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Efficiency Hack Showdown: Habit Stacking vs Time Blocking

Welcome to the ultimate efficiency hack showdown! In the fast-paced world we live in, finding ways to maximize our time and productivity is essential. Two popular methods that have gained traction among professionals are habit stacking and time blocking. But which one reigns supreme? I've tried both with various success rates depending on the task, so wanted to share some outcomes and insights with you. I'll compare the benefits and drawbacks of habit stacking and time blocking. Whether you're a busy entrepreneur, a student or parent juggling multiple responsibilities, or simply someone looking to make the most of their time, this showdown will help you discover which method is best suited for your needs. So, get ready to boost your productivity and find out which technique will take your efficiency to new heights. It's time to settle the debate once and for all: habit stacking or time blocking? Let the showdown begin!


What is Habit Stacking?

Habit stacking is a productivity technique that involves attaching new habits to existing ones. It is based on the concept of "if-then" statements, where you link a new habit you want to develop with an existing habit that you already do consistently. By doing this, you leverage the power of your current routines to create a seamless transition into new behaviors. For example, if you want to start reading a book every night before bed, you can stack it with your existing habit of brushing your teeth. The "if-then" statement would be: "If I brush my teeth, then I will read a book for 15 minutes."


The idea behind habit stacking is that by piggybacking new habits onto existing ones, you eliminate the need for decision-making and willpower. It becomes an automatic part of your routine, making it easier to stick to the habit in the long run. This technique is particularly effective for building small, daily habits that contribute to your overall productivity and well-being.


I've used this method for myself and for my kids. I usually start off with one habit at a time. Get that habit down, then add another. Perhaps adding 1 habit a week or a month depending on the time commitment and personal resistance. This creates focus on the new habit in the beginning, gives you time to settle into it until it becomes bi rote, and once you're doing the habit automatically, you can add a new one and have the brain-power to focus on it.


Benefits of habit stacking include:


1. Simplicity and ease of implementation

Habit stacking is a straightforward technique that doesn't require any major lifestyle changes. It allows you to incorporate new habits seamlessly into your existing routines, making it easier to stick to them.


2. Increased consistency

By linking new habits to existing ones, habit stacking helps you establish a consistent routine. Consistency is key when it comes to building habits, and habit stacking provides a structure that promotes regularity.


3. Efficiency

Habit stacking allows you to make the most of your time by combining multiple habits into a single routine. This saves time and mental energy, as you don't have to think about each habit individually.


Examples of Habit Stacking for Productivity


To give you a better idea of how habit stacking works, here are a few examples of productivity-related habits that can be stacked with existing routines:


1. Morning routine

If you already have a morning routine, you can add a new habit to it. For example, if you typically have a cup of coffee as part of your morning routine, you can stack it with folding laundry. The "if-then" statement would be: "If I drink my coffee, then I will fold laundry."


2. Exercise

If you want to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine, you can stack it with an existing habit. For instance, if you always brush your teeth after waking up, you can add a short workout session before brushing your teeth. The "if-then" statement would be: "If I wake up, then I will exercise for 20 minutes before brushing my teeth."


3. Writing (or Reading)

If you struggle to find time to write or read, you can stack it with a habit you already do consistently. Let's say you have a habit of eating lunch at the same time every day. You can stack it with a 15-minute journaling or reading session. The "if-then" statement would be: "If I sit down for lunch, then I will write or read a book for 15 minutes."


4. Kids Getting Themselves Dressed

Routines are so important for kids, and habit stacking can be a successful way of developing routines that don't feel overwhelming. If you want to get your 4-year-old to dress every day, couple it with a habit that they already do, like eating breakfast. The "if-then" statement would be: "If I eat breakfast, then I will get dressed."


These are just a few examples, but the possibilities for habit stacking are endless. The key is to identify existing habits that can serve as triggers for the new habits you want to develop.


What is Time Blocking


Time blocking is a time management technique that involves dividing your day into blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks or activities. Each block is assigned to a particular task, and you work on that task exclusively during that time period. It is a proactive approach to managing your time and helps you prioritize your tasks effectively.


The idea behind time blocking is to create a clear structure for your day, eliminating distractions and ensuring that you allocate dedicated time for important activities. By blocking off specific time slots for different tasks, you create a sense of urgency and focus, which can enhance your productivity and efficiency.


Time blocking is a method that I love, and would love to be able to implement more. As a writer, finding time to write and get into a flow is critical for creativity AND productivity. It's also a great way to manage a long To-Do list by giving yourself time and permission to complete certain tasks. Planning out your time blocks also means you can allocate your most mentally productive time of day to the task that needs it the most. I'm a morning person, so I like to schedule time to write as soon as possible in the morning. And I tend to hit a mental wall around 2 or 3 PM, so that's when I plan to workout or clean the house.


Benefits of time blocking include:


1. Increased focus and concentration

By dedicating specific time blocks to individual tasks, time blocking helps you eliminate distractions and focus solely on the task at hand. This improves your concentration and allows you to work more efficiently.


2. Better time management

Time blocking helps you allocate your time effectively, ensuring that you have enough time for all your tasks and responsibilities. It provides a visual representation of your day, making it easier to identify any gaps or overlaps in your schedule.


