The 10 Steps of Habit Stacking (and keeping it up!) | Blue Sky
Sean Spurgin - Director of Learning Design

The 10 Steps of Habit Stacking

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

 

What is ‘habit stacking’?

Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to group together small changes into a routine that you follow daily. While it can feel overwhelming at first, once you get into a routine, it’s not as hard as you think. The key to success here is to start with small expectations, build the muscle memory of completing this routine, and then add more tasks once you’re consistent.

Our 10 Step process:

Follow our straightforward 10 step process that won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you closely complete these steps, you’ll discover how easy it is to create lasting change and performance improvement.

  1. Pick a time and location

Build a routine around a specific location, time of day or combination of both.  For example, after lunch: focus on your first five customer conversations. First thing in the morning: take the long walk around the office and praise 5 people. Have an alarm on your phone to trigger you to start to use your routine each day.

 

  1. Build one routine at a time

Choose one routine at a time to stay focused.  By concentrating on one new routine for a week, without making any changes or additions, it’s more likely to stick. If you list the new habits you want to form and compound them by only 1% each day, you’ll improve each habit by roughly 37% by the end of the year. That might not seem like a lot but if you think about this in terms of income, that’s the difference between making £100,000 and £137,000 a year!

 

  1. Start with “Small Wins”

Most people try to change too much too quickly. If you make it small, you’re less likely to fail. Start the ‘small wins’ by building your routine around habits that don’t require a lot of effort. These are the small wins that will build “emotional momentum” because they’re easy to remember and complete. Take one new skill or mindset and start there. Making these small changes will have a big difference.

The key to making a habit stick is to make it so small that you can’t say no. i.e. If you want to get in shape, start by doing one push up a day. Make sure you list out the actions that will help you achieve the new habit – having a check list really works. Set yourself up for success and make your new habits so easy to achieve that they are impossible to fail.

 

  1. Have a “Reason Why”

Have a good reason why behind each action so that you don’t quit and use this to motivate you. Competitive drivers have a sales target on their board to keep an eye on their success and use it to motivate themselves to keep going.

Think about what’s at your core and what motivates you – maybe it’s the next flashy car, the summer holiday with the family or building better relationships with your colleagues.

You’re going to be more productive and more likely to stick to your habit if you have an end goal. Someone who has booked a half marathon next month is more likely to be at next Saturday’s parkrun than someone who just ‘fancies running more’.

 

  1. 6. Be Accountable

It’s always easier to do nothing than to take action. Check where you are on the accountability ladder, reflect on what you can do and get someone to be your ‘accountability buddy’. It’s not enough to make a personal commitment alone. The big things in life require a solid action plan and a support network to tap into whenever you encounter an obstacle. Being accountable is valuable in the business world and for your personal development. When you have someone to cheer on your successes (or kick you in the butt when you’re slacking), you’re less likely to give up.

 

  1. Create Enjoyable Rewards

Reward yourself with small treats for getting through your routine every day for a week or month.  Keep the reward small and choose rewards that have a positive long-term impact.

This can be the traditional ‘if I go to the gym this morning, I can have that doughnut later’ or ‘when we make our target this month, let’s go out for a drink on Friday with the team’.

 

  1. Focus on Repetition

Repetition of routine helps build your muscle memory.  Repetition is key for the first 30 days of habit stacking otherwise you might fall off the wagon.

You can set daily/ weekly/ monthly goals to break it up and measure your success. Repeating your rewards for positive habit stacking is as important as setting the goals in the first place. Repeat your rewards, positive thinking and your new habits are bound to be repeated too. Building up a routine is sure to help with this.

 

  1. Be aware of ego depletion 

 

Ego depletion happens when people use up their available willpower on one task. As a result, they are unable to exert the same level of self-control on subsequent, often unrelated tasks. The idea behind this theory is that willpower is like a muscle in that it can be both strengthened and fatigued. For example, if you exhaust yourself doing sprints, you will be less able to perform other physical tasks.

Ultimately, willpower is a limited resource.

Research suggests that willpower and self-control are much the same. If you use your available energy and reach a state of ego depletion, you will have less self-control when faced with ensuing tasks.

People who possess high levels of self-control tend to have better relationships and higher achievement levels. Those who lack self-control, on the other hand, are more likely to experience social conflict and poor academic performance.

 

  1. Deal with challenges as they come.

 

Setbacks, slip ups, distractions and disruptions will happen.  The question is, what will you do about it?  But a better question is, how will quickly get back on track when you need to?

You need to know both how to deal with disruptions and how to get back on track.

Here are some key strategies to help you deal with disruptions and to get back on track:

  1. Have an If-Then Plan.  Disruptions happen.  Create a plan for when those triggers occur.  Accept that disruptions happens and don’t get discouraged.  Don’t beat yourself up; forgive yourself and move on so you can get back on track.
  2. Know Your Triggers.  Your triggers are the distractions and bad habits that take you off track or where you slip up.  Keep track of your negative habits to help you develop your routine.
  3. Reduce Overall Expectations.  Too much pressure on yourself can cause a negative reaction.  Focus on the minimum number of changes and focus on the habits that are most important.
  4. Start Small (Again).  Starting over can be discouraging, but that’s what it takes to succeed.  Look for small wins and concentrate on sticking to your routine instead of focusing on the length of the routine.  You can add more habits after you have a firm grasp on your routine.
  5. Never miss twice. Look, you WILL mess up and slip on your habits and that’s OK. The rule of thumb is that when you fail, you get back on that horse so that you never miss twice. It’s ok to miss one workout this week but don’t you dare let it extend to 2 or 3. If you follow the rule of “Never Miss Twice” you can fail your way to any new habit you desire.
  6. Overcome negative self–talk. One thing about battling habits is that it’s easy to judge yourself for not acting better. Every time you slip up or make a mistake, it’s easy to tell yourself how much you suck.  Whenever that happens, use the word “but”, not as an excuse but as a way of moving forward. For example, “I’m fat and out of shape, but I could be in shape in a few months from now if I keep this up.”

Good luck! Here’s to you building better habits, stacking one habit stack at a time.

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