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We all have our habits — some good, some not so good. For example, one of my habits is to brush my teeth every morning, just before I get in the shower. Good habit. Another habit I have is to check Facebook as soon as I sit down at my computer in the morning. Probably a not-so-good habit.

coffee cat
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There are things we do every day, at a certain time, without even really thinking about it. When I come downstairs in the morning, I turn on the coffeemaker and get out the bowls to feed the cats. After the cats are fed, I take my cup of coffee into the living room and turn on the news.

Habit Stacking

This series of activities that I do in sequence is what author S.J. Scott calls Habit Stacking. They’re all things I do without giving them much thought and one follows the other. I turn on the coffeemaker, I feed the cats, I prepare my cup of coffee, then I take it in the living room and turn on the news. That’s a habit stack. I didn’t set out to develop this habit stack. Basically, it’s just my routine.

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The idea behind habit stacking is to intentionally develop your routines — habit stacks — in a way that is orderly and productive. A good way to start is by building off of the habits you already have. For example, since one of my habits is to check Facebook when I first sit down at my computer, I could start my habit stack with that and add on to it that the next thing I do is spend 10 minutes writing in my journal, followed by 15 minutes curating content for my audience or to use as inspiration for a blog post.

Understanding your “why”

Blogger Darren Rowse of ProBlogger notes that, before you begin building positive habits, you need to get clear on your “why.” You need to make a connection between your personal or professional mission, your passion, and what it is you want to achieve. Otherwise, it’s hard to make new habits stick long enough to become part of “what you do.” Darren says one of the ways he’s been able to build new habits — something that doesn’t come naturally to him — is to adopt the mantra of “It’s what I do.” But if you don’t know why it’s what you do, it will probably feel artificial and won’t last.

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Ultimately, as Darren said in a 2016 podcast episode, the idea is to “normalize” the habits that will help you achieve your goals. One way he says he’s been successful with normalizing new habits is to use a journal. Like me, Darren doesn’t use his journal for the sole purpose of writing down deep thoughts — although in my case, that’s one of the things I use it for — but to write down things he wants to get done, ideas he thinks of, and useful information.

Truthfully, I was never good at keeping a journal until I allowed myself to throw out the “rule-book” about journaling and started keeping notes that were truly useful to me. So, don’t be afraid to chart your own course. Building positive habits isn’t about following someone else’s rules; it’s about finding what works for you.

How To Build Positive Habits

  • Start with your why. Understand not only where you want to go but why you want to achieve your goal.
  • Normalize it. “It’s just what I do.”
  • Develop a system or systems. Create habit stacks, a series of things you do at a certain time each day, where one follows the other. Think of your habits in terms of a routine.

If you need help getting started, consider reading S.J. Scott’s book. In addition to explaining the concept of habit stacking, he also provides 127 ideas for habit stacks that may work in your life.

What new habits are you working to build? Have you been successful in developing new habits? Share your experience!


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