What is Habit Stacking?

Everyone has their own personal habits. Some can be good, such as writing, exercising or eating that piece of fruit. Others can be extremely damaging, such as smoking, losing your temper or cheating on your spouse. What’s interesting is that it’s easy to notice the big habits and forget all about those small things that we do on a daily basis.

As an example, you probably brush your teeth. This habit doesn’t take that long, but not doing it every day could have a disastrous impact on your long-term health. You could get gingivitis, periodontitis or tooth decay. You could even lose some of your teeth. All of these outcomes are extremely painful and expensive. Yet most people are able to prevent them simply by brushing their teeth on a consistent basis.

Brushing your teeth isn’t that hard to do. In fact, even the busiest, most overwhelmed people in the world find five minutes of time to properly brush their teeth. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say the same thing about other equally miniscule habits that could have a positive impact on our lives.

Think about this: How much would your life improve if you were able to add the following: de-cluttering your house, buying your wife flowers while grocery shopping, complimenting a stranger, tracking your daily expenses or eating that darn piece of fruit?

We all have been inundated with reminders about how these activities are important, but seriously, how often do you actually do them?

Probably not very often.

The most common excuse that we like to give for not taking action is time. Many people feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to get things done. However, if you go back to the teeth brushing example, then you know that “limited time” is simply an excuse we give for activities we feel aren’t immediately important. You have enough time to brush those pearly whites, so why aren’t you able to add other quality habits?

I think the answer stems from something called cognitive load. The truth is we have a finite limit on our short-term memories. It’s been said that the average person’s short-term memory can only retain seven chunks of information. So the theory behind cognitive load is that since you can only retain a small amount of information, you have to rely on long-term memory, habits and established processes to do basically everything in life.

Think back to that small list of life changes. You know that de-cluttering your home and randomly complimenting a stranger could be beneficial. But these activities are easy to forget because they’re not part of an established, daily framework. Most people brush their teeth because this habit is attached to a larger routine like a morning, evening or eating ritual. This habit doesn’t strain your cognitive load due to the fact that you do it on autopilot.

The purpose of habit stacking isn’t to nag you about developing positive routines. Instead, it’s my aim to show you how to create a simple routine (managed by a checklist) that you repeat on a daily basis. With this strategy you don’t have to worry about cognitive load because all you have to remember is to follow the checklist. Even better, you’ll discover a few tools that will keep you motivated and consistent. So even if you’re completely stressed out, you’ll still find the time and energy to complete these quick habits on a consistent basis.

You’ll find that implementing small changes can have a significant impact on your life. Remember—little hinges swing on big doors. By completing dozens of small habits on a daily basis, you’ll be able to make giant leaps forward in your business, strengthen your personal relationships, stay on top of your finances, get organized and improve your health.