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What Is Habit Stacking?

Habit Stacking Could Be the Key to Your Productivity

The term "habit stacking" has been making the rounds on TikTok lately, with people talking about how this technique of joining habits together can be a game changer in your productivity. Despite the recent uptick in conversation, habit stacking isn't a new idea. The term was coined by S.J. Scott, who released "Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness" in 2017 (an update from the 2014 book that introduced 97 changes).

Recently, TikTokers like Shelby Sacco are reigniting interest in the habit-forming behavior, and there's a good reason why. Most of us know that habits like drinking enough water, moving our bodies, and putting our cell phones down before bed are good for us, but sometimes developing consistent habits can be tricky. That's where habit stacking comes in. Here's everything you need to know about the habit-forming technique.

What Is Habit Stacking?

According to Scott, habit stacking is when you "build routines around habits that don't require effort." Achieving those small wins helps you build momentum when it comes to forming habits, which Scott says makes them easier to remember and complete.

Habit stacking encourages you to introduce small activities into what you're already doing every day. The idea is that you use the habits you already have as triggers for new habits that you want to incorporate into your life. For example, if your goal is to read daily, and you make a cup of coffee each morning, you can make brewing your coffee your trigger that cues your mind that it's time to read 10 pages. If you link reading 10 pages to pressing the start button on your coffee maker, then each time you do it, your mind will think, "Now is the time we read."

Let the daily activities you're already doing help inspire the new habits you'd like to incorporate into your life. As Scott's books explain, stacking new patterns into a single routine is an effective way to incorporate a new habit into your life.

TikToker Shelby Sacco takes the habit stacking one step further by building in rewards. Using her three-week model, she encourages her followers to reward themselves. After one week of habit stacking, you get a reward — something small like a specialty coffee or a new makeup product.

This small reward is meant to inspire you to complete the next two weeks of habit stacking. You're entitled to another reward at the end of week three — a more expensive purchase like new workout clothes or a pair of shoes. In this way, you're taking the time to form new habits and getting rewarded. The reward functions both as a reminder to keep you going on incorporating these new changes and as a celebration of all that you've accomplished so far.

How Can Habit Stacking Make You More Productive?

Habit stacking can make you more productive by amplifying the routines you're already using. Rather than starting from scratch, you can start incorporating more positive habits into your life immediately by working them into your daily life.

Oftentimes, people get stuck when trying to form new habits because they're starting completely from scratch. The beauty of habit stacking is that you can take advantage of the fact that there are some habits so deeply ingrained in your life you almost don't recognize them as habits at all. These are simple things such as brushing your teeth, making a morning coffee, making your bed, and more. At this point in your life, these habits feel so deeply ingrained that they probably don't require that much effort. You wouldn't think twice about brushing your teeth, right? You just do it. By grouping a new habit that you want to add to your life with an existing habit, it's a great way to cue to your brain that something else needs to be done at that time.

Habit-Stacking Examples

There's no wrong way to incorporate habit stacking into your lifestyle, but if you're unsure of how or where to start, try these habit-stacking ideas:

  • Wake up > drink a glass of water
  • Turn on coffeemaker > meditate while it heats up
  • Finish dinner > do dishes, wipe down countertops and appliances
  • Get into bed > journal for 10 minutes
  • Set workout clothes out before bed > get up and dressed for exercise when the alarm goes off
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