habits to make the process a bit easier for you.
Think about a tiny daily habit you might already do; you put the kettle on and while it’s boiling, you pull the milk out of the fridge, and get a mug out of the cupboard.
Chances are, you do this without even thinking about it. It’s stored in your unconscious brain and your muscle memory.
If you wanted to adopt the healthy habit of taking vitamins, you can ‘stack” the action of taking vitamins on top of this routine. For instance, you get the mug out of the cupboard and immediately fill it with water and take your vitamins.
That simple act of associating your daily tea/coffee with taking a vitamin is going to take up so much less space in your brain, than if you had planned to take your vitamin but forgot, then you were at your desk feeling in flow but suddenly remembered and now you have to decide between staying focused on your task or disrupting your work to go fill up a glass of water and get your vitamins etc.
You want to set yourself up for success by taking all the decision making out of it, and just slipping your new habits easily into your everyday routine.
We can also apply this concept to our work flow and the way we run our practice.
For instance, say you wanted to get into the habit of asking for referrals. We have a super-simple framework that you can use to ask for referrals, and it starts by framing the request at the start of the appointment.
So, you might have a habit around sitting down, asking your patient how their day has been so far, pulling up their files – and then you can stack your “asking for referrals” pre-frame on top of this.
There are endless examples of how you can use habit stacking in your personal and professional lives, and it’s an excellent way to take all the conscious stress out of “remembering” your habits, versus taking advantage of the neural connections that already exist.
Here’s to happy new habits!
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