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What is Habit Stacking? Examples & How To Form New Routines

Habit Stacking How to Build + Examples

Habit stacking is a straightforward and robust method for changing or introducing new habits. Suppose you find it challenging to form new habits; know that you’re not alone.

Our brain’s neuronal connections are strongest when we perform actions we know. The connection is weakest for behaviors we are not familiar with.

This is because we are programmed to do what we are already excellent at or comfortable with. But this doesn’t imply we are destined for failure.

The solution to building new habits and making them stick could be habit stacking.

In this article, you learn more about habit stacking and how you can start incorporating it into your life to develop healthy and lifelong habits. 

What is Habit Stacking?

The phrase ‘habit stacking’ was first used by S.J Scott in his book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less.

The book suggests the readers create routines around habits that take minimal effort. Doing so will allow the small wins to build momentum as they can remember and achieve them effortlessly.

Habit stacking, also known as ‘habit chaining,’ is one of the most effective strategies for developing new habits.

It involves selecting an existing routine that you currently do daily and then stacking your new behavior on top of it.

It takes advantage of the already present strong synaptic connections to form a link between your existing habits and the new ones.

Habit stacking is a type of implementation intention. Rather than associating your new habit with a particular location and time, you associate it with an existing routine.

The technique includes organizing small actions into a routine that you attach to an existing habit in your day. It helps your brain to remember the new pattern and connect your new behaviors to a current trigger.

If you treat each behavior in your habit stack as separate actions, you need to set reminders to monitor each. And as time goes by, you will find it extremely tedious and may give up in the end.

But by staking the actions into a single habit, it will be easier to memorize and execute continuously. You may find habit stacking daunting at the beginning.

But after doing it several times, you will realize it’s not as difficult as you imagine.

15 Ways On How To Build Habit Stacking Routine and Examples

1. Start with a simple and easy-to-complete habit

Making a new habit easy to complete is the easiest way to stick it. For instance, if you wish to read every day, set a target of reading 20 pages daily.

Sure, you can read more, but as long as you finish 20 pages, check this off your list for the day.

The basic idea is to establish an easy goal that will overcome resistance. When you get started, you will generally do more than expected.

2. Focus on Small Wins

Build your routine around behaviors that require less effort and use minimal willpower. For example, do ten push-ups, take a vitamin or drink eight glasses of water.

Choose activities that are simple to do, and take less than two minutes. Then, organize your stack around these activities.

Commit to completing these actions for a week or two until this habit stack becomes natural. Then you can start incorporating more new behaviors into your habit stack.

3. Choose a Time and Location

Every habit stack needs to be anchored to a trigger. In addition, the trigger has to be connected to a specific location, time, or both. Here is an example of how you can use a trigger to build a habit stack.

In the morning, at home: Performing a morning ritual as soon as you wake up is a terrific way to start your day fresh. For example, you could complete a sequence of behaviors that will kickstart your day in a good mood.

Some examples of activities that you can build into your morning habit stack are meditation, saying positive affirmations, and eating a nutritious breakfast.

4. Anchor Your Habit Stack to a Trigger

Triggers are essential as most people cannot remember all their tasks without a reminder. So, triggers can prompt you to take action and complete essential tasks.

Triggers are categorized into two primary types- external triggers and internal triggers. External triggers include a smartphone alarm, a push notification, or a Post-it note.

Internal triggers are the experiences and feelings you associate with an existing habit.

Understanding the distinction between these two triggers is critical for developing effective habit stacks. In addition, it will assist you in breaking negative habits that may hinder your development.

5. Create a Checklist

A habit stack’s most crucial component is the checklist. The checklist should include the sequence of the activities, how long each activity will take, and where you will perform them.

It will help you eliminate any uncertainty about what you have to do when trying to complete an action.

Here’s a quick tip when creating your checklist. Group the small behaviors in a sequence where they flow from one to the other smoothly without wasting any effort.

6. Be Accountable

You must hold yourself accountable to develop a new habit routine. Unfortunately, most people fail to form new habits because it’s always easier and more comfortable to stay where you are in life.

