Habit Stacking: The Compound Effect of Daily Practices

Becoming the best version of yourself sounds good, but a lot of people think it seems impossible. How do you make consistent progress when it seems like you’re on a yo-yo, running in circles, or continuing to slip back into poor habits? If this sounds like you, habit stacking may be the secret to your success. This article will show you how to break down your goals into manageable pieces through habit stacking. Through habit stacking, you can be more organized and coordinated and even make progress faster and easier. Plus, did you know that building good habits is a form of self-care?  Keep reading to find out how habit stacking can help you make progress toward your goals.

What is Habit Stacking?

Everybody has a collection of healthy and unhealthy habits. We usually accumulate habits randomly as we grow up. We adopt some from our parents, siblings, and authority figures like teachers, guidance counselors, and even the parents of our friends. We develop other habits by ourselves, based on our desires and tastes and how much freedom we’re given.

Think of habit stacking as the habit hack that will not only help you establish the healthy habits you’ve always aspired to, but also make the process fun and rewarding. Habit stacking is when you use habits you already have (or activities you enjoy) to create a platform for bigger, better habits. You collect similar habits into a group where they reinforce each other in a synergistic relationship.

Habit stacking may be the secret to your success. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Food is an important area where habit stacking can really be impactful. For example, I’ve developed the habit of eating my vegetables first and not snacking between meals and tohave planned meal times. Habit stacking food habits can even help you lose weight in addition to eating healthier overall.  In my case, once I got used to eating my vegetables first, I increased the size of my vegetable portion. I also learned some new recipes and developed a number of delicious, savory vegetable dishes. By combining these habits I was able to lose weight, increase my nutrition, and reward myself with delicious foods all at the same time.

Food related habit stacking is also helpful when you want to build muscle, practice fasting, or if you need to restrict certain foods from your diet.

It’s easy to get started with habit stacking. Just sit down and make a list of your habits. If you have trouble making the list, review your day mentally. Anything you do on a consistent basis is a habit. Getting up at the same time every day is a habit, but so is not having a regular wake up time. Ultimately, creating consistent healthy habits is the key to long term success.

How Long Does it Take to Develop a Habit?

The harder the habit you want to create is, the longer it will take to develop. This is why habit stacking is so useful! Once you already have a habit, it’s easy to make it stronger. If you’ve tried to create a new habit in the past and failed, habit stacking can help you try again and give you a better shot at meeting your goals.

Healthy and unhealthy habits come in pairs. If there’s a healthy habit you want to develop, it is counterbalanced by an unhealthy habit you need to eliminate. You can break bad habits most effectively when you replace them with good habits at the same time.

Habits are easier to form when you have a stable life. If your life isn’t as stable as you would like, I would suggest you focus on forming habits that support stability. Brushing your teeth, a bedtime routine, and daily exercise are all habits that can reinforce stability and stack together.

The harder the habit you want to create is, the longer it will take to develop.

The harder the habit you want to create is, the longer it will take to develop. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Make a list of things that you can do that would increase stability the most in your life. Also, list the things that are getting in your way. See if some of them match up into pairs, and rank them from easy to hard. See if you can break the hard ones down into smaller and easier components.

Now here’s the magic part: don’t try to fix the hard things right away. Look for the easiest thing on the list and commit to changing that one thing.

How to Build Healthy Habits

How you develop your habits and stack them together is dependent on what works for you. Find tips to create healthy habits like making things fun, being more mindful, and working with a partner. Changing your habits in small ways and making easy upgrades is the ticket to long term success.

6 Ways To Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – Motivation2Study

If you can do 1% better tomorrow, and repeat that every day, in about 3 months you’ll have improved 100% from where you are right now. You won’t win every day, but improving by 1% should be an attainable goal.

Here is a simple habit stacking template for marathon training you can use as a model:

  • Decide on your marathon uniform, and always wear your uniform when training.
  • Determine your ideal training plan and set aside time for it each day. An example would be to run five miles every day.
  • Start your training with something small, like walking around the block. Make a small addition to your training at regular intervals, until you reach your ideal workout. 
  • If you can’t do your full workout, commit to showing up anyway. Do what you can, or use the time for planning, review, supplemental reading, or continuing education. A habit of consistency is extremely powerful.
  • Decide on your ideal nutrition plan for training, and select a small change you can make right away.
  • When you slip, make adjustments until you are consistently meeting your goals.
  • If you are not slipping, you are probably capable of doing more. Make larger increases to your schedule until you’re meeting most, but not all, of your targets.
  • Evaluate your progress on a weekly or monthly basis to optimize your plan and recognize your progress. Give yourself praise and rewards for success, and reframe failure as an educational experience.

Use Habit Stacking to Compound Success

It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, if you’re not failing about a quarter of the time, you’re not trying hard enough. You’ll make the most progress when your goals are not always a sure thing. Anything worth doing is going to involve missteps and wrong turns, so why not lean into it? Create a list of the healthy habits of successful people, and list your strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about yourself, the easier it is to achieve big results. From this perspective, even failures are a good thing, because they help you better understand your limits. Practice celebrating your failures as learning opportunities, and reframe all of your experiences as some form of success.

I recommend you sit down right now and draw up a list of the habits you would like to develop. Pick one and break it down into smaller and smaller habits, and build them into a habit stack. Select one of the easiest items on your list and commit to changing it right now so you can begin the next leg of your journey with a habit stack.