Habit Stacking: How to Build Good Habits and Create Momentum in Life
May 27, 2023
Every one of us has habits and routines. Small things that we do every day, week, or month on autopilot. Some of these things have a positive impact (your success habits), and others… not so much (your failure habits).
If you’re like most people, when you think about your life, I’ll bet there are a few habits you’d like to change. Maybe you want to exercise more, eat healthier, get organized, or save money.
You’ve probably tried to do these things in the past, but they never seem to stick. You work on that new routine for a few weeks or even months, but then “life happens,” and you fall off track. Back into your old patterns.
Well, that’s no surprise because your habits have formed over years (your whole life in many cases). The first time you acted in the past, let’s say – going straight to the refrigerator for a cold beer when you arrive home from a hard day in the office – a pathway was formed in your brain connecting those two things.
Every time you performed that action since then, that neural pathway got a little stronger. Eventually, it becomes so strong that you do it automatically – with no conscious thought – and it’s almost impossible to break.
How long does it take to change a habit? There is a longing in our hearts for an easy answer and a simple action plan to this question. However, the truth is there is no simple answer, and changing a habit takes hard work.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – there’s good news, too. You have the power to change anything in your life. And that includes creating any new, healthy habits that you want. Moreover, there’s even a powerful way to build new habits by taking advantage of old ones.
One of the most effective ways to do that is by using a technique called habit stacking. It’s an awesome way to trick your little dog brain into doing the things that you want to do by leveraging the things that you’re already doing on autopilot.
So, now you may be asking yourself:
How Does Habit Stacking Work?
The basic idea behind habit stacking is simple: instead of trying to form a new habit from scratch, you stack your new habit on top of an existing habit that you already do on autopilot.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, the basic habit stacking formula is:
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW One HABIT]
For example, let's say you want to start drinking more water. A habit stack for this could be: "After I brush my teeth in the morning, I will drink one liter water." By connecting your new habit to existing small habits, you increase the chances that you'll actually stick with it. And as you start to form new habits, you create momentum that can help you make even more positive changes in your life. In simple words, linking habits can do wonders for you.
Because it doesn’t stop with two habits. After all, two isn’t much of a stack, is it? Let’s say you’re even more ambitious, and as well as drinking more water, you also want to start meditating, some new morning routine, become more efficient, and finally start writing that novel. Your new morning routine checklist super-stack along with current habits might look like this:
→"After I brush teeth in the morning, I will drink a liter of water."
→ "After I drink a glass of water now, I will meditate for 10 minutes."
→ "After I meditate for 10 minutes, I will plan out my daily schedule."
→ "After I plan out my daily schedule, I will work on my novel for an hour."
There are endless possibilities for how you can use habit stacking. You can use it to form health-related habits like exercising or eating more vegetables. You can use it to develop better work habits or break some old habit, like taking regular breaks, developing your skills, or working on your side hustle for an hour each day. You can even use it to improve your relationships by making time for regular check-ins with loved ones or sending a handwritten note each week.
No matter your goals, habit stacking is a powerful tool to help you accomplish your goals.
How To Create a Habit Stack for Your Personal or Professional Life?
OK, so let’s dig a little deeper into how you would create a habit stack.
The key to successful habit stacking is to start with a small, manageable positive change that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Once you've made that change, you can add on additional changes, gradually building up to your desired goal.
For example, let's say you want to start a morning routine that includes exercising first thing. When you’re getting ready for bed at night, you could begin by putting your workout clothes next to your bed, so they're the first thing you see when you wake up. That would be your trigger.
Then, your habit would be to put on those clothes and go for a short walk or run. As you build up momentum, you could add other habits to your stack, such as going to the gym or lifting weights. The important thing is to start small and focus on one change at a time. By doing so, you'll be more likely to stick with it and achieve your long-term goals with this effective strategy.
I recommend reading How To Use a Habit Tracker To Level Up Your Life
So, as you saw in that last example, a trigger is really the first step in creating a habit stack. The trigger can be anything that cues you to start the stack, such as an alarm, a certain time of day, or a specific location. Once you've identified your trigger, the next step is to choose the habits that you want to include in your stack. When selecting habits or habit stacking ideas, it's important to choose ones that are realistic and achievable.
For example, if your trigger is an alarm in the morning just like any other average adult, your stack might include habits such as making your bed, taking a shower, and eating a healthy breakfast.
Once you've decided on your habits, the final step is to establish a routine. The most effective way to do this is to perform your stack simultaneously each day until it becomes second nature.
