Habit Stacking

Habit Stacking

We are creatures of habit, this is true.  What else is true is the fact that we also create multiple “habit stacking” cycles during our days without even realizing it.  You decide what to do next in your day based on what you had just finished doing.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Going to the bathroom leads you to wash your hands
  • Washing your face at night leads you to brush your teeth, which leads you to flossing (hopefully!)

These are important habits that we all do every day.  It is also important to note that no behavior above happens in isolation.  Each action becomes a cue that triggers the next behavior.  This is the “secret sauce” behind habit stacking.  Using this connectedness of each behavior, it allows you to take advantage of what you already do and “stack” a new behavior on top of your current ones to help make them stick!  

The BEST way to do this is to identify a current habit you already do every day and then stack your new behavior on top.  This is what B.J. Fogg, author of “Tiny Habits” calls the “Tiny Habits recipe” which is essentially habit stacking.  

Habit stacking is a very special form of implementation intention (what we went over in part one of this blog, FOUND HERE!).  Instead of pairing your new habit with a time and location, you pair it with a current habit you already do every day.  

The habit stacking formula is: 

After [current habit] I will [new habit]

Here are a few examples:

  • Meditation – After I set my coffee to brew in the morning, I will meditate for one minute.
  • Exercise – After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes. 
  • Gratitude – After I sit down to dinner, I will share with my family one thing that I am grateful for that happened today in my life.

The real key here is to make sure you are attaching your new habit/behavior onto something you are already doing each day.  Once you get good at stacking one new behavior onto a current behavior, you can start to string together many small habits.  This may lead to a morning routine that looks like this: 

  1. After I set my coffee to brew in the morning, I will meditate for one minute. Then…
  2. After I meditate for one minute, I will write my to-do list for the day. Then…
  3. After I write my to-do list for the day, I will immediately begin my first and most important project for the day. 

See how stacking habits on top of what you already do (setting your coffee to brew) can actually turn into a positive new routines?!  

The best way to use this strategy is to select the right cue to kick things off in the right direction.  What is great about habit stacking is that it already has the time and location of the habit built in!  But when and where you choose to add a new behavior can make a big difference.  Let’s say, for the example above, that you add that you want to add meditation to your morning routine – but your kids are up then and your mornings can be chaotic – this would not be the best time to add this new habit.  

Don’t set yourself up for failure by asking yourself to add a new behavior when you are already occupied with something else during that time.  

Final Thoughts

The best way to figure out how to add a new behavior onto a current habit is to take note of all the things you do automatically and without fail.  Brainstorm all of these things and make a list.  Then from there, you can figure out the best place to layer in your new behavior.  

For example, if you know you brush your teeth twice a day without fail and you also want to journal in the morning and at night, you could habit stack that “after I brush my teeth, I will write one thing I am grateful for in my journal.”  

Like the saying goes, this may look “simple, but not easy.”  I challenge you to give this a shot by adding only ONE habit stack to your day.  What ONE behavior do you want to do on a daily basis that you may not be doing right now?  See how that goes for a couple of weeks – you might be surprised how  much the new habit “sticks!”  We can’t wait to hear how it goes!  

Ready to learn more about how we use the habit stacking with our members at Epic Fitness, and how to make this a part of your life?  You can apply NOW for one of 5 SPACES we have left for our New Year New You Challenge starting on Monday, January 25th!  Check it out below:

Learn More About The New Year New You Challenge!