Since starting this blog at the end of January, I’ve had the goal of writing at least 1 article a week. Last week I wrote two, and this week I’m on track for two as well.
Having a full-time job, a social life, a five year old, and maintaining a workout routine has not made this easy. Here’s how I use a technique called habit stacking to make it happen.
What is a habit stack?
A habit stack is a way to build new habits based on existing ones. The formula comes from a book called Atomic Habits, and goes something like this:
After my [current habbit], I will [new habit].
The idea is you take something you do everyday, ideally at the same time, and use that as a trigger to start a new habit. You can also build a habit stack of more than 2 habits.
An example would be my morning routine.
After I wake up, I will brush my teeth.
After I brush my teeth, I will wash my face.
After I wash my face, I will get dressed.
Waking up is something I do every day (hopefully!), so it forms a solid foundation of my morning routine habit stack.
Here’s how I apply the same principles to help me write every day.
My writing habit stack
My daughter attends preschool, and every morning without fail I take her to school, drop her off, and come back home.
One of the downsides of her preschool is that it’s about 20 minutes away from our house, meaning that I have a 40 minute round trip spent driving every morning.
I decided instead of wasting this time being in a bad mood, I would use this time as the trigger of my writing habit stack.
Trigger: As soon as I get in the car after dropping my daughter off from school
I picked this trigger because often on the way home I had the habit of talking to myself. Usually I would talk to myself about things like pitching product ideas, or going through a presentation at work.
Habit 1: Talking out a first draft of my article in the car
Earlier this year I read an interesting essay by Paul Graham called Write Like You Talk. The idea behind the essay is that our writing should be conversational.
So I decided to start talking through writing ideas in the 20 minutes I had on the way home. Talking through them gets the ideas out of my head, and it has the added advantage of getting me in a place where I can write more conversationally.
When I get home, this leaves me in a great place to start writing.
Habit 2: Writing for 30-45 minutes when I get home
I usually get home around 7:45am, and I like to start work before 9:00am. This gives me about 30 minutes to write down all of the ideas that I talked through in the car.
After talking through an idea and getting excited about it, it’s pretty easy to put it down in writing. I either pick up where I left off on a draft I started earlier in the week, or I start writing something new.
Habit 3: Promote my writing
If I’ve finished the article I’m working on, I take some time to promote it. This one is hard for me as an engineer, but promoting my work is a way to show it to the world and get some feedback on it.
So far I’ve been successful with this habit stack. It’s been a great technique that’s allowed me to keep up with my writing during my hectic work weeks.