5 ideas for Habit Stacking

How are we almost half way through February already??  Last month I jumped on the predictable theme of New Year Resolutions and gave you a few ways to get started with the hope that being accountable, keeping it simple and looking back on past achievements might give you a head start on making and maintaining some new habits or creating some realistic goals for 2024. 

So as the New Year is now long gone, and the resolutions we set in January might already feel like distant dreams, I would like to share with you another way  to create some lasting change in your lives.

I noticed in January that the buzz phrase for creating lasting changes was Habit Stacking.  I came across this a few years ago and I often talk to my clients about how they can introduce this into their lives to make changes and so I thought I would look into it in a little more detail this month.

What is habit stacking?

Habit stacking is basically the art of anchoring new habits onto existing routines. By piggybacking something new onto something we already do regularly, we can seamlessly integrate small, incremental changes into our daily lives. It’s all about leveraging the power of consistency and making tiny adjustments that can accumulate into much more significant transformations over time.

The Power of Small Wins

One of the reasons New Year’s resolutions often fail is we just give ourselves too much to do. We set ambitious goals without considering the steps needed to reach them. Habit stacking flips this by breaking down big goals into more manageable chunks. Instead of aiming for a complete overhaul, all we have to do is focus on mastering one small change at a time.

How to Implement Habit Stacking

Identify Existing Routines:
Take look at your daily habits and notice routines you can easily build upon. Whether it’s during your morning ‘getting ready’ time, your commute to work, or your bedtime routine, there are lots of opportunities to bring in new habits.

Choose Your Keystone Habit:
Select a small, foundational behaviour that aligns with your broader goals. This could be anything from drinking a glass of water upon waking to doing a short stretch before bed.

Pair New Habits with Old Ones:
Attach your chosen habit to an existing behaviour. For instance, if you’re aiming to read more, link it to your morning coffee ritual, or bedtime wind-down – take that time to get your book out. To make it easier always have the book next to your coffee cups or on your bedside table. 

Start Small and Build Momentum:
Focus on consistency rather than perfection. Begin with tiny increments— just a page of reading is enough—and gradually increase as the habit becomes more ingrained.  This is really important to remember and the cornerstone to this method.  Just reading a paragraph or one page to begin with is enough, and gradually over time build it up.  The whole point is just to start!

Why Habit Stacking Works

Harnesses the Power of Routine:
By piggybacking off existing habits, we tap into the autopilot mode of our brains, making behaviour change feel effortless.

Creates Momentum:
Small wins breed confidence and momentum, propelling us forward on our journey towards a larger goal.Promotes Consistency:
Consistency is the cornerstone of habit formation. Habit stacking instills a sense of regularity, making it easier to stick with new behaviours as you move forward.

5 Ideas of what to do

Drinking More Water:

Existing Routine: Waking up and heading to the bathroom.

New Habit: Drink a glass of water immediately after waking up.

How to Stack: Place a filled water bottle on your bedside table or in the bathroom to drink as soon as you wake up.

Mindful Breathing:

Existing Routine: Sitting down to work at your desk and switching computer on.
New Habit: Practice mindful breathing for one minute before starting your work.

How to Stack: Keep a small note or reminder on your desk to prompt you to take a moment for mindful breathing before diving into tasks.

Daily Gratitude Practice:

Existing Routine: Making your morning coffee or tea.

New Habit: Write down one thing you’re grateful for while waiting for the kettle to boil.

How to Stack: Keep a gratitude journal or notepad near your kettle to jot down your thoughts each morning.

Evening Stretching Routine:

Existing Routine: Getting ready for bed.

New Habit: Spend five minutes stretching before brushing your teeth.

How to Stack: Lay out a yoga mat or designate a comfortable spot in your bedroom where you can easily do a few stretches before bedtime.

Reading Habit Before Bed:

Existing Routine: Climbing into bed.

New Habit: Read one chapter of a book before turning off the lights.

How to Stack: Keep a book on your bedside table so it’s readily available when you settle in for the night, making it easy to incorporate reading into your bedtime routine.

It’s never too late!

 So as we work our way through February, and there is a glimmer of spring on its way, maybe we should just view January as a bit of a trial month and February as time to hit the reset button. 

Think about one thing you would like to start or do more of which would improve your mental, emotional or physical well being and see how you can break it down using the simplicity of habit stacking.  And remember it doesn’t really matter when you start, it doesn’t have to be a New Year Resolution, but just a conscious decision to make a change or do something differently – one stack at a time. 

If you want to find out more about Habit Stacking I strongly recommend reading the following books “Atomic Habits” by James Clear or  “Tiny Habits” by B J Fogg.  

Habit Stacking

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