Habit Stacking

For today’s blog I wanted to cover habit stacking and the power that stacking your habits can bring to your life.

So, the first thing I hear you ask is, ‘Pete, what on earth is habit stacking?’.

All of us have habits. Things that we probably do sub-consciously because they have almost become ingrained into our very being; brushing your teeth in the morning, having a cup of tea or coffee as soon as you possibly can after waking.

We also all have bad habits. I’ll be the first to admit that in the past I’ve had some very bad habits; I used to drink, I used to smoke, I used to gamble, I used to eat a lot of junk food. But over the years I’ve managed to change these bad habits and replace them with good habits. So now, where I used to gamble, I meditate; where I used to drink, I now write in my journal every day; and where I used to eat junk food, I exercise daily. I also give myself a positive talk every single day. All of these things are positive habits and these are the things that habit stacking builds on. And really that is habit stacking in a nutshell; you stack new habits onto those habits you are already doing.

The key to habit stacking is to make the new habit achievable and make sure you schedule it in for the right time of the day. So, an example; you want to meditate. You need to schedule this in at a time when this is possible for you. So if you know that you’re at your busiest at 3pm in the afternoon, don’t even think about trying to meditate. But hang on, you’ve got a spare ten minutes in the morning, before the day ramps up, how about putting it in there? So then you have to think, ‘what habit do I have in the morning on to which I can stack meditating?’. Let’s choose brushing teeth because this is something that I have to do first thing.

Your habit stacking becomes, “I will brush my teeth, then I will meditate for five minutes”. You know you’re going to brush your teeth every morning, so by stacking a positive habit, the meditation, on top, you’re more likely to keep doing it. Your habit of brushing your teeth in the morning now becomes, ‘brush teeth and then meditate’. Once your post teeth brushing meditation becomes more automatic for you, you can begin to increase your meditation time

The beauty of habit stacking is that you’re not relying on willpower to achieve your new aims. You’re piggy-backing those wonderful new habits you wish to achieve onto those habits that are already deeply ingrained into your life.

So the best way to approach habit stacking is to take a look at what you want to achieve and set out when would be the best time to achieve them. Remember to think small in the beginning; big habits = small habits + time. Write down the habits you want to achieve and then write down the habit you’re going to attach to.

Here are some examples of habit stacks I currently have in my life:

After I wake up, I will immediately drink a pint of water.

After I brush my teeth, I will meditate for 15 minutes.

After I meditate for 15 minutes, I will check my email for 10 minutes.

After checking my emails for 10 minutes I will eat my healthy breakfast.

After I have eaten my healthy breakfast I will take a shower.

All of these things have now become natural for me. So if I wanted to increase my meditation to 20 minutes, it’s a lot easier to do that because I’m not starting a new habit, I’m just increasing the time spent on an existing habit. And just like I don’t feel right if I haven’t brushed my teeth in the morning, I feel out of sorts if I haven’t meditated for 15 minutes.

I’ve chosen morning habit stacks to show you how I do things but I also have habits stacked throughout the day. It’s down to you to think about what suits you the best.

So if you want to start habit stacking, give it a go. Write down your daily habits on a piece of paper and look for places where you can add one small, new habit.

Say you want to eat healthier snacks throughout the day. You’ve highlighted a habit that you take a bathroom break at 10.15 am. Once you come back from the bathroom, your habit stack is to eat an apple or banana.

And that’s it, that’s your stack. Once you get the hang of it you can build on your current stack or create new ones.

Remember, start small and build. Most people can’t make huge, sweeping changes at once and then sustain them because that takes a huge amount of willpower which humans just aren’t designed to maintain.

This is quite a simple concept but it is very, very effective. I’ve been habit stacking for probably five years and it has had a profound impact on my life.

If you’ve got any questions about habit stacking, please don’t be shy, drop me an email or reach out to me on social channels and let me know what you’re struggling with, or what you’re finding is really working because it’s useful to share.

If you would like to talk to Pete about some accountability, coaching or Laughter, please email him or call 0333 567 1587