Making a personal commitment to do something is insufficient. Motivation doesn’t last forever.

You can be highly motivated during the first few days, but your accountability and discipline determine if your new habits will stick or break.

There are many ways you can be accountable for the habits you create. For example, you can post your progress on social media accounts, recruit an accountability partner or share your new routine with people around you.

7. Create Small and Enjoyable Rewards

Performing your habit stack is a significant achievement that you should celebrate. Rewarding yourself is a tremendous motivation to push you to complete your routine.

The rewards can be anything from having a well-deserved break, enjoying a night out with your loved ones, or treating yourself to your favorite restaurant.

8. Focus on Repetition

Over the first few weeks of establishing a habit stack, repetition is essential. You must follow your schedule daily, even if it means skipping one or two actions.

You develop muscle memory through repetition. Once you practice a new behavior repeatedly day in and day out, it will become embedded into your daily routine.

Although repetition is essential, missing a day or two is not the end of the world. But one critical thing to remember is that you must never skip two consecutive days of not doing the behavior.

9. Don’t Break the Chain

Develop a repeatable goal that you can complete daily. Make sure that no excuses can stop you from completing it. The main focus is establishing a goal you can achieve even on a lazy day.

One way to do this is to stick a calendar on your wall and mark a huge red X for each day you accomplish the habit. Marking Xs on the calendar will motivate you to continue completing the goal daily.

The longer the unbroken string of red X’s, the more driven you are not to break the chain. The purpose of this method is to help you get rid of any possible excuses that might break the chain of Xs.

10. Expect Setbacks

Even the most consistent person will encounter setbacks or struggles throughout their daily routine.

Building good habits is undeniably tricky, and you’re bound to face some challenges. When this happens, you have two options: quit or overcome them.

We hope you will choose the second option: to look for solutions to overcome these challenges.

11. Schedule the Frequency of a Stack

Depending on the positive habits you want to develop, some habits could happen daily, weekly, or monthly.

Our recommendation is to start with a small daily habit stack first. Then, once familiar with this stack, you can create a habit stack for weekly or monthly.

Weekly or monthly habit stacks are usually “check-in habits.” It includes important but easy-to-forget activities, such as setting a budget, reviewing credit card statements, or planning a dinner date.

12. Scale Up Your Stack

Go back to the first step: “Start with a simple and easy-to-complete habit.” Usually, you won’t gain many benefits from a single stack if you can only dedicate a certain amount of time to it.

Thus, it is recommended that you gradually build up your habit stack to a thirty-minute routine where you ideally complete at least six habit stacks.
However, do this one step at a time.

Two on the second week and three on the third week. Repeat this cycle until you develop one large habit stack of 6 small individual habit stacks.

13. Develop One Routine at a Time

In a research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the researcher, Phillippa Lally, found that it takes 18 to 254 days for a behavior to become permanent.

The findings suggest that we should avoid building more than one habit at a time. Each new activity makes it increasingly challenging for you to stick to your habits.

So, you should only add a new habit to your stack when you can automatically perform the behavior without much effort.

But, as the study above suggests, a person takes on average 66 days for a new action to become a habit. Therefore, how long you need to make a new behavior permanent differs from person to person.

14. Review Your Goals

We all have goals that we aspire to accomplish, no matter how ambitious or little. Unfortunately, life’s constant hustle and bustle can cause us to lose sight of our goals.

You should allocate time monthly to review and reflect on your major goals.

Is your habit stack too challenging to complete? How can you improve your habit stacks? Then make strategies to keep yourself on track and continue performing your habit stacks.

15. Set a Timeline for Yourself

Setting a specific time frame can be beneficial. It could be an arbitrary or genuine deadline like 30 days or before the end of the year.

Establishing a timeline reinforces your commitment to practicing the new habits. Furthermore, giving yourself a time limit may make the whole journey feel less intimidating because there’s an endpoint.

It also provides an ideal opportunity to pause and reflect on your progress.

Why Is Habit Stacking Important?

Habits shape and influence your life much more than you imagine. This is because our brains hold on to the patterns we built over the years more than everything else.

