In this article, you will learn about habit batching, a technique that enables you to change your routines and reinvent yourself quickly and effectively.

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to steal the Gameboy of my brother in order to play Megaman for our hours and hours. For you young kids out there, a Gameboy is a grey Nintendo hand console on which you could play all sorts of epic games such as Zelda, Tetris, Chess master, and as said, Megaman.

Megaman’s story takes place in 20XX where mankind created all sorts of robots in order to make life more productive on earth. However, one day with the help of Dr. Wily, an evil scientist who wants to take over the world, the robots go crazy and attack the populace.

Dr. Light, a good scientist, and his helper robot Rock, both have a strong sense of justice and want to fight the evil Dr. Wily, for that matter they transform Rock into a fighting robot, thus Rock becomes Megaman.

One of the things that were so cool about Megaman was that he had a cannon arm out of which he could power beams, but this wasn’t all, over the course of the game it was possible to swap his “Mega Buster” arm for other arms that would give Megaman different abilities.

What I found so interesting was that when Megaman acquired a new arm, it didn’t only give him new powers but sometimes also a new personality, and some of his new powers would even make him go berserk.

Now you might ask yourself – What the fuck does Megaman has to do with behavioral change? 

Good question my friend, here is a freebie for you!

Just like Megaman, we are computational machines who are made up of different building blocks who dictate who we are and how effective and powerful we can become.

Just like Megaman acquires new powers when he changes his transit arm, we acquire new powers when we form new habits.

Just like Megaman undergoes a form of personality change when he finds a new add on, our personality transforms when we change our behavioral subcomponents.

But, we can’t possibly compete with a robot’s potential for instant transformation right?

You bet we can!

If I’ve learned one thing over the years of having a private practice it is that an individual’s greatest power is its freedom to change who they are at any given moment.

While most behavior psychologists advise people to take things slow and change one habit at a time, I believe it’s possible and sometimes necessary to just throw away an entire habit chain and replace it with a more effective chain of rituals.

I call this process habit batching and in this article, I’m going to show you how this simple method enabled me, again and again, to kill my old self in order to invent and give birth to someone new entirely.

Behavior Bootcamp

Where the fuck is Julian again?

This was a question our ward psychologist Mrs. Schmidt asked me almost every morning in April 2016 when I was living inside a psychiatric facility in Hamburg.

Julian was my roommate on Station 10 which means that like him – I was a patient who was “receiving” behavioral treatment with the goal of helping us to end our depressive episode.

I was in a particularly strange situation because I wasn’t only a patient but also a psychology student at the time and I was dreaming day and night about swapping my title of patient for the title of counselor.

So it’s fair to say that besides shame and fear, I also experienced a great sense of meaning and curiosity during that strange chapter of my life.

While studying psychology I was always dissatisfied with the fact that we only learned from papers and books and never from real people… once arrived at Station 10 I found myself with real people who had real-life problems who needed real help.

No more fucking vague untested textbook theories, here everybody either found a way to escape its (often) self-induced misery or perished as a consequence.

I have to confess that I thoroughly enjoyed that climate of seriousness, on Station 10 the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions could make the difference between remission and suicide.

I entered Station 10 with the hope of finding out what it was about me that was producing the result called clinical depression and simultiounsly I felt as if it would be a unique learning opportunity to investigate the mindsets and routines of not only myself but also of my fellow co-patients in order to come up with a “stay the fuck away habit list”.

I made the decision to create file reports about all my fellow misfits in order to identify the habits, beliefs, thoughts, and environmental setups that were responsible for our painful life results.

My first file report was about my roomie and the first thing I wrote down was his nightly routine.

Below you will find his morning and evening routine or as I call – his behavioral batch;

Julians Nightly Habit Batch:

  1. 21.30 going outside to smoke and chat with co patients  (an entire pack of cigarettes)
  2. 21.45 going to the kitchen for a last “snack” (he usually ate 1-3 buns with delicious Nutella)
  3. 21.55-night tee (black)
  4. 22.15 fighting with his girlfriend on the phone
  5. 22.45 watching a series
  6. 23.50 sneaking out for more cigarettes
  7. 00.00 watching another series
  8. 00.45 chatting and social media
  9. 1.45 brushing teeth
  10. 2.00 series watching until asleep

 

Julians Morning Habit Batch: 

  • The alarm goes off at 7:30
  • Snoozing till 7.55
  • put on pants and shirt
  • come late to mandatory breakfast
  • apologize to everybody for being late again

 

Observing Julian’s habit batches was a fascinating experience, he ended his days with avoidance and started it with failure, two big building blocks of the infamous downward spiral.

