Well hello again! As I mentioned earlier this week, this month I’m really making an effort to push the reset button and clean up some of those lazy habits I picked up this summer. One way I’m doing this is by using complementary habits.
What Are Complementary Habits?
A complementary habit is using a habit that you already have and adding a habit you want to develop to it. Some possible examples:
- Adding squats while brushing teeth.
- Unloading the dishwasher while waiting for coffee to brew.
- Listening to an audiobook or the news while doing your daily commute
- Drinking a margarita while laying by the pool
Wait, no on that last one. Summer habits die hard! Anyway, you get the idea. You take something you have to do anyway and add something that you want to do more of.
Complementary Habits vs. The Strategy of Pairing
This is really similar to Gretchen Rubin’s strategy of Pairing but there is one key difference. Rubin suggests picking two habits that always have to go together and you can never do either piece without the other. Her example is if you pair watching Game of Thrones with walking on a treadmill, you can’t watch GoT anywhere else, but also every time you step on the treadmill, you have to turn on GoT. That doesn’t really work for me. What if there is a random day I would have went for a walk but I was just not in a GoT mood? (This is a really loose hypothetical because that would probably never happen). But you catch my drift. With her strategy, I can’t walk on the treadmill without GoT so if I don’t want to watch it I’ll probably just skip my workout.
With complementary habits, the link goes one way. If I am brushing my teeth, I’m doing squats. That doesn’t mean I can’t also do squats as part of my workout later. It just means I always also do them when I’m brushing my teeth. Or if I’m laying by the pool, I’m also drinking a margarita, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also have a margarita on a patio for Taco Tuesday. Wait, bad.
How To Use Complementary Habits In Your Daily Routine
When I started to think through what my typical day looks like my mind went straight to the kitchen. I’m not one of those people that “forgets to eat”. I eat like clockwork. EVERY SINGLE DAY. In fact, I often find myself thinking about my next meal….while I’m still eating the current one. Since I started following the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan I’m eating 5 small meals a day. That means there are 5 opportunities to add a complementary habit to something I’m already gonna be doing.
Next, I thought about what were the areas of my life that I could use some help fitting into the day. I really want to do a better job of maintaining a clean house all the time and to be more productive with my work from home flow.
After that, I just needed to decide which habits could conveniently fit together and made a loose schedule for my day. Convenience here is key. If you have to go too far out of your way, you won’t do it.
Step 1: List what you ALREADY do every day
Step 2: List what you need a plan to get done
Step 3: Compare your lists and put together which items could go together conveniently
Here’s what my day looks like:
get out of bed – make the bed behind me
start a french press of coffee – unload the dishwasher
drink coffee- read TheSkimm
eat breakfast- move clothes to the dryer
snack 1- fold and put away laundry
lunch- daily cleaning task
snack 2- check mail
dinner- start the dishwasher/start load of laundry
Of course, this isn’t everything I do in the day. But these were the tasks I needed to do and wasn’t always finding the time to. Now, they are just part of how I go through my day. I have found that this helps me be more productive at work. too because I know I only have about a 2-hour chunk to get things done before I’m going to take a small break. It also means that the housework stuff that would often distract me doesn’t anymore. I know that it will get done. I like that my day is no longer just consumed with following the clock and scheduling things at an arbitrary time. Now it feels like my days flow more naturally and I’m making sure to fit in the things I know are most important!
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