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Are you habit stacking?


Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” ― James Clear

As coaches we work with hundreds of managers and leaders across the world who are seeking to make powerful changes in their life or work as they step into their true potential and accelerate their impact in our world. The process of identifying the right changes to make is an area where a coach is pivotal, as change will of course be different for each individual. But, while the changes themselves are as unique as each of these remarkable individuals, the barrier to success is often a lot more common: Time.

Most of us don’t sit around with a great deal of time on our hands. As adults we typically work on a zero-balance budget system when it comes to time: we end each day having used up all the time available to us. We might not use it how we want, but use it we do – and when it’s gone, it’s gone. That leaves anyone trying to make an important lifestyle or workstyle change with a challenge – what do we cut from our already maxed-out schedule? And since we feel the pain of loss far more than we do the thrill of gain, the odds are stacked against that important new habit from displacing the incumbents. Hence, the status quo prevails!

There is another way however, and it builds on the idea introduced by James Clear in Atomic Habits called Habit Stacking: Associate the new habit with an old habit as a kind of trigger. For example, immediately after you brush your teeth in the morning, meditate for one minute to begin building that new Mindfulness habit. There are, however, some habits you can do at the same time – literally stacking them on top of each other to save time!

Here are a few examples of new habits you can easily stack to reclaim lost time:

  • If you’re looking to start ‘reading’ more business books, why not switch to audiobooks? Then stack your ‘reading time’ with any routine activity that requires relatively little attention, such as your daily commute, walking the dog or doing the washing up.
  • Want to think more strategically? Use your daily shower to brainstorm new ideas, reflect on yesterday’s achievements or prioritize your day ahead. Showers are actually the perfect environment for ‘divergent thinking’ – thinking outside the box – so lather up!
  • Struggling to build a better exercise routine? Why not combine jogging with exercising the dog? With a bit of training most pooches will enjoy the novelty of a run alongside you.
  • A great friend and distinguished guitar musician and teacher practices his guitar scales while watching Netflix in the evening!

You get the point! The key is to look at your existing daily routine and identify that dead-space that could be harvested to support powerful personal change. You’ll soon find that the new habits become their own reward, making them easier to prioritize into your day over existing, less-valuable, habits. Until then, stack ‘em up!

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