This week we are going to talk about a key skill to develop a multi-step routine: habit stacking.
When clients come to me wanting to develop a morning routine, they usually come overwhelmed and trying to do everything at once. The convo goes something like:
“What would you want to do on an ideal morning?”
And they say something like, “Oh, you know, journal, and meditate, and go for a run, and say affirmations, and read a book, and lift weights, and drink water, and eat a healthy breakfast, and maybe also do something mindful with my kids, and…”
“And what are you doing now?”
“Now? Downing a cup of coffee and trying to kid the kids alive before work.”
Great. We have our work cut out for us, then.
Here’s the thing. Our brains just weren’t built to change a lot of things all at once.
We learn incrementally. Think about how you learned your first language. Did you go from babbling to full grammatical sentences in a single day? Of course not.
But we try to learn new things like this ALL THE TIME, guys. We are always trying to transform everything, all at once.
And what is even more problematic about this is that we can, temporarily, transform routines all at once.
When we go on a retreat or attend a conference, we can switch up everything for a short period of time. I went on a yoga retreat once that had me waking up before dawn to do a half hour of pranayama (yogic breathing) followed by meditation, and then a full hour of sunrise yoga. Did I keep doing this when I got home? No. This was a temporary change supported by the setting I was in at the time, not a change in my habits. When I got home I had trouble fitting in yoga every day, let alone doing it at dawn AFTER a breathing and meditation routine. Granted, I didn’t really expect to do that routine in the long run, but I was still shocked how quickly I slide back to baseline.
So, if you want to start a new routine, like a morning routine, and you want it to actually last, here’s what you do: habit stack.
Habit stacking is developing a routine one block at a time. You choose the first block, make it a habit, then choose the second block, and so on.
Here’s how it would have worked if I had actually wanted to keep that sunrise yoga practice long term
First, I would have scaled way back, and just did the pranayama. Every day.
Then, once that became easier to wake up and do, I’d add the meditation. Finally, I’d add the yoga.
I would stack one habit on top of the other, in a gradual step-by-step way.
This allows you to learn the new routine the way your brain naturally learns – incrementally, little by little, day by day, with time and experience leading the way.
And on that note, have you gotten on the waitlist for Inspired Riser yet?
I developed a 6-week course that teaches crucial skills like habit stacking in even more depth, to help you develop a morning routine that actually sticks. The course also helps you establish a routine with intention, problem solve around barriers and mindset blocks, and choose activities that light you up, so you can wake up inspired every single day. I’m launching Inspired Riser at an insanely low early bird price, so you definitely want to get alerted when the cart opens so you won’t miss out. We launch in early June, and I can’t wait to join you there!
Where are you trying to change too many things at once? How can you apply habit stacking in your life this week?