This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at cense.ca.
Two powerful approaches to creating healthy habits are to bundle or stack behaviours together, by design. If we can learn to connect what we do in small ways to other things we can make big changes more easily.
For innovators seeking and making change, these two approaches can help break down a big goal into small, manageable actions.
A bundle is a way of tying together two behaviours that don’t normally go together for positive benefit. It takes something you dislike and pairing it with something you like. For example, imagine doing uncomfortable rehab exercises while watching your favourite TV show. Maybe listen to your favourite music while doing your taxes.
There are many activities in our work that are tedious, unpleasant, or undesirable to do. By bundling those with something you do enjoy it can make those unpleasant tasks easier to do.
Consider the barriers to your service that might be unavoidable: how can you bundle those with something positive? How can you make the worst, but necessary, aspects of what you offer, better?
By considering a bundle, we can design for positive outcomes in spite of issues we cannot design around. This is particularly relevant for healthcare (e.g., dental visits, medication taking) or activities requiring paperwork or queuing.
A stack is pairing small activities together to produce a larger effect. For example, consider listening to podcasts or e-books while running. This allows you to learn and exercise at the same time.
Another example is drinking a glass of water every time you check your email. This one accomplishes the goal of keeping you hydrated while ensuring you don’t check your email too often (preventing frequent trips to the bathroom).
We can design our ‘stacks’. Practically, this means creating an inventory of jobs to be done and pairing them together when possible. By simply knowing what has to be done we can create stacks that get tasks done together.
The key to both activities is to break down what has to be done and mapping it out. This can be done using simple paper, sticky notes, a whiteboard, or tools like Miro or Mural. This activity has the added benefit of articulating what has to be done. It is a useful awareness-building exercise to reveal all the tasks and subtasks involved in our work.
Once completed, consider pairing tasks and activities together. What pairs might work? What systems can we put in place to help make things easier?
After pairing, the next step is to prototype and evaluate Try things out. If you wish to drink water with email, consider setting a glass or your favourite mug beside your computer. Create the prompts to remind you to try things out. These are new behaviours so it may take some time to get it right. If, after many attempts, the behaviour hasn’t changed (the bundle didn’t take, the stack didn’t work), try a different one.
The key is to keep trying. Whether this is for individuals or organizations, the key is to keep trying and learning. The more attempts you make, the more you will learn and the more likely you will succeed.
This behavioural strategy is both simple and easy to try and test even if changes are often difficult. If you need help in making these changes and designing for them, contact us – this is what we do.