What is habit stacking and how can you build better and stronger habits with habit stacking?
I was recently introduced to habit stacking from reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. So far, I am still new to the idea and process of habit stacking, it’s worked pretty well to incorporate new habits.
When you first think of incorporating new habits into your life, you probably become anxious from the idea of having one more thing to try and keep track of – at least that’s what I tend to think.
But that’s the benefit of habit stacking. Habit stacking isn’t going to require any more energy than those of your current habits.
What Is Habit Stacking?
So what exactly is habit stacking? According to Clear, habit stacking is “a special form of an implementation intention. Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.”
For example, instead of trying to start a new habit from scratch, you would try to find a similar preexisting habit to implement the new habit with.
An easier way to describe this is to use the equation that Clear gives:
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
If you want to start reading more books, maybe you say to yourself:
- After I get my morning coffee, I will read 10 pages.
- Before I make dinner, I will read an additional 10 pages.
- Before/After I take a shower at night, I will read 10 pages.
Really, the possibilities are endless, but when you stack a new habit on to an already existing habit, studies show that you will have a 50% greater chance of actually sticking with that new habit. Why? Because it’s easier to add on to something you are already doing instead of trying to do something from scratch.
How I Have Started Habit Stacking
I’m not going to lie, since the beginning of the pandemic, I have not lifted a single weight. That’s nearly three and a half months of not lifting. For a health and fitness fanatic like myself, that’s a long time.
I have still been running and walking on a daily basis, but without lifting weights, part of me feels incredibly weak. I tried doing pull-ups the other day, and I had trouble getting to 5 when I used to be able to do 12 with relative ease.
So, to help me feel a little bit stronger, I have been habit stacking with push-ups. Each time I get up from my desk, I will do either 10-20 push-ups before doing what I was getting up to do. I have it written down on my desk to do push-ups when I get up so that I won’t forget.
Now, 10-20 push-ups might not seem like a lot – and it’s really not. But over the course of the day, it’s adding up from anywhere of 100-150 push-ups. After just a week of doing this, not only have I started to gain some of my strength back, but it’s becoming easier to remember to do the push-ups.
How Do You Start Habit Stacking?
It’s quite easy to do. Take a new habit that you want to implement into your life and stack it on a habit that already exists.
Let say, for example, that you want to start running in the morning. One thing you could do is lay your clothes and shoes out the night before, set them right next to your bed, and tell yourself that before you have your morning cup of coffee, you will go on a run.
Maybe your goal is to eat healthier. Maybe you make it a habit of eating a salad before dinner so that you aren’t as hungry when you eat your normal meal. This will hopefully stop you from eating so much while also putting good nutrients into your body.
In case I am not explaining it well, use the examples that Clear provides:
Your morning routine habit stack might look like this:
- Before I pour my morning cup of coffee, I will meditate for sixty seconds.
- After I meditate for sixty seconds, I will write my to-do list for the day.
- After I write my to-do list for the day, I will immediately begin my first task.
Clear also suggest implementing new habits into the middle of a series of existing habits. For example, maybe you start by waking up and making your bed before jumping into the shower. If your goal is to make your bed moree and you leave it until after your shower or have it as a stand-alone task later on in the day, the odds of you actually making your bed decrease significantly.
How Much Should You Stack?
There really isn’t a right or wrong habit to add to already existing habits, or too many or few habits to add. The objective of habit stacking is to make adding a new habit as easy and convenient for you as possible. Once it starts becoming an inconvenience for you, that’s when you are going to want to reduce the number of habits you are stacking together.
If it’s easy for you to add two or three new habits onto one or two existing habits, then do so. Just make sure that you are adding habits that are going to benefit you. Personally, I recommend starting with one and seeing how that goes. As you progress and feel more comfortable with the new habit, then start adding more.
Before You Go
On a real note, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results has changed my life on so many different levels and I am still not done with it. In just the few weeks that I have been reading it, I have found myself using habit stacking and other lessons I have learned from this book to replace new and improved habits with old and negative habits.
If you are trying to implement new habits into your life, give habit stacking a try. Add a new habit onto an already existing habit and see just how much easier habit stacking truly is.