Habit Stacking: How To Build Habits That Last
Each of us has small routines we perform each day that push us forward, like brushing our teeth in the mornings, eating a balanced breakfast, or even stretching and exercising.
These routines, or habits, can go unnoticed because we don’t even think about them, when we’ve performed them for so long (think about it...when was the last time you really thought about brushing your teeth?) 🏋️♀️💪
However, that doesn’t diminish their importance in our daily lives. And in a twist, recognizing these unnoticed, daily habits could be the first step toward successfully building new ones.
When you identify a habit that’s consistent, meaning you’ve built it up for a while and you successfully perform it daily, that habit can turn into a building block for new habits you want to create.
This building block method of creating a more efficient daily routine is called habit stacking, and it could be just the trick to unlocking new levels of success that you’ve been pursuing 🧐
Habit stacking is like Lego-building: take small, simple habits as your base and stack on them to build toward a bigger, better goal.
Personal development guru James Clear created the concept as a concrete way to become just 1% better each day.
Small steps, not large ones, are key to maintaining focus and not tiring yourself out when you’re building toward a goal 🙌
It may seem like a simple concept, but it takes dedicated planning to decide to jump on the habit-stacking train. Want to find out how to get started?
Read on below to get your plan together.
Habit Stacking Basics 💯
Like matching a fine wine with the perfect food pairing, habit stacking is an art that takes time to perfect🍷🧀
It’s essentially combining one habit with another to create a “double habit” that’s simple enough to accomplish every day.
To build really stable habits, you have to find common links between the habit you’re building on and the habit you seek to build.
Brushing your teeth every morning is a great place to start, but if your desired habit is to start cooking your meals at home rather than eat out every night, you might run into trouble stacking teeth-brushing with cooking.
Take small steps and make a plan! 💁🏻♀️
Like any art form, habit stacking takes practice to master. Be sure to forgive yourself if you forget to add your new habit one day while you’re still learning it.
Science says it usually takes three weeks or more to begin building a solid habit. However, also like any art form, it’s an attainable goal to master habit stacking.
Once you do master habit stacking, you’ll add habits to your routine that you’re able to tackle even when you don’t have the motivation to do so.
Working out is a big daily goal for many people, but finding the drive to roll out of bed first thing in the morning and start working out is a tough challenge.
By mastering habit stacking, even habits you don’t want to build will become easy to tack on. 😎
Hacking Your Habits With 6 Easy Steps 👇🏽
In case you skimmed, catch this: make a plan when you’re attempting to build a new habit. Starting a workout without a plan will leave you procrastinating while you try to figure out what to do next.
Beginning your workday without a to-do list can leave you feeling unprepared and unproductive. Set yourself up for success and make a plan.
Follow these 6 simple steps to start your habit-stacking journey and get on your way to mastering new skills.
Step 1—Note The Habits You Already Practice 👀
Habit stacking requires a base to start stacking on, so begin your habit stacking journey by listing out all the habits you already have in place.
There are many to choose from—there’s brushing your teeth, or working out (good for you if you do that every day!). 🌞
Nothing should be overlooked while you’re making this list. Include your morning cup of coffee (or two, if you’re like me), note if you check your email or fetch the newspaper if you have a dog that you take for a walk, et cetera.
It’s also important to note which habits are everyday habits and which ones are casual habits that you don’t perform every day.
Casual habits can help you build new habits, too, but if you’re a habit-stacking beginner, it’s best to start with the consistent ones.
For example, building a habit of your routine of going to the grocery store twice a week will be more difficult to stick with than building a habit of your daily cup of joe!
Step 2—Get Creative: What New Habits Are Important? 🧐
This is your “brainstorming session” where you decide on the new habits you want to build. List out all the goals you have and the habits that might help you get there.
Maybe you want to stop online shopping, so checking your credit card statement every morning would be a good habit to develop to keep your spending habits in check.
If you check your email every morning, making a mental note to check your finances right after can get you on the right path.
Getting creative here is the fun part. Because habit stacking makes building new habits much less daunting, try thinking of goals or habits that you previously saw as out-of-reach.
You can even identify habits that you’ve struggled with building in the past and plan out new ways to reach your goals.
If you’ve wanted to apply for graduate school but the applications overwhelmed you, start again by breaking your goal down.
When you sip your daily morning coffee, read news about graduate schools for fifteen minutes, or read tips from people who’ve attended the school that you’re looking at.
Make your goals simple, and make your habits work for you.
Step 3—Compare Lists and Pair Up Habits 📝
Again, there’s no use in trying to build a habit by pairing it with another habit that’s contradictory.
Wanting to run a marathon is a great goal, and starting out running a little every day is a great habit to form in pursuit of that goal.
However, pairing that habit with your morning coffee might not be the best for your health. Choose habits that make sense together—just like building blocks, they have to fit together to stack securely.
For example, say you’re looking into investing in the stock market but you have no clue where to begin. Each day while your coffee brews, browse market news and read studies on stocks and investors.
Even if you only read for fifteen minutes per day, that’s almost two hours every week, and between seven and nine hours per month, all while your coffee is brewing.
It may not seem like a lot, but if you can read two articles in fifteen minutes, just think about how much information you’ll take in that you never would have seen otherwise.
Step 4—Lock In Your New Habit 🙌🏽
So you’ve listed your daily habits, laid out your goals and desired new habits, and paired them together based on their best fit. Now, get to work! A goal should be to make stacking these habits as easy as possible.
Consistency is the key to habit building, so as long as you’ve chosen a rock-solid habit as your building block, you can confidently start building a new one.
Step 5—Start a Habit Chain ⛓
Now, you can begin to really have fun with your habit-stacking progress. Once you’ve mastered two or three individual new habits, try stacking multiple habits into a habit chain.
Let’s say you wanted to get smart about your money goals, so you started checking your credit card statement every morning after brushing your teeth.
One month in and you’re successfully performing this new habit each day, so now build on that!
After checking your finances, now a daily habit, plan to make one new savings goal for yourself. Start building this new habit, and eventually, you’ll create a habit chain that can establish itself as an entirely new daily routine.
Studies show that routines are effective in improving positivity and reducing depression and hopelessness. Your new routines will do the work for you to make sure you’re doing the best you can to achieve your goals.
Step 6—Go Easy On Yourself! 🥰
Habit stacking can make the art of forming a habit much easier than going at it alone, but locking in new daily habits is still a challenge. If you forget to add your stacked habit one morning, don’t beat yourself up.
Focus on your wins and successes while learning from your slip-ups. Why did you miss that habit in the morning? Did you forget, or were you just being lazy?
Once you answer that question, make another plan to help you not miss out on the habit tomorrow.
Stay positive and remind yourself that you’re doing good work for your body and mind in building a new routine.
Without positivity, it’ll be more difficult to remember why you’re building a habit in the first place—to better yourself!
This article was written by Mike Floeck. Mike is a writer for Mint specializing in career planning, budgeting and personal development.