Creating new habits sounds like an arduous task – it can send your mind into a real tizzy. But what if there was a simpler way to rev up your routine and build healthier habits? Habit stacking is all you need!
It is a technique that relies on doing a singular task regularly, which can then serve as a catalyst to integrate other routine practices in your life. The term was first introduced by self-help author SJ Scott in his book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. Another huge proponent of this practice is author and habit coach James Clear, who is well-known for his book Atomic Habits.
But how does it really work? What are some of the steps you need to follow? This article will break it down for you.
The right approach
As the name suggests, you essentially 'stack' a new habit onto an existing one, so that the neuronal connections in our brains do the magic. For instance, if you plan on having a glass of water every morning after waking up, it's not going to be easy. But what if you decide to consume water, right after brushing your teeth? That's possible, we say.
That's because we brush our teeth every single day – it’s an action that you will engage in, without fail. When you decide to build a new habit, you are attempting to trick your brain to adopt it by relying on an ‘anchor’ – the old habit. This type of implementation intention (a plan of how you will carry out a task) can help turn goals into automated actions. Over time, this chain can grow and turn into a full-fledged routine.
This technique also makes building habits less overwhelming and more sustainable. The next time you decide to build a healthy routine, you know what to do!
Here's how you can adopt habit stacking
Here are a few handy tips that can help simplify your journey:
# Take baby steps
Often, our ambition overpowers consistency. What's more important is to do something regularly than to engage in it, just once a month. For instance, if you plan to exercise, there's no point in working out for two hours a day, if you are going to take it up again after a month. Instead, even 10 minutes of activity every day can help you in the long run.
# Assess all your options
Habit stacking is possible, but only if you have a sense of how it can work for you. Prepare two lists – one that mentions a list of activities that you do every day/want to add to your routine; the other can be things that happen daily (sunrise, phone calls, emails, etc). Club the two and you have created a recipe for success!
# Be as specific as possible
You may feel a little lost initially and that could translate into the habits you pen down. But that's exactly what we want to avoid – so be as specific as possible. For example, if you want to have green tea post lunch, chart out a specific schedule. Will you have it right after the meal, or would you get done with a client call post lunch and then sip on it? It's as easy as that, but so much more targeted!
# Set a realistic timeline
You don't have to rush into things, but as humans, we are always wired to work better if there's a deadline. It could be anything you are comfortable with – a week, month, or three months – but follow it through. It also helps you to reflect on your progress and make amends, if needed.
The last word
All in all, habit stacking is a great way to develop new habits and stick to them. Oftentimes, we give up on our routines far too quickly – fortunately, this technique will be our saviour!