Over the course of the next seven weeks, I became a behavior detective and investigated the habit batches of almost everybody who was a patient on Station 10 and I discovered that people with broken mindsets apparently also have broken habit batches.

This discovery was a relief for me because it hinted that I didn’t “have” depression but instead that I was “doing” depression.

I was rather alone on Station 10 with that opinion as our psychologists told us that our depressive symptoms solely originated from a broken brain rather than a broken schedule.

My observation however hinted that my dear co-patients weren’t having psychological problems but life problems instead.

Depression to me wasn’t a disease, it was a result that ensued out of broken habits, disempowering beliefs, self-mutilating self-talk, and a toxic living environment.

While interviewing all patients on Station 10 I noticed a commonality: Most patients were fixated on the aspects of their painful lives that they had absolutely no fucking control over

They told me in great lengths why they thought they ended up in Station 10 and I heard all sorts of sad stories about terrible upbringings, disempowering parents, toxic partners, shit jobs, financial struggles, health issues but there wasn’t a single patient who said that ‘I’m here because of me’.

These observations motivated me to ask a question that would ultimately motivate me to create this very blog that you are on right now:

If you change, does your life change with you? 

I wanted to test what happens to a person if they swap a disempowering habit batch for an empowering one so I made up my mind to become my own psychological guinea pig.

While still being in psychiatry I started to research what the hell “successful” people were doing differently in the morning and after identifying patterns from people with whom I would have gladly switched places I started to create my first ever morning habit batch.

A week after I’ve collected enough data and information on how to change my routine I created what I called “the habit cheat sheet” which was basically a sequence of success rituals that I stole from people who came to mind when I thought of the word “outstanding”.

Below you will find the “habit cheat sheet” that I created and implemented during my time in the psychiatry:

Habit Batch Name: The Behavior Bootcamp

Desired Outcome: Stop being a fucking loser

Habit Name
Ritual Recipe
 Habit 1
The Jocko Willink
Get up at 4.33
 Habit 2
The Tony Robbins
6 Phase Meditation for 15 minutes
 Habit 3
The BJ Fogg
After my feet touch the floor I will say:
Today is going to be a good day.
 Habit 4
The William McRaven
Make my Bed and organize my shit
 Habit 5
The Wim Hof
Cold Shower + Power Breaths
 Habit 6
The Dave Asprey
Take vegan protein + supplements
 Habit 7
The Sylvester Stallone
Full body workout + cardio in front of the psychiatry
 Habit 8
The Jordan Peterson
Dress like the person I want to become not like the person that I am today.
 Habit 9
The Tim Ferris
Design my perfect day in my journal
 Habit 10
The Viktor Frankl
Infusing my suffering with meaning by reminding myself that my why is worth the how.

To my surprise, having a cheat sheet actually enabled me to follow through with the entire ritual sequence, all I had to do was to have my habit cheat list at all times in my pocket so that I didn’t have to memorize it at all, this was also the reason why I named my habits, that way I wouldn’t forget them even if I forget my cheat sheet.

Let’s go over my habit batch;

Habit 1: The Jocko Willink (Get up at 4.33)

Desired Life Upgrade: Mental health Dimension

Time Required: none

Habit Recipe: After my vibration alarm goes off I will roll out of bed because starting my day early boosts my mental health.

One of the things that brought me into psychiatry was a lack of discipline and my tendency to avoid things, so I attempted to break this pattern by implementing a discipline habit from the most disciplined guy I knew – Jocko Willink, a retired navy seal and best selling author of the book Extreme Ownership. Jocko is pretty famous for getting up at 4.33 in the morning so I figured that if could learn how to break my snoozing habit I could eventually break my depression.

 

Habit 2: The Tony Robbins (Meditating for 15 minutes)

Desired Life Upgrade: Mental health Dimension

Time Required: 15 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I return from my morning pee I will put in my earplugs and do the Tony Robbins Priming Mediation because it helps me to change my mental state.

One of my biggest problems was that I woke up in a depressed state. No, I don’t mean moody, I mean waking up and not wanting to live anymore. As you can imagine, contemplating whether life is worth the hassle isn’t precisely the kind of morning habit that gets you out of bed but instead makes you hide under your pillow again, so I needed to change that.
Tony Robbins has a great morning ritual where he combines power breaths with a form of guided meditation, the power breaths helped me to leave my depressed state behind and enter what I called back then “Daniel 2.0” a confident version of myself.

 

 

Habit 3: The BJ Fogg

Desired Life Upgrade: Mental health Dimension

Time Required: 5 seconds

Habit Recipe: After my feet touch the floor I will say “today is a perfect day for a perfect day” because this improves my overall attitude.

Professor Bj Fogg from Stanford University has a great way to begin his mornings, the first time his feet touch the floor he says that today is going to be a great day. He calls this the Maui habit. Since I was struggling with my overall attitude I thought that this was a great habit for me to implement.

 

Habit 4: The William McRaven (Make my bed)

Desired Life Upgrade: Career Dimension

Time required: 1 minute

Habit Recipe: After my Maui Habit I will make my bed to the best of my ability because doing the small things right will enable me to do the big things right.

A problem with depression is that one has often very few wins and many many failures. William McRaven an ex-US Navy admiral has had a great speech where he proposed that it’s important to start the day with a simple win such as making one’s bed.
This habit was important for me because task completion euphoria was something that I was missing in my life.

Habit 5: The Wim Hof (5-10 minutes of cold shower)

Desired Life Upgrade: Vitality Dimension

Time required: 5-10 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I enter the shower I will do power breathes and turn on the cold water because this helps me to create a strong body.

One of the biggest problems of my life back then was avoiding things I couldn’t afford to avoid. Whether it was not opening letters, paying bills on time or doing what I had to do, I often made my life worse by not attending my problems because I felt overwhelmed by the number of problems that I had.

I heard about this guy Wim Hof who created a cold therapy program that helped people to solve their mental health problems by creating a stronger body through cold showers.

Since I hated cold showers I figured that this habit was perfect for me, by voluntarily doing something that made me uncomfortable in the morning I felt capable of doing other uncomfortable things later throughout the day.

It’s also impossible to have any disempowering thoughts when your brain thinks you are freezing to death.

 

Habit 6: The Dave Asprey ( Take protein + supplements)

Desired Life Upgrade: Vitality Dimension

Time required: 5-10 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I finish my showering habit I will take my supplements because a strong body will produce a healthy mind.

I knew that me being lethargic and depressed wasn’t only a psychological problem but rather a metabolic problem. Changing my emotional reality was therefore for me also a matter of hacking my biology and what better way to do so than to study the father of biohacking Dave Asprey.

My supplement routine consisted of taking my protein and my anti-depression vitamins (Vitamin D, Vitamin K, 5 Htp, Tryptophan, Magnesium, Zinc, Omegas, amino acids).

 

Habit 7: The Sylvester Stallone

Desired Life Upgrade: Vitality Dimension + Mental Health Dimension

Time required: 5-10 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I take my supplements I will go outside and train my ass off because I want to get in the shape of my life.

Having an exercise routine in the morning helped me to feel like I was making progress and progress towards a valued goal causes us to feel positive emotions.

By doing a bit of cardio and bodyweight workouts in the morning I was becoming stronger and with that I was feeling stronger and more equipped to face my problems and challenges.

 

Habit 8: The Jordan Peterson ( Dress like the person that you want to become)

Desired Life Upgrade: Career Dimension + Mental Health Dimension

Time required: 5-10 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I finish my exercise habit I will dress up because how I look affects how I feel.

Dress like the person you want to become not like the person you are today

One of my favorite life rules from Dr. Peterson is the one where you behave and dress like your future self in order to make your future blueprint a reality. One of my morning rituals was to pick clothes on a daily basis that I would have picked in my ideal future.

This was quite a funny ritual to have in a psychiatry… I often wore dress pants and a shirt to breakfast and earned a lot of weird looks from my patients but this habit helped me to think like the person I wanted to become rather than a person that was stuck in a nuthouse.

Habit 9: The Tim Ferris (Journaling for 5 Minutes)

Desired Life Upgrade:  Mental Health Dimension

Time required: 5 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I finish my dressing habit I will journal for 5 minutes because I am in charge of my days and my life.

Tim Ferris, the famous Podcaster and entrepreneur is a great ambassador of journaling, starting a journaling habit myself made a great difference for me because I started to create days that I actually wanted to have.

Habit 10: The Viktor Frankl (My meaning habit)

Desired Life Upgrade:  Mental Health Dimension

Time required: 1-5 minutes

Habit Recipe: After I journal I will remember my why because this helps me to make it through another day on station 10.

Even though I was motivated as fuck to turn my life around, being stuck in a nuthouse was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I needed to remind myself every morning that my stay on Station 10, as painful as it was, would enable me one day to make my dream of helping others a reality.

What happened next?

What happened next was one of the most bizarre yet exciting adventures of my life and I became known as the craziest guy on Station 10.

Up to this day, I’ve never received so many looks of bewilderment, most of them obviously came from my roommate.

When my alarm rang at 4.33 Julian looked at me with an unsurpassable look of annoyance and it didn’t particularly help our relationship that he had to overhear the loud noises of my power breaths while I was doing cold my shower habit.

My Sylvester Stallone exercise habit was also something to behold, it’s quite something to jump rope while being accompanied by the screams of the schizophrenic patients of station 11 in the morning.

My “dress like the person you want to become habit” also didn’t help me to shake off my reputation of being a weirdo since I was extremely overdressed during my entire stay on Station 10.

We only had 2-3 hours of therapeutic obligations during a day, and most of the patients used the rest of the day to hang out and to play games and stuff, but not me.

Since I’ve sworn myself to leave that hospital as a changed man I used my journaling habit to design one “perfect” day after another and I tried to not waste a single minute of my stay, this newly developed productivity was unseen on that station and eventually, I got kicked out of it because of it.

Once out, I realized that nothing about my shitty life had changed, I still had no real job, no money, no girlfriend, and tons of problems.

Nothing changed but one thing: me.

With time, work, and patience, however, my life, just like myself, became unrecognizable.

Habit Batching – Three Steps For Changing Your Habit Chains

Here is the essence of a habit batching; First, you identify what kind of life outcomes you want to produce.

Next, you find people who are already producing those results and identify the habits that are responsible for their results.

Finally, you identify and name small actions that if acted out will bridge the gap between who are you today and who you want to become in the future.

Here are the three steps you need to follow;

 

Step one: Identify Your Ideal Future 

One of the reasons why so many people are feeling unsatisfied with their life is because they haven’t put up the effort to answer the question: What do I really want?

The sole purpose of your habit batch is to get you from where you are to where you want to go, obviously, for that manner, it would be helpful to know what your ideal life would look like.

Take a moment, close your eyes, and let your mind wander freely to a perfect future scenario, in your life, in 6 months, 3 years, and 5 years from now. The goal is to create a vision that excites and motivates you.

The ideal future blueprinting technique is an expert from my new journal ‘The Behavior Kickstarter‘, feel free to download it whenever you want.

 

Step two: Model Succesful People 

Once you’ve learned what your future should look like, it’s time to identify people who are already producing the results that you are after.

The idea behind the second step is simple; If we want change, we have to change.

The second step of the habit batching building process is therefore a first attempt to answer the crucial question; Who do I have to become? 

In that manner, it’s helpful to identify role models and model their behavior.

I created a simple psychological exercise that will help you to identify your role models, imitate their behavior, and cross-compare their success routines to your current code of conduct, click here to download it.

