November 14th, 2016

Oliver Burkeman, writing in This column will change your life: habit chaining for The Guardian, explains:

First, this week, an astoundingly effective tip for developing beneficial habits, such as eating plenty of vegetables, flossing your teeth, keeping your desk tidy, phoning your mother or unfriending people who post self-written poetry on Facebook. Ready? Here’s the tip: just do those things. You know—as opposed to not doing them.

The rest is all a matter of hacking.

I’m aware this may strike some readers as relatively unastounding, perhaps even infuriatingly useless. Still, that’s one way of interpreting the underlying message of a popular—and not useless—new ebook, by the blogger SJ Scott, entitled Habit Stacking.

Like all body/mind/life hacking advice, there are no new ideas in habit chaining/stacking—I begin with Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations but I’m sure he was far from the first—yet the message can always be massaged to speak to a new generation.

There’s nothing wrong with the concept, but Yoda nails the nut. No hack works unless you do what you must do. The rest is all bullshit.

Burkeman concludes:

Habit stacking isn’t an approach I’d want to adopt for much more than the recommended half an hour a day: running through the checklist, I can report, feels robotic and dutiful, and not much fun. On the other hand, by 8am daily, I’d finished eight or nine things that would otherwise have nagged at me for the rest of the day. Sometimes, the secret of inculcating better habits is to forget all that inculcating business, and just do them.

With apologies to Derf*, The message is the alpha and the omega

*From Punk Rock & Trailer Parks.

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