My Favorite Habit Building Technique

Living in the dry climate of Colorado, my skin has the tendency to get extra dry, especially in the winter. I knew if I put lotion on each day, my dry skin problem would go away. But did I put the lotion on, nope! I would either forget or I would make excuses as to why I could not put on the lotion. These excuses ranged from statements such as “I don’t have time” or “It is too cold” or “I just don’t feel like it”. So as the winter progressed, my skin would just get drier and drier.

Finally, I got sick of how dry my skin felt and how bad it looked, that I made the resolve to address it. I realized part of my problem was that I had not made putting lotion on a habit. So, the first step was to figure out how to make it a habit so that it was not something I had to think about, it was just something I did. To make this a daily habit, I utilized one of my favorite habit building techniques called habit stacking. I learned about habit stacking from reading James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits”. James Clear explains that habit stacking is where you “identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.” How I implemented this for my putting on lotion problem was that immediately after I showered (my current habit) I would put lotion on (the habit I wanted to build). After I identified the how of my new habit, I started implementing it. By having established the how, it helped to eliminate my first problem of just forgetting to put it on because it was now in my awareness that after I shower, I put on lotion. Now the excuses I would normally give myself as to why I could not put on lotion did not go away, and sometimes they were pretty convincing as to why I could skip it, but having the plan helped me to move past my excuses. Day after day I consistently put on lotion, and as you can imagine, my dry skin slowly went away which felt so good. Then an added benefit, that I was not anticipating, was how soft my skin became! Since I have consistently put on lotion after I shower for several months now, it is just something I do rather than something I really think about. But, if I find myself wanting to skip putting the lotion on one day, I remind myself how great my skin feels and that I do not want to go back to how it was before. This simple reminder, combined with my now established habit, prevents me from skipping it.

If you’d like to try this habit building technique for yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Attach the new habit to a current habit that is already strongly established.
  2. Be very specific about what your new habit will look like when attached to your current habit – for example if you were to say “After I wake up, I will drink 8 ounces of water” that statement leaves too much wiggle room as to when it will happen or where it will happen. A better statement would be “After I brush my teeth, I will drink 8 ounces of water before I leave the bathroom”.

If you end of trying this technique, I’d love to hear how it worked for you!

*I highly recommend reading James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits”. It provides a variety of techniques on how to build habits, which is super helpful when working towards losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle.