Everybody wants to become a better version of themself. Whether you want to improve your physical health, mental health, routines, or even your skills, the best way to do so is by forming healthy habits that will bring you closer to the outcome you want.
However, forming habits isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Many people struggle with nurturing healthy habits because they set huge goals that require determination and discipline. This leaves many people feeling overwhelmed and defeated before they’ve even begun, contributing to feelings of inadequacy and demotivation.
If you want to avoid this, try a different route: the habit-stacking technique. This concept, while not new, has recently re-emerged on social media as influencers share the idea with their followers. So what is habit stacking, and how can it help?
What is Habit Stacking?
The phrase “habit stacking” comes from S.J. Scott’s 2014 book, Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. “Habit stacking” is the act of creating a routine around habits that don’t require significant effort, which encourages you to associate small activities with existing habits in your daily routine. As these small actions stack up, they can have big results and help you achieve your overarching goals.
The idea behind habit stacking is that you use the things you usually do in a day as your trigger or anchor to perform your new habit. For instance, if you want to develop the habit of reading every day and you already drink coffee before going to work, you can start by reading ten pages while you have your morning joe.
Habit stacking helps you build momentum and encourages you to keep doing that action until it becomes ingrained into your daily routine. If we continue with the example above, you would shortly incorporate reading into your morning regimen without adjusting to your schedule.
Why It’s Effective?
This habit-development technique has created a buzz on social media because of its effectiveness. More and more, people are succeeding at forming new habits through this method. So why is it so effective?
The effectiveness of habit stacking stems from its simplicity. After all, you just have to attach a new habit to an action that you’re already doing every day. As a result, you capitalize on a neural network that already exists in your brain rather than having to build an entirely new structure and cycle.
The triggering action, also known as the anchor, can become an intuitive reminder for you to perform the new habit. For instance, as you maintain the association between reading ten pages of a book with drinking coffee, the process becomes automatic. Eventually, you’ll instinctively pull out your book as you prepare your coffee and paging through it while you drink it.
Since you’ll just be adding small activities to tasks already part of your daily routine, the process will feel less overwhelming and more doable. It won’t feel as if you made significant adjustments to your lifestyle since you’re just attaching one activity to what you’ve always been doing in a day.
How To Start?
Most of the time, people feel scared or discouraged when forming new habits because they’re starting completely from scratch. With habit stacking, you just need to be more mindful of your current routine and see how you can use those as anchors for a new habit. These are the steps to help you start your habit stacking journey:
First, you should understand the elements of a habit stacking routine. Each action should take less than five minutes to complete and be simple. Moreover, it must fit your lifestyle and follow a logical process.
For instance, drinking coffee and reading ten pages of a book are tasks that take less than five minutes and are simple to complete. The new habit they form together can integrate into your lifestyle perfectly because you always drink coffee as you start your day. In addition, it only makes sense to do something productive, such as reading a book, while you enjoy your coffee.
Next, you must do some introspection and identify your daily routines. Often, the tasks you do every day have become so deeply ingrained that you don’t even view them as habits anymore. These are simple things, like making your bed, brushing your teeth, and even shaving. Knowing the habits you currently practice makes it easier for you to find anchors for a new habit you want to develop.
You can now determine the habit you’re looking to foster and find an existing activity in your routine to associate it with. For example, you may want to start each day by creating and organizing your to-do list. If you ride the bus or subway to the office, you can use your commuting time to complete this list. This way, you can start working as soon as you arrive at your desk and finish your most important tasks.
Another example is writing in your journal for 10 minutes as you get into bed. Make sure to have your journal right on your bedside table so that the action of climbing onto your bed and seeing your notebook and pen can remind you to write down your thoughts for the day.
Make sure to set specific goals and cues. For instance, just saying that you’ll take a 10-minute walk outside the office during your lunch break can be vague. You should decide if you’re going to do it before or after eating your lunch. You may also want to have a plan B, such as your alternative activity if the weather’s bad.
Habit stacking maximizes the routine that you already have. Attaching new habits to your daily tasks can help you with consistency. This consistency will help you build momentum and develop new habits to improve yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.