By following these simple steps, you can easily create a habit stack to help you achieve your personal or professional goals.
How Can Habit Stacking be Used to Achieve Success in the 5 Areas of Life?
I want to quote James Clear again here; "Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your life. But as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity." In other words, our daily habits shape our lives more than we realize.
There are 5 core areas of life that contribute to mental health and your overall happiness; Mindset, Career & Finance, Relationships, Physical Health, and Emotional Health. To achieve balance in each of these areas, it's important to stack your habits in favor of success.
There are endless ways to use habit stacking to achieve goals in different areas of life. Some things will be the same for many people, but others will be very specific to you. You need to identify the areas that are most important for you. In fact, here’s a quiz you can take to evaluate your own 5 cores.
That being said, here are a few examples of habit stacking in the 5 areas of life:
“After I get up in the morning, I will repeat my affirmations 10 times in the mirror”
“Before I turn on the TV, I will pick up a self-help book and read for 30 minutes”
“When I feel restless & unproductive, I will take a walk in the woods.”
Career & Finance
“After I receive my salary, I will automatically save 10%.”
“Before I make a purchase, I will ask myself if I really need it.”
“After I arrive at work, I will lock my phone in my desk drawer.”
“Before I go to sleep at night, I will kiss my partner.”
“After I greet my friends, I will give them a compliment.”
“After I pick up my phone, I will send a message to someone I care about.”
“When I brush teeth, I will floss directly afterwards.”
“When I walk the dog in the evening, I will add an extra 2 miles.”
“Before I eat lunch, I will do 50 pushups.”
“When I wake up in the morning, I will write down 5 things I’m grateful for.”
“When I feel angry with my co-worker, I will breathe and count to 5 before I respond.”
“Before I eat breakfast, I will meditate for 10 minutes.”
So hopefully, you can see how habit stacking can be used to develop success habits in all areas of your life. Not only does habit stacking works up habits in this way make it more likely that you'll stick to your new habit, but it also means that you're slowly building up a repertoire of good habits that will set you up for success over the long term.
Of course, the concept of habit stacking can also be used to keep existing habits or break bad habits. For example, if you want to quit smoking, you could stack a new habit, like increasing physical fitness, instead of giving up cigarettes. Every time you have the urge to smoke, do 20 pushups or situps instead. Over time, the good habit will replace the bad one – you'll be able to kick nicotine out of your life for good and have that six-pack to boot. Habit stacking can help you to manage your personal life achieve your goals.
Whatever habits you want to bring into your life, the key is to find a trigger that you already have built into your day-to-day routine and build your new behavior from there.
3 Tips For Sticking To Your Habit Stack And Creating Lasting Change
If you're trying to stick to a new habit, you must be realistic and patient with yourself. Change doesn't happen overnight, and there will inevitably be setbacks along the way. However, by following these tips, you can increase your chances of success.
Habit Stacking Ideas:
1. Start small:
Trying to overhaul your entire life at once is bound to be overwhelming and discouraging. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time. For example, if you're trying to eat healthier or getting back on track with diet, start by adding one new fruit or vegetable to your diet each day.
2. Make it easy:
The easier it is for you to stick to your habit, the more likely you are to succeed. If you're trying to exercise more, for instance, choose an activity that you enjoy and that fits easily into your schedule. Likewise, if you're trying to eat better, stocking your fridge with healthy snacks will make it more likely that you'll reach for those instead of unhealthy junk food.
3. Be consistent:
The key to lasting change is consistency. Rather than going all-out for a few days and then giving up altogether, stick to your habit most days of the week. Over time, this will become second nature.
So, to sum it all up, habit stacking is a powerful way and with some mental effort it can be used to create momentum in your personal and professional life. When you establish a series of strong habits that work together to support your goals, you can achieve more with less effort. The best part is that habit stacking works, it is easy to do, and it’s versatile enough to be used in any area of your life.
Building good habits and creating momentum in life and business through habit stacking is a GREAT strategy. Our habits, whether positive or negative, have a significant impact on our lives, shaping who we become.
Habit stacking offers an effective approach to integrate new habits into our daily routines by piggybacking on existing ones. By linking new behaviors to familiar triggers, we increase the likelihood of success and create positive momentum in habit formation. It will take time and effort, but the power to change lies within us.
We can use different habit stacking ideas to improve our mindset, career, relationships, physical and emotional health. Starting small, making it easy, and being consistent are key to lasting change. With habit stacking, we can achieve more with less effort and live a fulfilling and successful life.