What is Habit Stacking?
You probably already practice habit stacking without even knowing it. If you wake up, take a shower, use shampoo, then conditioner, dry off and get dressed, you’re a stacker. Perhaps you stack in the evening by brushing your teeth, washing your face and reading a book before bed. You can probably identify little pockets of habit stacks throughout your day.
I first heard about stacking habits in this article written by my friend Dan.
If there are new habits or activities that you’ve been meaning to build into your day, you’ll really like this mini-mission.
5 minute habit stacking
Start by thinking about what you’d like to do everyday. These are probably things that you try to squeeze in once in a while, or feel rewarded when you get to do them. This could be part of a morning, afternoon or evening routine or ritual. Include the things that you really want to do, and that will contribute to your health and happiness. I started with a really big list of Yoga, learning spanish, reading, writing, walking, meditating and a few more.
Choose two. (don’t worry, you can add more later). I used to naturally take on more than I should and almost always burned out from any new habit, exercise plan or lifestyle change. Now that I do it more slowly and intentionally, I am much more successful.
Pick a time that you can practice each day. Morning, afternoon or evening. If you can stick with a consistent time, at least for the first month, your stack will have more staying power. If other things come up, that’s ok. Just get back to it the next day. In other words, if you miss a day, all is not lost. This is when we usually throw in the towel. Instead, keep going.
Show up. That’s the only rule. Even if you don’t do a thing. Just show up. There will be times when you don’t feel like it, or feel tempted to put it off for a an hour. Instead, go there.
Only five minutes. Do your two activities for only five minutes each. Yes, even if you want to do more. Just 5 minutes.
Add one minute to each activity each week if you’re ready. If your first week was a challenge and you missed a few days. Stick with five minutes for another week. This isn’t a competition or a race. Do it thoughtfully.
When you are ready, add another activity and repeat the steps above.
Today, months after I started with two activities at five minutes a piece, I start my day with fifteen minutes of meditation, fifteen minutes of yoga, a thirty minute walk and fifteen minutes of creative writing. There are some days that I have to break it up into two sessions depending on other responsibilities, but it comes before work and most obligations. This practice quiets my mind, nourishes my body, and fuels my creativity. It doesn’t replace other exercise or writing that I do during the day, but instead supports it and allows me to start each day with intention and gratitude.
You might feel tempted to power boost your habit stacking by starting with ten minutes, or adding three minutes every week instead of one. Resist. Give this small, slow method a chance
I never thought I would have more than an hour a day to dedicate to activities I love, and if I hadn’t eased into it, it would have been overwhelming. By starting small, I was able to grow into my morning routine.
I’d love to hear about the habits you want to stack. Where will you start?
For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.