What’s your to-do list on an average day? Between work, family, and self-care, how much free time do you have leftover? (Read: time spent sleeping does not count.)
If your days are cramped and chaotic, then you might benefit from habit stacking. This ingenious life hack helps incorporate and maintain new habits into your routine.
And perhaps most importantly, it also gives you some much-needed free time. Because for the perpetually busy, even a free 45 minutes can feel heavenly.
What Is Habit Stacking?
According to Alexandra Frost of HuffPost, habit stacking is defined as “listing habits you already have and attaching new self-care methods on top of them.” The habits should be easy and routine, like walking the dog or brushing your teeth.
“The key here is to start as granular as possible,” Frost writes. Rather than adding “exercise” to your to-do list, break it down into a less lofty goal. For example, Diane Boden, host of the Minimalist Moms podcast, does push-ups after brushing her teeth.
“If I already practice one behavior, why not attach another to it? The connectivity makes all the difference in maintaining new habits,” Boden told HuffPost.
Of course, you don’t have to do push-ups after flossing. You could do a set of squats after making the bed. Or, you could pick a habit unrelated to physical fitness altogether.
Grouping Your Habit Stacks
Once you list all the habits you already do every day, you can find areas to stack. Boden recommends stacking habits in categories.
To improve morning mindfulness, try meditating for as long as it takes your coffee to brew. Alternatively, you can journal for five minutes every night to unplug, reflect, and reset for the next day.
No matter which habits you stack, it’s important to do so in moderation. Habit stacking is a long game, and it might take a while to notice the benefits.
The Science Behind The Magic
Habit stacking is based on a real phenomenon called “synaptic pruning.” Synapses are connections between the neurons in your brain.
Synaptic pruning occurs when the brain cuts and creates new connections based on what it does and doesn’t regularly use. When we stack habits, we’re pruning some synapses and strengthening others.
“Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit,” behavioral psychologist James Clear explains.
Moreover, when you allow certain habits to overlap, you clear up free time elsewhere. There’s no need to carve out 15 minutes for meditation in the afternoon if you’ve already done it with your morning coffee.
Now the real question is, how many habits could you stack on top of your daily scroll through the internet?