Habit Stacking: How To Build Efficient Routines That Last
Create efficient routines by combining mini-habits to get the most out of each day.
The key to making the most of your habit-stacking efforts lies in planning. By taking some time to set yourself up for success, you won’t forget anything, and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate. Eventually, like those daily tasks you do without much thought, you’ll engage in your new super-charged routine on auto-pilot.
Here are six steps to begin your habit-stacking journey:
1. Make a List of Existing Habits
By starting with the habits you already practice, you can create a base from which to begin and identify where you can incorporate new habits.
The following are good places to start:
- Brushing your teeth
- Walking the dog
- Checking email
- Morning coffee/having breakfast
Starting with daily habits is more manageable than weekly or biweekly ones as you want to build and maintain consistency to create the new routine.
2. What new habits do you want to tackle?
Think of new habits you want to develop and your short and long-term goals. You may simply want to practice more gratitude daily, or you might like to run a full marathon. The former will require finding 5-7 minutes every day, perhaps while you sip your morning coffee, while the latter will see you building far more robust plans and routines to get in shape.
Get creative with it. Stacking habits makes building new ones much less daunting as you’re ideally already building on existing practices.
Remember to make your goals clear and make your habits work for you.
Some examples of new habits to try:
- Manage finances better
- Drink more water
- Listen to more educational e-books or podcasts
- Write a gratitude journal
3. Compare lists and make connections
Combining habits has to make sense—like stacking building blocks—which is why choosing complementary ones is vital. Plus, you want to pair habits that allow you to engage in the new behaviour fluidly; transitioning from one to the other without overthinking about what you’re doing is the best way to make the habit stick.
Comparing our two lists from the previous points, we’re going to combine habits in a way that makes the most sense:
Brushing your teeth & Drinking more water
As soon as you’ve completed your last spit and rinse, drink a full glass of water or two to hydrate, among other benefits.
Walking the dog & Listening to e-books/podcasts
Instead of letting Fido do his business and stretch his legs, take that time to learn something new. Even if you only listen for fifteen minutes daily, that’s almost two hours weekly and between seven and nine hours per month.
Checking email & Managing finances better
Perhaps you’d like to curtail online spending, which might make checking your credit card/bank statement every morning—after looking at emails—an excellent way to take control of your finances.
Morning coffee/having breakfast & Write a gratitude journal
While sipping your morning coffee, take a few minutes to list 3-5 things in your life you’re grateful for.
Workout & Meditate
As part of your workout cool down, take a few moments to breathe deeply, clear your mind, and become fully present in the moment. Check out our guide if you need some help getting started with meditating.
4. Lock In Your New Habit
You’ve listed your daily habits, outlined your goals and desired new habits, and combined them based on compatibility.
Now, it’s time to take action! As we demonstrated in the previous examples, you want to aim to stack your habits as efficiently as possible to ensure you can build consistency. That regularity is the key to habit building.
Making the new habits a part of your day-to-day life will help you succeed.
5. Create a habit chain
Once you’ve got one or two mini stacks sorted, now it’s time to create habit chains by completing your various stacks throughout the day.
Essentially, you’re combining smaller routines to organize your day/life in a way that makes the most sense for you. And by sticking new habits with previous concrete ones, you’re creating a non-negotiable; you won’t procrastinate or make excuses not to do these new behaviours because they’ll integrate seamlessly into your life once you’ve built up that consistency we mentioned.
6. Show Yourself Some Grace
We get it; life happens. And locking in new habits is a challenge.
You might experience setbacks or simply forget a new habit but don’t beat yourself up. Focus on what you have accomplished and maybe try to learn from your mistakes.
Like anything worth doing, this journey is a process. Stay positive and remember you’re making a concerted effort at improving yourself, which is, in and of itself, worth applauding.
Habit Stacking Examples
Here’s a way for you to start your day off strong by focusing on your nutrition:
- Prepare a Healthy Breakfast
- Make Entries in a Food Journal
- Take Daily Vitamins
- Prepare a Smoothie Drink
- Fill a 32-Ounce Water Bottle
At the Start of the Work Day
- Schedule Your Day
- Remove Distractions Before Working
- Review Your Goals
- Identify Your Three Most Important Tasks (MITs)
- Do the Hardest Task First
In the Evening
- Prepare Dinner
- Listen to the News
- Tidy Up
- Do Some Light Stretches
- Deep breathing exercises (to decompress after the work day)