by sonja thorsvik

Is Habit-Stacking The Key To Generating More Wealth As A Freelancer?

I love mornings, I really do. There’s just something about the promise of a new day that makes me excited to harness all of the possibilities and then make some magic. You might be like me (morning people, unite!), or you might also be a night owl—and that’s okay, too. 

If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s the pressure that can be put on morning routines. If you’re around on social media or love to read articles on productivity and routines, you’ve definitely seen the wildly ~extra~ morning routine that entrepreneurs and “experts” like to float around.

You know what I mean, right? So many of these articles embrace the idea of a 27-step, 4-hour morning routine that involves a cup of matcha heated to exactly 97 degrees, time in the infrared sauna, transcendental meditation, a sun salutation, Bulletproof coffee, and listening to three episodes of a business podcast. All before 6 AM.

The way I see it, it’s all about realistic efficiency that makes us happy. I mean, really, what’s better than that? While I am a fan of the mornings and believe they’re what sets the stage for a great day, I also don’t see a ton of value in jam-packing your morning with personal development if it just means you’ll be yawning all day. My favorite morning routine is 5 minutes, and it’s a winner no matter my mood, my plans for the day, or the time I get up. 

The Key To Developing An AM Routine You Love? Habit Stacking

One of my favorite ways to kill the game when it comes to life is by habit stacking, or the practice of adding new habits onto old ones. James Clear, who wrote the book “Atomic Habits” (a must-read for every entrepreneur… and human), talks about the power of synaptic pruning, saying, “The basic idea is that your brain prunes away connections between neurons that don’t get used and builds up connections that get used more frequently.”

If you read that and your eyes kinda glazed over, I’ll put it in more basic terms. Basically, your brain gets used to what it does and tends to ignore what it doesn’t. Clear talks about this in terms of babies, saying that for babies, everything is new and wonderful.

However, adults have really strengthened the neurons that they use in their daily habits. They’re not using all of them (which is where synaptic pruning comes in), but they are creating strong connections and routines with the habits and routines they do follow. 

Now, I want you to think about those things that you do every day, no matter what. It might be that you brush your teeth every day once you wake up. It might be that you take the same exit off the highway at the same time each morning. It might be that you lace up your tennis shoes for an afternoon run every day at 5:00.

You’re used to those things, and so is your brain. Those neurons have insanely strong connections because they trust that they’re going to be used. When habit stacking, you’ll take those everyday habits—those strengthened neurons—and add something new to them, like adding affirmations to your teeth brushing or listening to a podcast each time you drive your commute. 

Essentially, the “formula” for habit stacking is this:

Before or after [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Habit stacking gives your brain the opportunity to use those strong, highly connected neurons to build new habits by stacking them together. It’s a game-changer. My favorite time to habit stack? You guessed in: During my morning routine.

My Favorite 5-Minute Routine

The key to this morning routine: Personalize it to YOUR morning. There are some mornings when I do a handstand instead of setting intentions. There are some mornings when I put collagen in my smoothie instead of my coffee (ohhhh I know I’m a rebel!). There are some mornings when I’m not feeling like deep breaths, so I trade it in for an extra song on my AM playlist. You do you.

But, most of my habits—like making my bed, putting on sunscreen, and drinking water—are non-negotiables. By taking advantage of those daily “duh” habits, I’ve been able to make gratefulness, intention setting, and deep breathing a more consistent part of my day. Here’s my method of combining two habits in one:

Minute 1: Stretch and Be Grateful

When my alarm rings and my eyes spring open in the morning, I always stretch. It improves blood flow, activates lymph drainage making my face less puffy, and is exactly what I need to avoid a stiff neck or sore lower back. I also love to take a few seconds—even though it can be tricky at 6 AM—to say (or write down) what I’m grateful for that day. It’s a really great way to set my priorities from the beginning, and those priorities remind me that thankfulness wins. 

Minutes 2 & 3: Hydrate and Set Intentions

Next up, my water first then a cup of coffee routine and I always have a minute. (Well, two minutes.) While I down 30oz of water and then start my coffee, I love taking the time to set some mental intentions for the day. Sometimes, my intentions are simple, such as I will approach today with calmness and thoughtfulness. Sometimes, my intentions are a little more detailed, such as I will wrap up this project and clean out my inbox. Other times my intentions take the shape of my word of the day. A lot of people I talk to like this one since it’s so easy. For example, my words are along the lines of: ‘Solutions’, ‘Level’, ‘Energized’, or ‘Strong’. Once set, every time I go to get more water throughout the day, I think of my word and it re-centers me.

Minute 4: Make Bed and Have a Little Dance Party

Then I put my noise-canceling headphones on and dance around to a song that’ll pump me up for the day while making my bed for a fun and an immediate habit-stacked sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it means that I’m in for a Lizzo jam sesh, and some days I’m a little more chill with some Bossa Nova. It lights up my brain and gives me a second to get my space organized and my heart rate up. Have you ever read the book or watched the video of Admiral William H. McRaven discussing why you should make your bed each morning? You’ll never go another day without doing this simple task again! (Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t do the dancing part though, that’s just me)

Minute 5: Sunscreen and Take Some Deep Breaths

The last thing I do before I get on with my day? Wash face & apply Sunscreen. Always. Literally no matter what. Sunny day, of course. Cloudy day still happens. Snowing, yes mam’! I like to get a little fancy when I put it on my face too, massaging it in and upwards to improve my circulation and up blood flow (#antiaging, am I right?!) while taking big deep breaths to ground and center myself. Taking deep breaths lowers stress, increases energy, and improves digestion. Beauty and The Breath As I like to call this one.

No matter how you usually feel in the mornings, you owe it to yourself to elevate your routine, even if it’s with the simplest of upgrades. With this 5-minute, habit-stacked routine, you’ll be on the way to improving yourself before the rest of the world has even woken up. That, my friend, is the way to do it.




I started my own entrepreneurial career in 2012 scaling up from $0 a year to over $100,000 each and every year. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe there are ways for all of us self-employed entrepreneurs to reach six-figures and beyond and I'm unapologetically here to show you how I do it so you can make your next best move. Let's go.

foUNDER of gigging for gold
i like my coffee black

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