Productivity Hack #1: Habit Stacking

Joel Gerschman

If you’re thinking about taking on any positive resolutions for the new year, try using a powerful strategy called ‘habit stacking’ to ensure your new behaviour sticks.

Watch below to learn how:

Episode Highlights

  • Introduction to Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • What is habit stacking, why is it so powerful, and how can you apply it to your life?
  • An example of how Joel applied habit stacking to his own personal life to install a habit that he previously couldn’t get to stick.
  • Joel puts on his coaching hat and asks Raph what’s a habit that he might like to introduce to improve his quality of life, and how he might achieve that through habit stacking.


Raph (00:02):
Hi, Raph from Digital Autopilot along with my partner, Joel Gerschman. So we recently sent out to our clients an end of year gift. It was a book called atomic habits by James Clear a very, very popular book in terms of how to improve one’s habit and behaviors day to day and Joel being our resident scholar and you know, major book reader. As you can see by the background there with some of his books and author as well. So he actually read the book and has a few things to share, or maybe like one key point that he’d like to share that you might find helpful. Joel, if you wanna share one or two key ideas from the book that you, that you found helpful…

Joel (00:50):
It’s a, it’s a great book, so I definitely recommend you checking it out if you haven’t read it already. And there are multiple helpful strategies, but just to pick out one really helpful strategy you can use immediately. So it’s a strategy called habit stacking. Now, just to give you the background briefly where we’re always trying to improve our performance in life, by adding new habits to our life adding one small habit, a positive habit can make a huge difference in terms of our our productivity, our ability to achieve our goals. But adding new habits is tough, right? It’s hard to embed a new behavior in our lives. So this, the idea of habit stacking is a really helpful way of doing it. What it really means is it means looking in your life for an existing habit that is already embedded.

Joel (01:49):
And then when you want to add a new habit, adding it on top of that as an additional habit. So giving a practical example of that. So I was trying to add in some let’s call it a bit of a fitness regime into my life. So when COVID hit, I stopped going to the gym, which I was doing, you know, a couple mornings a week. And, and so I thought, you know what, I’ll, I’ll do some exercise at night. Just my own sort of home based exercises. And I started doing it at, you know, at random times of the night and, you know, I did it consistently for the first couple weeks, but after that, it started to drop off, right. It wasn’t really embedded in my life. So what I did was I stacked it on top of another habit that was rock solid.

Joel (02:40):
So every night I have a shower before I go to bed. And so what I did was before my shower for five or 10 minutes, I made sure that I, I stacked my exercise regime onto the shower in this case, it’s just before the shower. But in theory, you could either do it just before or just after an existing rock, solid habit. So it basically comes down to a simple formula and the formula is this after or before a current habit I will. And then you add in whatever new habit is, right? So people are, so if you, if you’re looking for, if you’ve decided as we approach the end of the year, that you wanna add in a new positive behavior as a new, new year’s resolution, then this is a really helpful way to make it stick, find an existing habit that you are ready doing consistently and stack it on, on top of that habit.

Raph (03:41):
Yeah, that’s really good.

Joel (03:41):
Raph, let’s let’s, let’s do a bit of coaching here. You might not be expecting this, but I’m gonna ask you what’s…

Raph (03:50):
Well I hope we’re not gonna coach people to take a shower..Like that seems pretty obvious. And I’m glad to hear that you actually shower every day. That’s good.

Joel (03:58):
That’s an existing habit that we hope is, is rock solid for people. But let me ask, ask you, is there a new behavior that you would like to take on in your life?

Raph (04:09):
Showering every day? I, I think that would be a good thing. Oh, Joel, that’s, that’s tough. That’s tough there’s so many. I would say given, I would say something small, they all seem, you know, small and they pile up. I would just say maybe being more focused with kids at nighttime, you know, when kids, you know, I got you know thankfully good, healthy, exciting kids between the age of 14 months and 13 and a, and a few in between. So it can get pretty busy at night. So I think it’s just being more present during, you know, those critical hours before they go to bed. Okay.

Raph (04:51):
Is that, is that too big? Is that a big one?

Joel (04:52):
Well it’s not a new behavior. What you are, what you are really doing is you are looking, I guess that’s optimizing and existing behavior, but maybe there’s a way to do that. Maybe you can, create a little bit of quality focused time with each of your kids, even if it’s just sort of five minutes each at night. Let’s say you decided you wanted to do that so…

Raph (05:22):
Well, that, that’s what I was just thinking about that now. Like, you know, we do it in a way more haphazardly. It’s like, oh, tonight let’s read a book. So they’re always gonna go to bed. And you’re always gonna say goodnight, for example.

Joel (05:34):
Correct. So that’s, that’s good.

Raph (05:36):
So just say, you know what, as soon as say, goodnight, you know what, quick, two, three minutes, let’s read a book, pick a book and you start with that. And that way that’s good quality time. Two, three minutes with this 1, 2, 3 minutes. This one could obviously expand out to five minutes and as normal I’ll probably fall asleep before the kid falls asleep. But…

Joel (05:54):
But that, but that’s a great example. You stack it on top of something that’s already happening. And as a result, it’s more likely to stick.

Raph (06:00):
So they’re definitely gonna go to bed and basically say, okay, well then that I know mentally, that’s the time say, oh, bang, you know, two, three minutes, five minutes, whatever it is, focus time for that kid, reading a book, talking about their day, whatever it is.

Joel (06:14):
Exactly. Perfect.

Raph (06:15):
I’m glad I’m glad had this session.

Joel (06:17):
Good luck implementing it. And hopefully that was helpful for all our viewers and listeners and wishing you all a happy new year and good luck, you know, choosing and then implementing and embedding your new year’s resolutions. Thanks

Raph (06:36):
And showering every day.

Joel (06:37):
That’s it.

Raph (06:39):
Thanks. See you later.

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