Habit stacking was something that James Clear spoke about in his book, ‘Atomic Habits’. An amazing read. However, although I did learn many things and had many points of self-reflection, I did end up challenging his language. But let me come back to that.
A habit is defined as something you do autonomously. You don’t even think about it…you just do it without realising. Habit stacking is piggy backing off an existing habit with a desired new habit. Something you wish to include as part of your every day. The formula given to this is: After/Before current habit, I will do the new habit. Example: I shower every morning and after I shower I will meditate.
But, let me challenge this for a minute. I do NOT like the word ‘habit’. To me a habit has negative connotations, that is, to me a habit is associated with things like picking your nose, biting your fingernails, sniffing, blinking excessively. You see where I am going here. When someone calls out, “John, you’re picking your nose at the table”…..I respond with, “oh, sorry, I have a HABIT of that”. I have never once had this scenario, “John, you look like you have showered”…….and I respond with, “oh yes, I have a habit of that”.
When someone says habit to me, I think negative action, acts or motions etc. I propose we simply re-frame this to a word that has positive connotations and, also shows that the action was executed on and with purpose, not without thinking, noticing or intent. I recommend we re-frame this to, ‘Routine Stacking’. Simply changing how we reference this shows, to me, intent to execute a positive action or act or motion. So how might routine stacking work and where do you begin? This is something I work on with all my clients. The part of the process where we build out a healthy routine and live a healthy lifestyle.
I recommend you break the day up into Morning and Evening.
We are going to implement three new routines that will flow and support each other. Three routines that are simple, impactful and not bold and audacious. What do I mean by this? Well, if you are like me and have three children to manage in the morning, but you want to get some training in, then perhaps not saying the first new component of my routine is to meditate for 45 minutes every morning is advisable. It’s unlikely to easily form a part of your morning routine as perhaps the commitment is too large. Instead, could it be to meditate for 5 or 10 minutes after training?
Getting back to the process……
In the morning, I would like you to think of one new inclusion e.g. Get morning sunshine for 10 minutes. In the evening, do the same. Add in one action e.g. At 7:00pm put on my blue light blocking glasses. Now, these have been added into the routine, commit to them for one month. No additional layers to the routine yet. Once the month is up, add in layer two, but the key is making it ‘complimentary’. E.g. Get 10 minutes of morning sunshine + stretch. Evening, we do the same e.g. At 7:00pm put on blue light blocking glasses + take my magnesium.
Again, leave for 1 month until it forms your new routine and then add in layer three. I recommend not adding a fourth layer until you hit expert level, instead modify existing routines such as extending the morning sun exposure to 15 minutes.
I challenge you to re-frame your daily structures and how you think about habits. Build the lifestyle you want and know will support you on your journey to success.
FINAL TIP – Add a reminder in your phone for the morning and evening that prompts you to do each action.