Discover Habit Stacking For Better Productivity

Habit Stacking: An open laptop with glasses & notebooks next to it. The text "Introducing New Habits: Discover How Habit Stacking Makes it Easy" in front of it

Habit Stacking

Are you a multi passionate person who has a string of ideas, projects and tasks to do alongside your bread and butter work?

Do you often find yourself swamped with so many things to do that you have no idea how to bring them all to life and give them all the attention they need?

Managing where your attention and focus goes in the time that you have is one of the most challenging parts of keeping all the plates spinning. Add in a mix of ADHD / Brain fog / limited energy and fear – it can feel impossible!

If this sounds a little – or a lot – like yourself, welcome! I’m also part of this club, and while I LOVE my busy, creative mind, sometimes I just want to be able to find that magic way to bring a bit of structure into my life – without feeling like I’m being restricted or told what I should do…!

Habit stacking is something I came across thanks to the brilliant Mel Robbins and I wanted to share why it’s so effective and what you can do to introduce it into your daily life, both personally and professionally!

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If you have any questions, reach out for a chat [email protected] or check out my other blogs

Before I get started, I’ve recently moved to a new planning task manager Sunsama and I cannot praise this app enough!

If you want to take a look, you can access a free 2 week trial and a free month as well. I really like this because it’s a good amount of time to test whether the ADHD triggered dopamine hit wears off or not! So far, so good though, and I have noticed a big change in my focus and productivity in only a couple of weeks.

The way the app is set up compliments habit stacking as well, as you can add tasks to the daily planner and you get to check them off once completed – ahhh dopamine hit achieved!

What is Habit Stacking?

As a busy coach, therapist, or entrepreneur, you know how important it is to make the most out of the time that you have available to work each day.

The purpose of habit stacking is that it offers a structured approach to forming simple and repeatable new habits by combining them with existing routines.

By integrating small, positive changes into your daily activities, you can gradually build a more efficient and productive lifestyle.

Habit stacking can help you maintain a good work / life balance and incorporate your energy levels, personal and work commitments, as well as time for you.

It can enhance and improve your productivity, and sense of achievement by building on your current daily routines. It involves attaching the new habits that you want to introduce, onto existing ones.

The current habits act as the cue in behaviour change. Once you do the action, you’re then cued to also do the new one. 

It’s much easier to build a new habit onto an existing one because of synaptic pruning.

As you age, the connections between the neurons in your brain are discarded when they’re used infrequently.

As well as pruning these neural connections, it builds stronger pathways to the connections that your brain uses more frequently.

Therefore, it makes sense that by attaching any new behaviour change (habits), to an already strong connection – making habits stick will be easier and you’ll be more likely to stick to them.

The resistance will feel less overwhelming, and as you repeat the action daily, it will soon become as solid and automatic as the others.

Benefits of Habit Stacking

There are plenty of benefits of introducing habit stacking. If you find it hard to stick to things (think of those NYE promises made to yourself each year after doing zero prep for your new way of life beforehand), habit stacking can make these changes feel less daunting and much more realistic.

Habit stacking is something that anyone can introduce without needing to completely rework the way that you currently do everything. It removes a tonne of stress and limits the added pressure that comes when you introduce change into your life.

By linking the new habit to existing ones, it’s less likely to trigger that resistance you can feel in those early days. Because of the feeling of ease, the change can feel seamless and much more natural. Plus, it can help you to streamline your current processes by chunking similar activities together, helping you to stay in the flow of writing / admin / content creation.

Another benefit is that you can focus on the areas that you do well in, and use these to build new habits into, increasing the potential to do well with the new ones.

Productivity can be increased pretty quickly, as we are conditioned to respond well to routines, making you feel more motivated when it feels effortless.

Potential Challenges

While habit stacking can be a great option, for those juggling lots of different responsibilities, it may feel challenging to begin with.

Time constraints can make it difficult to link each new habit or routine to a current one. This can be especially true if you’re working on quite different projects. Or, if you’re employed by someone else, and unable to do your own work alongside the work you’re contracted to do for them.

