How Habit-Stacking Can Transform Your Life
Exercise, meditation, meal-prepping, journaling, and reading. What do all of these things have in common? They’re little habits that I’ve adopted to help me be more productive, energetic, and motivated.
My mornings include time for reflection, healthy eating, and mindfulness, but it wasn’t always like this.
It all started when I decided to exercise first thing in the morning. This meant I had to become a morning person.
After a couple of weeks, exercising in the morning became a habit that set the groundwork for other habits: I started making better choices about my food, I began meal-prepping, began drinking more water.
I stacked one habit after another.
WHAT IS HABIT-STACKING?Habit-stacking means building one habit, and stacking another habit on top. The new habit can be tangentially related, or it can be a whole new habit that you want to develop. The idea is that you start small and stack one habit after another.
ALTERING YOUR ROUTINE:
Prioritizing your morning routine helps set the tone for the rest of the day: It allows you to get into the right mindset, build momentum toward a better day, and improves your overall quality of life. Research shows that morning people are more proactive with their lives.
According to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, people who tend to wake up early around the same time on weekdays and weekends have a greater “ability to take action to change a situation to one’s advantage.”
HOW HABIT-STACKING WORKS
1. Identify a habit you want to develop and be specific about your action:When it comes to developing a habit, avoid being vague about what you’re hoping to accomplish. For example, instead of saying, “I want to read a book every month,” write down your habit in a more concrete way, “I want to read for 20 minutes a day.” Or “I want to read for an hour on Sunday morning.”
You may have a goal in mind, but making it a habit can help you reach, or even surpass your goal, and enable you to keep that habit over a longer period of time.
2. Find the optimal time to complete the habit:
Set yourself up for success and find a reasonable time in your day to incorporate your habit. For example, I enjoy waking up early to exercise, but I also know that a 5 a.m. bootcamp session is too much for me.
I don’t feel as energetic and awake to push my body through an hour session at that time, it also means I have to wake up around 4:30 a.m. to make that happen. Instead, I stick to a 6 a.m. session because I’m more likely to be awake during that time, more inclined to maximize my exercise and complete it.
3. Develop and track your habit progress:Developing a new habit takes time. Here are a few things you can do to stay accountable, motivated, and positive while trying to establish a new habit.
Apps: Try using some habit-development and tracking apps such as Productive, Today, or Done. These apps help you see your progress over time, enable you to establish a streak, and make you feel happy after you complete a habit.
Calendar or journal: Keeping a journal or a calendar and tracking how you feel are great ways to hold yourself accountable and monitor your progress. Consider using the Passion Planner or the Panda Planner which help complement and enable your habit-forming efforts.
Accountability partner: Identify an accountability partner, either in person, by phone or group text. Set up a weekly call or meet with a friend to check in and track your progress or establish a group text with people who can keep you motivated and help you remember why you started.
4. Once a new habit is formed, identify new habit:
In the book, “The Power of Habit,” author Charles Duhigg refers to the concept of a keystone habit. It’s a habit that triggers other good habits.
For example, exercising is a keystone habit that can cause other positive patterns in your life. As Duhigg puts it, “a keystone habit triggers widespread change.”
For instance, Duhigg says families who eat together seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, demonstrate greater emotional control, and exhibit more confidence.
The idea is that one small habit can trickle down into other good habits. Exercising every day could help you feel less stressed, more energetic, and help you eat better.
MY HABIT-STACKING IN EFFECT
My morning habits have a specific purpose or meaning: they make me feel happy, give me a positive outlook in life, and set me up for success. This is just a small snapshot into how I’ve habit-stacked my morning.
One of my favorite things in my morning habits involves journaling or writing because I get to write down my intentions and goals for the day.
Habit Stacking: Stack one good habit after another to transform your routine. Click To Tweet
HABIT-STACKING SUCCESS TIPS
There are a few things you can do to help with your habit development.
Strive for consistency: One bad meal doesn’t make you unhealthy, just like one salad doesn’t make you a healthy person. It’s what you do over time that matters. If you don’t do your habit one day, don’t be so hard on yourself and remember that consistency is what’s most important in the long haul.
Avoid self-sabotage: You’ve been doing great with exercising and making healthy food options. Don’t sabotage your efforts by eating five slices of pizza, a bag of chips, and a package of cookies. Incremental steps is the key to success when forming a habit. Start small so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
Start now: You want to start exercising? Begin building your habit as soon as you say you want to do it. Go get the running shoes, exercise clothes, and calendar or apps to keep you accountable and track your progress.
WAYS TO HABIT-STACK YOUR MORNING:
Your morning already consists of habits such as making your bed or reading the news. Here are some small ways to habit stack your morning.
Sleep: Go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up at the same time every day without hitting the snooze button.
Fitness: Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Nutrition: Eat a nutritious breakfast.
Goals: Write down three tasks that you hope to accomplish each day.
These habits can help ensure you’re well-rested, energized, less stressed, and ready to tackle each day with the right mindset and purpose.
What’s a new habit you’d like to incorporate into your routine?
Nancy Casanova is a social media strategist and also writes a newsletter called Learn New Things where she shares her favorite productivity, personal growth, and content strategy tips for digital professionals.