More than 40% of your daily behaviors are habitual rather than intentional.

Habits grow increasingly powerful over time and more spontaneous. So, we must ensure that we practice good and healthy habits.

Habits are effective because they produce neurological cravings by inducing the release of “pleasure” chemicals in the brain.

List Of 10 Habit Stacking Benefits

  1. Helping you become the person you most desire to be
  2. Allowing you to lead by example and influence the people around you positively
  3. Increasing the overall quality of your life by allowing you to be productive at what you do consistently
  4. Helping you to maintain a positive mindset and actions on days when you lack motivation
  5. Helping you develop good habits to replace the bad habits
  6. Understanding how your priorities fit together and using your time proactively to complete valuable tasks will bring you closer to your goals
  7. Helping you to clarify your values and ensure your daily activities align with your values, preferences, and priorities
  8. Building a new skill quickly through concentrated daily learning
  9. Allowing you to explore different activities to build skills and discover new things about yourself and others
  10. Automating your behavioral sequences prevents you from using unnecessary brainpower and making too many decisions

How To Find Positive Trigger For Habit Stacking Effect

Making a list of your existing habits is one approach to identifying the suitable trigger for your habit stack. Start with making a list with two columns.

Write down the habits you practice every day in the first column. Then, in the second column, write down everything that happens to you every day.

With these two lists in hand, you can start finding the appropriate place to introduce your new habit into your daily routine.

If you wish to develop triggers for your habit stacks, keep the following four criteria in mind:

  1. A trigger should be an already-established habit. It needs to be an activity that you do daily without missing.
  2. A trigger may happen at a particular time during your day. A habit trigger can occur at a predetermined time each day. For example, in the morning when you get up or at lunch after you finish your meal. Whatever trigger you pick, it should be an automatic behavior.
  3. A trigger should be easy to accomplish. If the activity is complex, the trigger’s effectiveness will be reduced. For example, even if you read daily before bed, using it as a trigger is a mistake since you may sometimes skip it for specific reasons.
  4. A trigger should not be the beginning of a new habit. A permanent habit can take an average of 66 days to establish. It might take even longer for more demanding habits. Hence, you shouldn’t choose a new habit as a trigger unless you’re confident that you can practice it consistently every day.

How To Make Your Own Template For Habits (Fast & Easy)

Here is a quick and easy formula you can use to create a new habit stack:

After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]

Some examples of habit using the formula above are as follows:

  • Before I make my morning coffee, I will do a simple stretching exercise for one minute.
  • Before I get on my bed, I will write in my journal five things I am grateful for today.
  • After getting out of bed, I immediately change into workout clothes.
  • After I wake up in the morning, I will hug my partner.
  • After I finish bathing, I will spend a minute meditating.
  • After I get out of my office after work, I will text my partner that I am coming back home.

Habit stacking is effective because your existing behaviors are already embedded into your brain. You have developed habits and behaviors that have been reinforced over time.

Connecting your new behaviors to a current routine increases the odds of making the new behaviors stick.

After you have perfected this fundamental principle, you can start building larger habit stacks by linking the small habits together.

Habit stacking allows you to capitalize on the intrinsic momentum created by one action leading to the next.

Habit Stacking FAQ

What do stacking habits refer to?

Habit stacking, also known as ‘habit chaining,’ is one of the most effective strategies for developing new habits.

It involves selecting an existing routine that you currently do daily and then stacking your new behavior on top of it.

It takes advantage of the already present strong synaptic connections to form a link between your existing habits and the new ones.

What is habit stacking ADHD?

Habit stacking refers to stacking several actions together to create a routine that can be followed and repeated until it is practically automatic.

When a habit becomes routine, the ADHD gaps in your day narrow, preventing symptoms such as forgetfulness, time blindness, and disorganization from seeping through and using up spoons.

More habits mean more energy and resources available for concentration, performance, and an overall feeling of success.

What is habit stacking for weight loss?

An example of habit stacking for weight loss include stretching, preparing your diet meals, recording the workouts you did, or creating a playlist of your favorite songs or podcasts.

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