Conflicting priorities can also make it a little more difficult. Whilst it would be nice to attach other things to the tasks you're working on, if they’re a much lower priority than some of the other tasks you need to focus on, you could potentially ‘waste’ your energy on less urgent tasks and leave more pressing ones to the end.

Consistency is something that’s needed in order to make the progress needed in your work. If you’re focused on stacking habits, it can be easy to overlook some of the other tasks that don’t fit with the stacking concept.

I totally get how boring it can feel at times when trying to get a new habit to stick, especially if you’re working on something that’s either challenging or something you don’t enjoy too much. But it is in the daily repetitions that change and progress happens.

Solutions to Challenges

Be intentional and strategic in how you implement habit stacking.

Ensure you’re clear on everything that you currently have going on. Clarity of your current working practices, commitments and your longer term goals.

Brain Dump everything! Once you have everything written down – all of your responsibilities (personal and professional), ideas, plans, worries etc., you can get a good perspective of what needs your attention.

While you brain dump, revisit your goals. Check that they’re still aligned with where you’re at right now. Then, make sure that the goals are realistic and achievable. Break each goal down into smaller and more manageable chunks.

This pre-work isn’t essential, but if you take the time to do it, it can make everything so much easier. It will undoubtedly save you time and energy in the long run, because you have a birds eye view of your life.

Group tasks together that compliment each other. This will help the transition to new working styles feel even more seamless.

Make self care and rest part of your new routine. If you’re also working on your mindset, attach the new behaviours to things that are already automatic. Mel Robbins talks about this, and from her suggestions I do a morning high five whenever I’m cleaning my teeth!

I can honestly say it was one of the easiest things to implement. I’ve been giving myself a high five in the mirror, or saying “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” to my reflection every day for over a year now.

If you’re cringing at that example – please know I was too! But it’s made a big impact on how I view myself, and increased my self belief.

Finally, be clear on your why. The reason why you want to introduce these new habits and what difference it will make to your life. Willpower isn’t what you need to make the change, it’s about knowing how much better things will be when you do!

Identify Your Key Habits

Before we get into this, remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. As with anything in life, it's essential to try out different things so that you can work out what the best fit is for you.

Consider your current daily routine or schedule, your personal preferences, and the goals that you have. Think about what you want your day-to-day life to look like. The time that you have available, and the habits that you both already have as well as the ones you’re wanting to introduce.

If you’re a coach / therapist / entrepreneur, think about the habits that will support you with both personal and professional goals.

For example:

  1. Morning Routines: Choose habits like meditation, listening to relevant podcasts, or adding journaling as part of your new and improved routine. These will enhance your mindset as well as setting you up well for the day ahead.
  2. Physical Activity: Identify habits where you can link activities with a daily task. I do this every morning. I walk on my under desk walking pad for up to an hour and use that time to research or write a blog, admin tasks, watch some training, or listen to a podcast. As well as boosting my productivity by checking things off of my to-to list, it also helps to keep my movement up when I work from home at my desk most days.
  3. Mindful Rest Breaks: Stack self care and rest habits to help break up the day and give your brain a much needed break. You could do a short meditation or take a quick walk. Allowing yourself to totally switch off from data and information is a brilliant way to refresh your mind and enhance concentration and productivity.

If you’re worried that you won’t stick to these habits, start small, and start with only one. Link to current solid habits that will act as a cue for you, like my example of cleaning my teeth or using the treadmill while I complete other tasks.

Other Examples:

  • Journaling as you enjoy your morning coffee.
  • When you get ready for bed, put your gym gear out ready for the following morning.
  • Whenever you finish a task you get up and move around.
  • 10-15 minutes before a call or a meeting, stop what you’re currently working on, and prepare yourself (mentally e.g. mini meditation, review notes, and physically e.g. stretch, or make a cuppa).

When you find the right habits, the ones that work for you, it will be much easier for you to make them stick.

When you have good routines in place, it not only helps you feel more confident and in control, it will improve your productivity because your mind will feel less cluttered.

Momentum is so much easier to maintain once the changes have been made and you’ve made it as easy as possible for you.