3. Reduced decision fatigue

With time blocking, you plan your day in advance, deciding what tasks to work on during specific time blocks. This eliminates the need for constant decision-making throughout the day, reducing decision fatigue and freeing up mental energy for more important tasks. (I could write a whole article on decision fatigue, so I'll leave that for another time.)


Examples of Time Blocking for Productivity


To help you understand how time blocking works in practice, here are a few examples of how you can implement it to boost your productivity:


1. Work-related tasks

If you have a job that involves multiple projects and tasks, you can use time blocking to allocate specific time slots for each project or task. For example, you can dedicate the morning hours to focused work on a particular project, followed by a block for emails and meetings in the afternoon.


2. Study sessions

If you're a student or someone who needs to allocate time for learning, time blocking can be a valuable tool. You can allocate dedicated time blocks for studying specific subjects or working on assignments. For instance, you may set aside a two-hour block in the evening for studying biology and a separate block for working on a research paper.


3. Personal time

Time blocking isn't just for work-related tasks. It can also be used to allocate time for personal activities and self-care. For example, you can block off time in the evening for exercise, relaxation, or spending time with loved ones. I love the time my husband and I dedicate to spending time together after the kids go to bed -- sometimes it's talking, sometimes watching a movie, sometimes sitting together catching up on work, but it's always nice to be together.


These examples demonstrate how time blocking can be customized to fit your specific needs and priorities. The key is to plan your day in advance and allocate time blocks that align with your goals and responsibilities.


Habit Stacking vs Time Blocking: A Comparison


Now that we've explored both habit stacking and time blocking in detail, let's compare these two efficiency hacks and see how they stack up against each other:


1. Flexibility

Habit stacking allows for flexibility as it integrates new habits seamlessly into your existing routines. You can adapt it to fit different situations and adjust the habits you stack based on your changing needs. On the other hand, time blocking provides a structured schedule that may be less flexible, with specific time slots allocated for each task.


As a working parent - I tend to do more habit stacking than time blocking because of the flexibility. But as I mentioned, I need to dedicate chunks of time to writing flow. So these blocks tend to move based on the day and are a bit short in the world of time blocking (I'll dedicate an hour at a time, rather than 2+ hours), and this is usually either before the kids are awake in the morning or after they go to bed. It has also been helpful to me to develop the habit of writing every day, rather than just when I can try to carve out a few hours 1-2 times per week.


2. Automation vs. structure

Habit stacking relies on the power of automation and routine. Once a habit is successfully stacked, it becomes a natural part of your day without requiring much conscious effort. Time blocking, on the other hand, provides a structured framework that helps you prioritize tasks and allocate time for each one.


Again, what will work for you likely depends on how much structure you're able to put around your day. If you're juggling 5 schedules, then habit stacking may be a better option (and grab a time block when you can).


3. Applicability

Habit stacking is particularly effective for building small, daily habits that contribute to your overall productivity and well-being. It is a versatile technique that can be applied to various areas of your life. Time blocking, on the other hand, is a broader time management technique that can be used for both work-related and personal tasks.


Ultimately, the choice between habit stacking and time blocking depends on your personal preferences, goals, and the type of tasks or habits you want to develop. Some individuals may find habit stacking more suitable for their lifestyle, while others may prefer the structure and focus provided by time blocking.


I find myself using habit stacking more during this season of my life (part-time working mother of 3 young children). However, I endeavor to do more time blocking to provide the deep focus that my brain and body desire. I try to work time blocks in when I can, and I can mentally feel a difference in productivity when I do.


Which efficiency hack is right for you?


When deciding whether to adopt habit stacking or time blocking, consider the following factors:


1. Nature of your tasks

If you have a lot of repetitive tasks or habits that you want to develop, habit stacking may be more suitable. It allows you to leverage existing routines and automate new habits seamlessly. However, if you have a diverse range of tasks and projects that require focused attention, time blocking can help you allocate dedicated time for each task. I also like to time block based on how I can be most productive. For example, I have topics lined up weeks in advance, and I like to be able to focus on writing when I have the time. But that means that I need to be prepared to sit down and write when that time comes. So I will time block to outline and research articles ahead of time - perhaps many at a time. That way, when I have an hour to focus and write, I am prepared to make the most of that time.


2. Flexibility vs. structure

Consider whether you prefer a more flexible approach or a structured schedule. Habit stacking offers flexibility as it adapts to your existing routines, while time blocking provides a structured framework for your day.


I tend to desire (and even plan for) structure. But as a mom of 3 little ones, I know that I need to build in flexibility. Habit stacking has allowed me to be more flexible by building the right habits that feel natural to pick up whenever the time allows.


3. Personal working style

Reflect on your own working style and preferences. Some individuals thrive in a structured environment with clear time blocks, while others prefer a more flexible approach that allows for spontaneity and adaptation.


Ultimately, the best efficiency hack for you is the one that aligns with your goals, preferences, and working style. Experiment with both habit stacking and time blocking to see which one resonates with you and helps you achieve your desired level of productivity and efficiency. And let me know what you find! I've had mixed success with both styles and have a lot of respect for both. So much of the success will depend on your season of life -- so keep trying them out!


In the efficiency hack showdown between habit stacking and time blocking, there is no clear winner. Both techniques have their merits and can be effective tools for boosting productivity and maximizing your time. Which is the name of the game for us working parents. So, whether you choose habit stacking, time blocking, or a combination of both, embrace the power of these efficiency hacks and take your productivity to new heights.

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