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Book Review: Habit Stacking: 95 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S. J. Scott
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Book Review: Habit Stacking: 95 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S. J. Scott - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Habit Stacking: 95 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S. J. Scott

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Habit Stacking: 95 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S. J. Scott

“The goal of a mini-habit is to be consistent,” writes S.J. Scott. “In fact, consistency is much more important than what you accomplish with this daily habit.” Beginning with this premise in Habit Stacking: 95 Small Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less (Oldtown Publishing, 2014), the author makes the case that habits can be built upon, but are often stalled in development because our strides are too long, too early in the game. By establishing small habits that take minimal effort or time, we can then add (or “stack”) new, growing habit atop already established ones. For example, beginning one’s workday with five minutes for desk-tidying at the office is a doable task that can quickly become part of one’s morning routine. Just five minutes every day isn’t daunting, and even if it’s painful (which it is, for many of us), most of us can endure five minutes of it for the benefit of peace of mind. Then, once it’s become part of a routine, one can add another quick task (such as clearing the desktop space on one’s computer) to it, so that one habit is now two, and then three, and then, before too long, a single routine of 23 stacked habits.

While there is nothing here that’s especially original or revolutionary, there is some value in the bite-sized breakdown of bigger resolutions. Scott identifies six realms where we often seek personal improvement: productivity, relationships, finance, organization, spiritual well-being, and health. For people who have difficulty identifying and setting measurable goals in these realms (“I resolve to be more productive!”), the author lays out a series of small, stackable habits with advice, rationale, and a time-goal for each. These habits, which are as pedestrian as “drink a large glass of water” and as potentially philosophical as “identify the three most important tasks on your to-do list,” will seem obvious to many readers, but there’s something pedagogically sound in his approach. Scott’s advice is to “structure for success,” a mantra espoused by many educators. It’s one thing to learn how to do something; it’s another to learn how to learn, and the writer’s approach, while appearing to be overly simplistic at times, is focused on developing a learner, rather than a robot.

It would be easy to overlook the foundational tenets of the approach, because the actual 95 habits are so specific, but there’s decent advice here for an audience seeking good habits, in the form of eight elements of a habit-stacking routine:

1. Each habit takes less than five minutes to complete.
2. It’s a complete habit.
3. It improves your life.
4. It’s simple to complete.
5. It (the routine made up of stacked habits) takes less than 30 minutes.
6. It follows a logical process.
7. It follows a checklist.
8. It fits your life.

Following Scott’s advice could lead simply to rote get-it-done practice, but the self-aware reader, in successfully accomplishing the habit-stacking, should see the reasoning (the “elements”) that builds it, and then be able to modify and apply it to his or her life. This is learning to learn.

The writing is not great, and this book suffers from the curse of most self-published work: sloppy editing. “Minuscule” is an easy word to misspell, but any spellchecker—or any editor worth his or her salt—would flag it immediately. It is also lacking in research or citation, relying heavily on the author’s on anecdotal narrative, but this approach makes it highly accessible, easily digestible, and fairly user-friendly. For the young professional who is still learning to thrive in a career and manage his or her life, a book like this can go a long way, especially with the guidance of some kind of mentor. Managers working with young or inefficient teams could also find a decent outline here for routine-building in whole teams and with their individual members, allowing them to work together on those habits that allow it (beginning with a team moment, where everyone drinks a large glass of water, perhaps, but then leading to the team list-making, team workspace-tidying, and team priority-setting), breaking off to do the solo parts alone, and then getting back together to see how everyone did.

This book is certainly not for everyone, but it’s recommended for readers or teams who could benefit from structured, specific help in managing life and work.


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Book Review: Habit Stacking: 95 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S. J. Scott - Executive Leadership Articles

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