Imagine you are trying to build a new habit. As a reference, let’s take a common activity, like doing yoga. You have your attitude all ready, goals set, yoga mat bought, water bottle with motivational quote from Amazon delivered. What now? Now comes the fun part - finding a spot in your daily routine to squeeze your new habit into.
It will naturally take a few tries till you get it right. Some people prefer to utilise their energy boost in the morning and do yoga after waking up. If getting out of bed is already enough of a physical and mental challenge for you, try if afternoon coffee break works better. Notice how both examples point to activities that are already in your routine - getting out of bed, afternoon coffee? That is what habit stacking is all about. If you feel like giving it a try, here are 5 tips to stack habits like a pro:
1. Choose simple base habits
An existing habit which becomes a foundation for your new habit is often referred to as an anchor. Anchors are those core activities which we hardly think about but do every single day, like waking up, brushing teeth, showering, drinking water, going through e-mails. The chances of you falling out of this automatic routine are pretty low, that is why stacking new habits upon anchors is so efficient. The less effort your anchor requires, the easier it will be to connect a new activity to it. Remember, your brain is a lazy potato which tends to choose the path of least resistance when it comes to something as painfully uncomfortable as self-improvement.
2. Group habits that go well together
Protein shakes go well with workouts, reading can be followed by a meditation, face routine is convenient to do after brushing your teeth. However, this is very subjective, so if you feel like brushing your teeth while meditating, we won’t judge you. Maybe just a bit. Anyway, some habits will be similar in their goal or effect, others performed in a same place or at the same time of the day. Ask yourself, which of my existing habit rituals is similar to this new habit I am trying to build? For yoga it might be a recharging after-work walk that provides you with an energy spike, just enough for a couple of asanas.
3. Make your cues (very) visual
Cue, in other words, is what triggers your habit. For already existing, hardwired habits cues go unnoticed by your consciousness. When you sit up in your bed in the morning, it is almost like an autopilot inside of you grabs your glasses. The cue might be bringing yourself into vertical position or turning off your alarm clock. For new habits, however, cues don’t exist yet. That is why in the beginning you need to artificially create triggers and make them as noticeable as possible. Your beautiful cork yoga mat with mandala on it has a high chance of forever staying in your closet if you put it there. Instead, put the mat directly at the entrance where you take off your shoes, so that you see it right away once you are back from your walk. Over time, your base habit itself will become the trigger for your new habit.
4. Keep stacking
Stacks keep getting better over time, especially when you start feeling comfortable about adding more habits on top of your foundation. Yoga can be followed by a shower, a cup of tea and a reading session. It is important to start small and build up workload, reflecting on how well and how fast your brain picks up new cues. What you get in the end is an effortless and efficient routine! As a bonus, you don’t get a mental overload trying to keep your whole to-do list in short-term memory.
5. Make a list and create reminders
When you start stacking more habits, things can get challenging before they get easy again. It is never a bad idea to write your tasks down, preserving the order in which your stacked routine unfolds. On days when you don’t have your usual triggers around you (for example, when travelling), reminders might be a helpful alternative. You can set them directly on your phone or use a dedicated habit tracking app. This is especially helpful for those habits, which don’t occur every day. If you only do yoga twice a week, it might take much longer to automise the triggers, including habits that you stack on top.
For more tips, check out our blog or follow us on Instagram @avocation.app. Interested in taking a more in-depth look at habit development? We have a whole learning section directly in our habit tracker app Avocation!