Personal DevelopmentProductivity

Habit Stacking: What It is And Why You Should Try it This Fall

posted on September 29, 2020 | by Aswathy Suresh

Habit Stacking: What It is And Why You Should Try it This Fall
  • Start meditation
  • Exercise daily
  • Cook more often
  • Quit smoking
  • Less online shopping

Yes, this is a list of New Year’s resolutions someone made… and completely forgot about somewhere around January 22nd. I know that someone is not alone! 

We’ve all been there, right? The boundless enthusiasm as a fresh New Year brimming with abundant possibilities looms over the horizon, and a determination to turn into a better, smarter human being—all crashing down as the days go by and you fall back into the same old rut.

After years of repeating this cycle, I came across the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, and started following his mantra—habit stacking—to stick to my resolutions and make things work for me. In the book, Clear shows how you can combine small changes into your desired routine. And a fun tip: These resolutions were not made before the New Year; rather, I chose fall as the perfect setting to apply my newfound wisdom. 

What Is Habit Stacking?

Habit stacking is the process of grouping together small, routine activities that you’ve accumulated over the years and inserting the new, desired habits into the chain of existing activities.

In simple terms, habit stacking requires that you pair the desired habit with a current habit, instead of pairing the desired habit with a specific time or location. 

Habit Stacking Formula= After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Let’s see how this works if you aim to exercise 5 times a week

Imagine your current evening routine after work looks something like this: 

6.00 pm- Log off 

6.10 pm- Watch TV

And then this binge-watch may go on till dinner, or worse, bedtime. Now, if you are aiming to exercise 5 times a week, this is how you stack habits to incorporate it into your lifestyle:

6.00 pm: Log Off

6:10 pm: Change into work out clothes

6:15 pm to 7:15 pm: Exercise

8:00 pm: Dinner

If your goal is to exercise 5 times per week, make it a point to change into your workout clothes as soon as you log out from work.  Start with incorporating one habit at a time. For now, it is changing into your clothes as soon as you finish work. And then you exercise. Do it daily, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Even when you are not in the mood. 

Of course, it’s not going to be easy, but just keep up this routine and in a couple of weeks, you’ll find that it gets easier to stick to it.

The key is consistency— stick to that tiny habit of changing into your workout gear as soon as you are done for the day, and you will not wander off to the couch for that mindless binge session!

Now, why do I say that fall is the best time to start new habits and rethink your goals?

Fall is a time for change

Look outside. The weather is getting colder, the leaves are changing color, and the skies are turning a somber gray. Nature is going through a period of transition, why don’t we make the most of it? Tune into your thoughts, your work, your progress, and take note of what you wish to achieve next.

Fall is a time for reflection

Okay, so 2020 has been a year of surviving. Take stock of what you have accomplished and what you have not. Be honest with yourself. Have you been committed to the goals you made at the start of the year? 

I realize that 2020 has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least; and I urge you to be kinder to yourself—I know I did!

Still, some honest introspection could be just the inspiration you need to get started on a better version of yourself since you know exactly what to work on.

Fall is the time to get a jump start on New Years

Now, resolutions for the New Year are mostly easier to break than an already crooked lipstick in its case!

The thing with charting out your goals and working on them in fall is, by New Year’s Eve, you already have some work to show—your hard work has paid off and you can start the New Year beaming with pride over your own determination and confidence.

Again, if you make New Year resolutions for 2021, don’t forget the concept of habit stacking. The reason why it works so well is that our current habits are so ingrained into our brain, and adding a new habit to an already existing one highly increases the chances of you sticking to that behavior.

So, happy fall, y’all! Do let me know what you think of habit stacking and the idea of goal setting in fall.