Forming new habits
Forming new habits – even those you’re excited about – can be just as tricky as breaking habits. Adding more things to our daily to-do list can feel overwhelming, but with a little time-management ingenuity, making good habits stick can help us learn how to be happy, how to set goals and even how to be productive. Clueless about how to start with that? A behavioural trick called habit stacking can give you a major assist.
The concept of habit stacking is akin to constructing a solid house: build a new habit on top of a strong, existing part of your daily routine. That way, it’s piggybacking on an old habit that’s already a no-brainer, so you’re far more likely to adopt the new habit going forward. “Habits are automated behaviours you don’t have to think about,” says clinical psychologist, Dr Pauline Wallin. “For example, there are several steps involved in tying your shoelaces, but you don’t consciously think about these during the process. Once your fingers grab the laces, it’s an automated process.”
Why not make all your to-dos as effortless as tying your shoes? There’s really no downside to habit stacking. It turns chores into habits you don’t have to think about all that much. So here’s how you can make that happen.
What is habit stacking?
The term habit stacking was first used by author S.J. Scott in his book Habit Stacking, and it’s taken off like a rocket. “Habit stacking involves adding small routines to habits that are already established,” says Wallin. “With intentional practise, the established habit becomes a trigger for the new habit you want to adopt.”
That new behaviour will eventually become a trigger for the next habit, allowing you to build on the progress you’ve already made.
How does habit stacking work?
At its core, habit stacking is simply pairing a small, new habit (say meditating for a few minutes) with one that’s already established (boiling water for your morning cup of tea). The more we practise doing it, the more automatic it becomes. It may take a little bit of adjusting to get used to it at first, but be intentional about how you go about stacking habits.
“Adding a new behaviour to an established habit is not automatic at first but gradually becomes automatic as it is repeatedly paired with the longer-established habit, such that the earlier habit becomes a cue for the newer habit,” says Wallin.
Eventually, you may not feel like you even need habit trackers anymore – you’ll be getting things done without even thinking about them. Here’s more about how habit stacking works to help you quickly adopt new behaviours.