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  • Writer's pictureBethany Crystal

Habit Stacking: Join the October Back to Self Challenge


How Habit Stacking Can Increase Our Odds of Doing the ThingI’m all about finding “cheat codes” to make it easier to do the thing I’m trying to do, which is why  I love this concept of “habit stacking.” Popularized by James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits, the idea is that you can build new habits by taking advantage of old ones. As he says: “When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.” By linking new habits together against older ones that have already become foundational, we increase our likelihood of doing the thing. For example, if the first thing you do when you get up in the morning is make a cup of coffee, you can “stack” a new habit on top of that pre-programmed thing. (Ex: “After I make my cup of coffee, I will read the news for 10 minutes before I check my email.”) Once it becomes normed in your brain to read the news every morning before checking email, you might add another habit to the stack. For instance, meditate for 5-10 minutes. Advanced habit-builders can do stack habits on top of each other in a recurring series. Here’s what this looks like in a visual form:  I’ve been thinking a lot about habit stacking for two reasons:

  1. Because one option is for current habit-builders in the Back to Self Challenge to build on top of their newly formed, cemented habits and add in something else.

  2. Because I also think, once you’ve been through the mode of creating a new habit in one month, it feels mentally lighter on your brain to substitute in a new habit for the following month. For me, September was  all about breaking through the inertia of inaction, the lethargy of pandemic times. Getting started sucks. It’s hard, it’s mentally exhausting, and it’s not always gratifying or linear. But once you’ve started, you have momentum, which means it’s a little easier to keep going.  October is about building upon that momentum to keep driving toward the next habit.


The October Back to Self ChallengeI’ve learned a few things from running the Back to Self Challenge in September that I’m changing for October. So here’s how it’ll go.

  1. Pick a habit you want to start or rebuild. This is your Challenge Project. It should be simple and it should be singular. “Write a poem every day” is better than “Write and read every day, and go for a walk in the afternoon.”

  2. Pick your Challenge Cadence. One thing I learned from September is that not every habit needs a daily cadence in order to re-cement itself in our brains. You can pick a habit to rebuild 2 days a week, 4 days a week or 6-7 days a week.

  3. Get regular reminders to Do the Thing and join the Back to Self Community. Based on what you choose, you’ll get periodic reminders during the week to do your thing. This month, we’ve been using a daily leaderboard to track our individual progress, which I’ll rework for October. That’s it. Pick a thing, commit to the thing, do the thing. Oh, and if you want to bring along a friend for a little support -- a “motivation mentor” if you will -- I’m all about that too.  It’s one week until October 1.  You can sign up for the Back to Self Challenge here.

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