"Little hinges swing big doors." S.J. Scott
Change is hard. The status quo is effortless and comfortable. Plus, your inner critic reminds you of times you lost motivation, thought change was too challenging, or decided it was not worth the time and headache. What if you could dip your toes into creating healthier habits instead of jumping into the deep end?
The essence of habit stacking is simple. You pair a new routine with a habit you're currently doing. Then little by little, you build on this new routine until it becomes a habit.
Habit stacking is a term coined by S.J. Scott in his book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take 5 Minutes or Less. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, built on Scott's concept by talking about the ease and value of getting 1% better each day and how much change that creates over time.
If you think that number sounds ridiculous, I don't blame you. Let's break down potential decisions you made while reading the past couple of sentences:
Most of the decisions we make are tiny and don't require a lot of thought or effort. A habit is much like all those mini decisions. It's something you do without thinking about it which makes it easier for you to function and go about your day.
Habit stacking takes advantage of the brainpower you're already using. Because this takes less time and effort, there is less resistance to change, and the new routine is easier to adopt as a habit. Creating a new routine this way uses a built-in reminder of the behavior you're used to performing.
Mentally walk through your daily routine and write down all the things you do (no matter how small). Keep that sheet with you over the next couple of days and see if there is anything you need to add.
Create another list with the change or changes you want to make. You’re going to pick one habit to start with. Pick something that you feel will be easier and give you a quick win to boost your confidence and habit-making skills.
Now it's time to look at your lists and see what time and location the current and new habits would naturally happen together or make sense together.
Start small. We are talking tiny! This new routine will be something you gradually build on. What is the smallest amount of time you could break this new habit down to? A good starting point is seconds to a couple of minutes.
Keep pushing forward. Pair the new routine with the current habit until it becomes easy and feels like an extension of the original behavior. Then you can start building up that routine. When you have made that habit part of your life, look for the next easiest item on the list and repeat the process.
Let’s put this into action. We will look at my goal of drinking more water in the morning.
There you have it - habit stacking in a nutshell. Using a tracking app and working with a coach are great ways to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and stay on track. Get a 14 day free trial of CoPilot and work with a real person who will help you create a custom habit plans around movement, nutrition, mindfulness, and rest.
Use one of those 35,000 decisions to invest in your wellbeing, and click the link below!