The most important part of a habit stacking routine is getting started. That’s why it’s important to attach it to “trigger,” which is an action or event that generates the beginning of your routine. Think of it like the green light at the start of a car race.
Habit triggers are often discussed in a negative context. More often than not, we hear triggers discussed when for bad behaviors like how drinking alcohol often triggers someone to smoke a cigarette. However, just as triggers can create a negative habit loop, they can also create good behavior. Like how waking up in the morning might trigger you to brush your teeth.
After building a habit stacking routine, you should choose a trigger to help with its successful completion.
Here’s how to do this.
Choose a Habit Trigger
Just as you built your routine piece by piece, you want to look at the characteristics of a trigger so you can choose one that will help you take action. For instance, when choosing a trigger keep these conditions in mind:
- An event or action can be used as a trigger. For example, waking up in the morning or eating lunch.
- It should be easy. If a trigger takes work, you are less likely to do it, which means your habit stacking routine is less likely to succeed.
- It should be automatic like a timer going off or a certain time of day.
- New habits are not the best triggers. A trigger should be something you’re used to doing every day.
After choosing a trigger, commit to following a habit stacking routine right after this event happens. The more you do this, the easier and more instantaneous it will become. Feel free to write yourself notes or post reminders until you can make the transition on your own.
Don’t worry if you forget or struggle to make the “trigger to habit” connection at first. Often it takes people many weeks—even months—before they automatically move from trigger to habits.
Create the Trigger-Habit Connection
So you’ve chosen your habit stacking routine and a specific trigger.
Creating a bond between a trigger and a habit will help start your habit stacking routine every day. The key to making it stick is repetition. When you identify the trigger and follow it every day, it becomes a priority. My advice is to pick a time/location and do everything you can to follow this new routine.
For example, let’s say you pick your alarm clock as a trigger. This means you should set aside 30 minutes (or less) to complete a habit routine that includes: taking a vitamin, walking the dog and collecting all your dirty laundry and placing it next to the washing machine. You will repeat this every day until you do it without even thinking. Each time your alarm goes off, you are ready to being the stacking routine.
Now like any new action or habit, it will take time to get used to this routine. You might miss a day or two, perhaps you will be forced to eliminate a few small habits. The key to sticking with it is to make sure you’re doing something every single day.
Also, don’t start a habit stacking routine before the alarm goes off, or ten minutes after. To build the right connection, you need to start your routine as soon as your alarm is ringing. Starting too early or too late can cause a weak connection, resulting in missed routines and less than impressive results.
Set Yourself Up for Success
With your habit stacking routine and trigger chosen, don’t let anything stand in your way. Before you begin, make sure you’re properly prepared for what lies ahead. Depending on your habits and goals, think about the time and equipment that’s needed and make sure they’re ready to go.
If your focus is productivity, then you need to consider a few things before getting started:
- An earlier bedtime providing for more free time in the morning.
- Buying and setting up any required filing system
- Finding the right apps or software to manage your time
- Writing down important tasks in order of priority
- Planning for your reward
We all have faced the occasional obstacle or challenge. The trick is to identify them ahead of time and take a proactive approach for overcoming them.
Reward Positive Results
Positive reinforcement, which is discussed throughout the book, even applies to habit triggers. It’s important to recognize and celebrate when triggers work and when habit stacking routines are completed.
The goal of a good habit is to instill a healthier, beneficial routine that will make your life better. Since habits need to be constantly and consistently repeated, rewarding yourself is important as it encourages you day after day. Each time you successfully move from a trigger to the completion of a habit stacking routine, you can reward yourself—even with something small.
Self-praise is a great reward for habit completion—especially for those of you that have fitness goals and can’t reward yourself with candy. Looking in the mirror and telling yourself, “good job,” or “you made progress today,” is often enough to push you to continue in your success. Giving yourself credit helps you to enjoy your routine and stay motivated.
Moments of relaxation can also be a great reward. Each day that you are triggered and consequentially finish your routine, give yourself ten minutes to relax. Sit outside and enjoy the weather, or relax in your favorite chair with a cup of tea.
No matter what your routine is focused on, be sure to implement a trigger for your habits. Do this often enough and the routine will become “sticky” enough where you won’t need to consciously think about taking action. Instead you’ll do everything on autopilot.