The following questions will help you to identify who you need to become;

  1. When you think of the word successful, what person comes to mind?
  2. If you would have to change with somebody, who would you like to change places with? Why?
  3. What qualities do they possess?
  4. What habits do they possess?
  5. What habits do they not possess?
  6. What beliefs do they have about themselves, other people, and the world?
  7. How do they deal with temptations like drugs and alcohol?

Step three: Build The Habit Batch

After you identified where you want to go and who you want to become it’s key to create a habit batch that is going to function as the vehicle that is going to transform you into the person who can actually produce the results that you are currently after.

As said, every habit batch should be unique to the individual, meaning that you find a routine that will move you closer to your desires, there I wouldn’t recommend that you simply copy the entire habit batch of someone else.

A habit batch is a set of 10 goal aligned actions that is going to make you more into who you want to become.

Below you will find behavior rules that helped me to create sticky habit batches;

Rule 1:  Pick 10 Habits For Your Batch

Take a look at your ideal future blueprint and your role model investigation notes and ask yourself; what 10 routines will move me closer towards who I want to be and further away from who I not want to be?

The motto here is – choose habits that you actually want to do and stay away from “should” habits.

Also, make sure to create a batch that integrates your strengths and weaknesses, if you create a morning batch and you never have been a morning person you might want to start with a light batch that is actually doable.

Rule 2: Stack The Habits On Top Of Each Other

Habit batching is a technique where each routine serves as the trigger for the next routine. The formula for this is known as an implementation intention or in short – ‘if-then’ strategies.

The formula is simple;

After I {Existing Habit} I will {Sequence Habit} because {Reason for doing this habit}.

Examples;

  1. After I touch my alarm I will meditate for 10 minutes because it helps me stay happy.
  2. After I meditate I will do 10 push-ups because exercise helps me to kickstart my m0rning routine.
  3. After I exercise I will read for 5 minutes because reading is the best preparation for leading.

Rule 3: Start with Mini Habits (30 seconds – 5 minutes)

When I teach my clients this method I usually tell them that they should start with mini habits but later, it’s entirely doable to have a habit batch that consists of batches that are longer.

If it’s your ultimate goal to make exercise a part of your habit batch you might want to consider starting with doing five minutes only instead of thirty. Again, the best habit batch is the one that you actually stick to!

Be realistic, be curious, and find out what works for you and what’s not.

Rule 4: The habit batch should be under 60 minutes (In the beginning, later it can be 120 minutes long)

Most people actually have very little time for themselves, my habit batches tend to be longer because I have absolute autonomy over my schedule so it’s doable for me to have a morning routine that is 2+ hours long.

You should have a morning routine that is at least 30 minutes because you will need a certain amount of time to do actions that will forge you into the person you want to be.

Rule 5: Use Your Habit Cheat Sheet

Habit formation is a memory process, all you want to do is to make a certain set of behaviors automatic, meaning that you do the right thing at the right ti,e.

Your habit cheat sheet is a simple paper or a note on your phone that you have with yourself that helps you to memorize your newly designed morning routine.

Most people fail to create new routines because they forget to set a trigger that is reminding them to act out certain habits, when you cheat and you write down your ENTIRE action sequence on paper it’s pretty hard to forget what you need to do.

There are many habit formation methods that teach you how to memorize habits by yourself, but I feel that writing your perfect habit batches down helps you to form new routines in a short amount of time.

Rule 6: Use a habit tracking system

What’s get measured gets accomplished, when you use a habit tracking system you actually have the opportunity to measure your progress. I myself created a habit journal for exactly that purpose and it helped me to raise my self-awareness and get crystal clear about what habits worked for me and which didn’t.

Other possible habit tracking systems could be;

  • Evernote
  • Wunderlist
  • Apple to-do list
  • plain journal

 

Where to go from here

Habit batching is a simple technique that is built on the assumption that habits are the building blocks of your character and that if you change your character your life changes dramatically.

Planning what you want and building a person who can produce those life results will allow you to be in control of your destiny again, something that very few people can say about themselves.

The goal of habit batching is not simply to help you to identify your perfect morning but rather to motivate you to see each and every day as a chance to make your next 24 hours an expression of the best of you so that ultimately your life will your own unique masterpiece.

Do You Want To Change Your Habits? 

Psychology exercises for you

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