Want to Create a New Habit? Use the Power of Habit Stacking

Want to Create a New Habit? Use the Power of Habit Stacking

I love the quote from Aristotle, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Habits, those small decisions and actions we repeat regularly, ultimately shape our lives. For women juggling multiple roles—whether as professionals, mothers, partners, or all of the above—building positive habits can be a transformative process. But it's often easier said than done. One incredibly effective strategy for cultivating these new routines is "habit stacking." This method not only simplifies the development of new habits but also amplifies your ability to maintain them.

WHAT IS HABIT STACKING?

Habit stacking is a concept popularised by S.J. Scott in his book "Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less." The principle is straightforward: You take a habit you already perform daily and stack a new behaviour on top of it. By linking new habits to a sequence of actions you automatically do, you create a set routine that naturally flows from one activity to the next.

WHY HABIT STACKING WORKS

The brilliance of habit stacking lies in its simplicity and its reliance on existing behaviours. Because the new habit is paired with an established one, it's easier to remember and execute. This method leverages the automatic nature of your existing routine to reduce the mental effort required to adopt new habits. It’s particularly beneficial in our busy lives as women, where time is precious and cognitive loads are often high.

HOW TO IMPLEMENT HABIT STACKING

1. Identify Your Anchors: Start by pinpointing the habits you already do every day without fail. These could be brushing your teeth, having your morning coffee, or checking emails. These activities will serve as your anchors.

2. Choose Compatible Habits: Next, select small habits you want to develop that can logically follow your anchors. For instance, if you want to read more, you might stack reading a page of a book after your morning coffee.

3. Keep It Simple: The key to successful habit stacking is simplicity. The new habit should be small enough to not require significant effort or time beyond what you’re already used to. If the stack becomes too cumbersome, it’s less likely to stick.

4. Create a Flow: Link your habits in a sequence that makes sense and flows smoothly from one activity to the next. Write them down in the order you will perform them. This not only acts as a reminder but also helps solidify the sequence in your mind.

5. Implement and Adjust: Start your new routine and be patient with yourself as you adjust. It might take some tweaking before you find the perfect flow. Consistency is key, so even if you miss a day, get back on track the next.

EXAMPLE OF HABIT STACKING IN ACTION

Here’s how you could stack some new habits onto your existing routine:

  • Anchor Habit: Morning Coffee:
  • New Habit: After drinking your coffee, spend 5 minutes stretching. This simple action not only loosens your body but also gives you a quick mental and physical boost to start your day energetically.

  • Anchor Habit: Brushing Teeth:
  • New Habit: After brushing your teeth, practice 2 minutes of deep breathing or meditation. This short mindfulness practice can help you clear your mind, reduce stress, and prepare you for the day ahead or help you wind down at night.

  • Anchor Habit: After Turning Off Your Morning Alarm:
  • New Habit: Immediately make your bed. This simple action not only keeps your bedroom tidy but also gives you a quick sense of accomplishment to start your day.

  • Anchor Habit: After Sitting Down at Your Desk at Work:
  • New Habit: Write a to-do list for the day. This can help you organise your thoughts and priorities, ensuring a more productive and focused workday.

  • Anchor Habit: After Checking Your Email Inbox at Work:
  • New Habit: Write a quick note of gratitude or a positive affirmation. This can help shift your mindset positively and increase your resilience against stress throughout the day.

  • Anchor Habit: After Dinner:
  • New Habit: Take a 10-minute walk. Walking after eating can improve your digestion and provide a moment of relaxation, helping you transition from the hustle of the day into a calmer evening.

  • Anchor Habit: After Putting Your Kids to Bed:
  • New Habit: Spend 10 minutes reading a book or journaling. This practice can serve as a perfect transition into your own relaxation time, helping to reduce stress and focus on something of interest to you.

BUILDING HABITS TO SUPPORT LARGER GOALS

When tackling more challenging or long-term goals through habit stacking, it's important to break down the larger goal into smaller, manageable habits that gradually build toward your ultimate objective. Here are examples that demonstrate how to approach more complex or difficult goals with habit stacking:

  • Anchor Habit: After Making Your Morning Coffee:
  • New Habit: Spend 15 minutes learning a new language. If your goal is to become fluent in a new language, integrating daily practice into an existing routine can help make this daunting task feel more manageable and routine.

  • Anchor Habit: After Turning on Your Work Computer:
  • New Habit: Review your long-term project goals for 5 minutes. For more complex work projects, regular reviews can keep you aligned with your objectives and prompt proactive adjustments.

  • Anchor Habit: After Eating Dinner:
  • New Habit: Dedicate 30 minutes to working on a side business or personal project. Integrating time for side projects into your daily routine ensures consistent progress without overwhelming your schedule.

  • Anchor Habit: Before Going to Bed:
  • New Habit: Reflect on and journal about what you learned that day and what you can improve. If personal development and continuous learning are your goals, this practice can help you maintain a growth mindset and ensure daily reflection and learning.

By breaking down ambitious goals into daily actions linked to existing habits, you can make significant progress without feeling overwhelmed. This method also leverages the natural flow of your day, embedding new efforts into routines that already exist, reducing the mental burden of adopting new behaviours.

THE IMPACT OF HABIT STACKING

For women, habit stacking can be particularly empowering. It’s a strategy that acknowledges the complex layers of our daily lives and offers a manageable approach to creating positive changes. Over time, these small changes can lead to profound transformations in health, wellbeing, productivity, and happiness.

Habit stacking shows that personal development doesn't require drastic changes; instead, it can be achieved through small, intelligent tweaks to your daily routine. This approach allows you to build a day filled with intentional moments of progress, tailored to fit the unique rhythms of your life. Embrace the power of habit stacking and watch how small steps can lead to giant leaps in your personal journey.

 

By Megan Dalla-Camina, Women Rising Founder & CEO

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