Maintain Consistency

Maintaining consistency is key with habit stacking. You can help make this easier for yourself by setting clear and achievable goals for each new habit that you want to introduce.

Tracking your progress is also key, because it will help you stay accountable, which can be really motivating. 

Understand that building new habits will take you time and effort to begin with. Be open to making changes and adapting your goals along the way.

Track your progress and celebrate small wins every day! By celebrating your achievements and your lessons, you can become your biggest supporter. It’s so easy to focus on what you haven’t yet achieved, or how far away the end goal is.

Plus, giving yourself a high five and acknowledging your progress feels good! So, if you’re feeling a little flat, take the time to reflect on how far you've come.

“Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformation”.

James Clear

Other Examples of Habit Stacking

S.J. Scott, author of Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take 5 Minutes of Less describes habit stacking as : 

“Linking habits together is a way of getting more done in less time, resulting in a positive change in your life. As you perform the stacked actions every day, they become part of your daily routine.”

S.J. Scott

Scott shares his ideas for creating a daily “habit stack” which consists of developing a daily routine where you complete several mini habits of around 5 minutes each, up to around 30 minutes.

As with the habit stacking I explained in this post, attach them to existing ones – so just after cleaning your teeth for example.

Scott suggests that each small habit needs to be a “complete action”. He also says it’s best to not include things like exercise if you could actually spend more time on this.

I really like this approach, and it is something I may try out as part of my daily morning routine once I have some quiet time, but for now I’m sticking with how I currently do things, because it’s working so well and I get so much done on my morning walk!

James Clear also writes about habit stacking in this great article How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones

James discusses the science behind building new habits. He discusses how connecting the new habit to a current habit / daily behaviour is one of the best ways to do so.

He includes a “formula” for habit stacking:

After/Before (Current Habit), I will (New Habit).

I love how he is able to bring the scientific understanding to this behaviour change, and the formula makes it lovely and clear.

However you want to approach habit stacking is what’s best for you. But the key is to identify your current daily habits that you do (cleaning teeth / getting out of bed etc.), and using these to build the new ones that you want to introduce.

Final Thoughts

Habit formation takes time and it’s natural to feel resistance at first. Our brains don’t like change – it likes to take comfort in what it knows. When you introduce new habits or routines, you can find yourself in battle with your mind. By linking the new habits to ones already ingrained in your life, it makes it a little easier.

When you habit stack you can also further streamline your current working practices, your work life balance and your productivity.

Remember to be specific with both the trigger (cue) for the new habit, as well as the goals and expectations. For example, “I will journal for 5 minutes as I drink my coffee” Or, “On my morning walks outside I will listen to a podcast”.

As a multi-passionate entrepreneur with limited energy, I’ve found habit stacking to be very effective. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you're already working on many different things, and adding extra pressure to make even more changes can feel very unappealing.

Habit stacking has helped me introduce things to my normal daily routines without the normal resistance and as a result improve my day to day life.

I’d love to hear how you’ve used habit stacking in your life – I’m always up for learning new ways to boost productivity while saving my energy!

Plus! Don’t forget to check out  Sunsama if you’re ready to improve your productivity and task management.

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Meet Lynsey

Lynsey Wall, Coach & Mentor at Coach Writes. About me - A headshot of Lynsey smiling. Wearing a black t-shirt, blue framed glasses. Office walls behind her.

Hey there! I'm Lynsey, a coach, counsellor, and mentor for low energy, introverted or low confident female coaches & small business owners. With over 5 years’ experience of running businesses, and over a decade as a tutor and trainer, I've learned the value of effective time management that energises you through working with your energy.

I've lived with chronic illness – ME/CFS since 2011 and since then I re-trained as a counsellor, and achieved a distinction for my MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice; all while running 4 businesses! I want that for you as well & it is possible with the right support and pathway to success.

Improving your mindset, finding acceptance and developing a solution-focused approach to achieving your goals is my passion. Blending mental health support where needed, as well as a supportive space and methods to manage your work more effectively.

If you'd like to know more about working with me, you can email [email protected] or find me on socials (links in the menu)

Have you seen my online store Your Coach Tools? Find DFY templates & more!

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