In her book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin discusses 21 strategies for habit change including the strategy of pairing. In this strategy, you tie two tasks together in your mind, so that one starts to seem incomplete without doing the other. This strategy can work well when you’re seeking to form a new habit that isn’t fully established yet, because you’re pairing it with something you won’t forget to do, like brush your teeth or eat breakfast.
Today I realized that I have started using this strategy to make my daily writing into more of a habit. Before I committed to this experiment of writing daily, I might have had the intention to write or reflect but not the time set aside to do so. To borrow another Gretchen Rubin line, “something that can happen at any time often happens at no time.” It just wasn’t a habit, so I didn’t know when/where/how/why to create space for it.
Over the past week or so though, I’ve been pairing my daily writing with my morning routine. It’s becoming a loop where one task is tied to the next: first I record in my daily logbook (a la Austin Kleon), then I meditate, then I sit down at my computer and write my reflection. Because the tasks are paired (or getting there), I don’t have to think about it or decide when might be best or hem or haw. I just have to do the next step in the process.
I’ve tried to use this strategy before and it hasn’t worked as well, but now I wonder if it’s just because the pairing needs some tweaking. Can I use this to be more consistent about taking my vitamins? About calling my grandma? About going for runs more often? Time will tell, but for this particular habit it’s working like a charm.