One of the best ways to build consistency around new habits is to “habit stack” them with old ones.
What is Habit Staking
Habit Stacking Is taking something you do already consistently and following it with another task you do consistently. For example, first I wake up in the morning and then I shower. That is a habit stack.
When you stack habits you can mastering your mental and physical performance.
Before we get into how to habit stack, here is why it works from a scientific perspective.
A synapse is a junction between two nerve cells, which impulses pass by diffusion of a neurotransmitter. Prune means to cut.
Synaptic Pruning is a phenomenon that happens in our brains. The basics idea is that your brain cuts away neuron connections that get used infrequently and builds stronger neuron connections that get used more frequently.
For example, If you practice playing guitar for a year, your brain will strengthen the connection between the neurons it needs for music. The more you practice the stronger the connections get. Overtime the connections not only get stronger, they get faster. This is why when you practice something over an over you can build your skills overtime.
On the contrary someone who doesn’t practice guitar has weak connections in their brain. The brain stripes or prunes away the connection to allocate resources to other skills.
As you can see Synaptic Pruning plays a significant role in building brand new habits.
You probably already have some very strong habits that you don’t even think about. For example you probably don’t need to remember to turn on your coffee pot in the morning and take a shower. You probably have tons have daily habits that you don’t even consciously think about. When you have some good habits established it’s much easier to use them to establish new habits.
This is called habit stacking. This is not my idea, it’s a popular method of forming new habits, by taking advantage of old ones. Your brain is already programmed to accomplish an old habit, which has strong neuron connections that work quickly. It’s much easier to build on these connections then to try and establish a new connection.
Here are some logic statements you can use to form new habit stacks. Change them around and make them your own.
- Exercise: Before I shower, I will do 10 pull ups.
- Shaving: After I finish my shower, I will shave
- Flossing: After I brush my teeth, I will floss my teeth.
- Starting Work: After I turn on my laptop, I will check my email.
- To Do List: After I finish lunch, I will write my to do list for tomorrow
- Walking the Dog: After I finish work, I will take the dog for a long walk.
- Laying Out Clothes: After I get in my pajamas, I will lay out my clothes for tomorrow.
- Thankfulness: After I lay in bed, I will think of one thing I am thankful for.
Habit stacking is so effective because it builds on connections that are already strong in your brain. When you link a new habit to an old one, It’s more likely to stick.
How to Get Started
Think about all the stuff you take for granted. Waking up, drinking coffee, getting dressed, driving to work. These are mundane boring habits that you probably already have. Write out these things in a list.
After that write out a list of habits you want to form. Then do a little mixing and matching of which old habits and new habits make sense to stack.
When you are doing this, start small. Don’t try habit stack 100 push-ups before your shower. Start with 5 or 10. Make it attainable so that the new behavior can start forming. As you get consistency performing the habit stack you can work on improving your skills and/or the challenge.
What mundane task can you habit stack on starting today and what new habit do you want to stack with it?