Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Compatible Efficiency Strategies

These two strategies sound contradictory, but actually work together very well:

1. When you want to develop new habits, piggyback tasks.

2. Don't multitask.

Please consider this picture of dogs performing synchronized napping to be symbolic of grouping like tasks.  

So, say that I want to start a new habit - doing the dishes on a regular basis, reading the news every morning, applying sunscreen daily - whatever. I arrange my actual physical belongings (and my to-do list) in a way that connects the new desired habit to something I already do. I call this piggybacking. My to-do list says "wash hair and dishes!" because I want to do both those chores at basically the same frequency. If they are grouped in my mind, I'll remember to do them both more easily. I only need to remember one thing, rather than two.

When I'm just starting the new habit, this can be tougher. I recently started using the app Summly for the news, and to remind myself to use it, (this part is a little bit embarrassing) I placed the icon in FRONT of my Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest icons on my phone. That way I see it first, and read it first. Let's face it: I'm not going to forget to check Twitter. Putting Summly between me and Twitter makes it that much more likely I'll remember it too. When the Adulting Lady posted about how she needed to apply sunscreen daily, I suggested that she balance the sunscreen on top of her toothbrush, or coffee maker, or anything else that was already an innate part of her morning routine, for the same reasons.

I realize this sounds a lot like multitasking, but ladies and gentlemen, it is not. In fact, it is the avoidance of multitasking that makes piggybacking tasks so effective. I cannot do two things at once, so I need to do something with that bottle of sunscreen before I can get to my toothbrush. I might as well apply it. Over time, I won't need to precariously balance anything, because the two tasks will be linked in my mind, like washing dishes and hair. I just think of that as one task that has multiple steps, I don't try to do both at once. That would be terrible.


  1. Two or three times a week, I try to apply sunscreen while eating breakfast. Yes, I have been known to apply yogurt to my face.