Last year a colleague of mine read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, and she was so inspired that she made some pretty significant changes to her business model. She’s one of the smartest people I know. So as soon as I hung up the phone with her, I ordered a copy.
I think it’s human nature to feel energized and optimistic in January. Most of us set goals or make resolutions. It’s a new year! We’re motivated!
Do you want to know the best way to make that new “habit” stick?
STACK IT ON A HABIT YOU ALREADY DO EVERY DAY.
In order to explain why Habit Stacking works (and it really does work), we need to talk briefly about how our brains work. Synapses are the connections between the neurons in our brain. Our brains build up connections that get used frequently, and they prune away connections that don't get used very frequently.
So for example, if you squat 3 x week for 2 years, then your brain will strengthen the connections between those “squatting” neurons. Those connections become stronger, faster, and more efficient every time you squat.
SKILL ACQUISITION IS LITERALLY A BIOLOGICAL CHANGE IN YOUR BRAIN.
Now back to Habit Stacking. The best part of Habit Stacking is that you’re already halfway done. We all have very strong habits and connections that we don’t even think about, things like brushing our teeth in the morning, closing the blinds at night, putting on our seatbelt when we get in the car. Habit Stacking helps us take advantage of the hundreds of things we do on autopilot every day.
Let me give you some examples of Habit Stacking:
- After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I’ll meditate for one minute.
- When I brush my teeth, I’ll stand on one foot to improve my balance.
- After I finish dinner, I’ll immediately put my plate in the dishwasher.
Again, the reason habit stacking works so well is that your current habits are already built into your brain.
Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can create bigger stacks - so more than one habit.
CAPITALIZE ON MOMENTUM!
- After I finish dinner, I’ll put my plate directly into the dishwasher.
- After I put my plate away, I’ll wipe down the counter.
- After I wipe down the counter, I’ll set out my coffee cup out for the next morning.
Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable. A habit like “stretch more” is far too vague. Specificity is extremely important. So rather than “stretch more” a better habit would be:
- After I finish foam rolling, I’ll use a strap to stretch each hamstring for 30 seconds.
In addition to SPECIFICITY, starting SMALL is also is critical.
Make it easy. Did you notice how I didn’t say, “Stretch for 10 minutes,” I said to stretch for 30 seconds? So 1 minute total.
Tiny changes can produce remarkable results. Are you ready to get stacking?!