Habit Stacking by S.J. Scott

This is a hard book to review, mainly because some tips were very useful, and others… seemed geared towards robots trying to assimilate on Earth.

S.J. Scott is the author of around 30 books (rounded down because a few on Goodreads appear to be translated versions). Of those, 19 have the word ‘habit’ in the title. I find this interesting, given that Scott repeatedly stresses the value of quality over quantity.

I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing the book because some of the contents are very simplistic (think, reminders to drink more water or get enough sleep). Scott is right in that these are very basic things that a lot of people still struggle to remember to do, and so forming ingrained habits around them is a mighty sensible idea.

Other habits that I highlighted fell mainly in the career, health and finance sections, including unsubscribing from email and physical mailing lists, utilising LinkedIn, taking daily vitamins, and using a pedometer. Nothing mindblowing, but little bits and pieces that over time could lead to a more productive, healthier lifestyle. The best takeaway from the book was using a financial aggregator. Scott recommends Mint, which is a US and Canada-only service, but I found Money Dashboard which does the same thing for the UK. I’ve only been using it a week, and it’s already been eye-opening having an overview of all my accounts and expenditure in one place.

Towards the end of the book, I started highlighting things largely while imagining a short story in which aliens come to Earth and use this book’s tips to pass themselves off as human.The characters would practice their squats while stood in line browsing Facebook, walk around pretending to sneeze out loud to get into the habit of sneezing into their arms, hugging pillows to improve their hugging technique, and walking through stores handing out internet coupons to make friends.

There’s a fair amount of contradictory advice here, too. Scott is big on productivity, but recommends a staggering amount of apps to aid this, be it through background music, imposing financial penalties for unmet habits, logging time spent online etc. If you were to research and tailor even half of the recommended resources, it would still take up a heck of a lot of time better spent just cracking on with the task at hand.

Ultimately, Habit Stacking wasn’t for me, but the amount of highlighting I did tells me that at least I engaged with the text. Even if finding Money Dashboard is my only takeaway, it’ll be worth it just for that.

[Read from 14-21 July 2017]

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