The first step in habit stacking is creating a concrete objective. “A lot of people will say, ‘I’m going to be healthier,’ but that’s a very nebulous statement,” he says. “You have to be specific about your goal and what you have to do to reach it.” Instead of vowing to move more, set out to do 20 extra push-ups per day. Don’t just plan to be more mindful—aim to meditate for five minutes each night. To avoid burnout, focus on one goal at a time rather than several, Berenc notes.
In the early stages of adopting a new habit, you might have to set an alarm or leave a note on the table to remind yourself. But rituals that you do every day are so ingrained in your routine that you don’t even think twice about them. Berenc suggests you take a day or two to identify all these rituals, like brushing your teeth, showering, brewing your coffee, or walking your dog, and write them down.
Now, you need to pair your new habit with a ritual that you can do either in unison or one after the other. When Berenc wanted to do move more, he achieved that by doing 10 squats every time he brushed his teeth. If you're trying to apply sunscreen before heading out each morning, you can do it while your coffee brews or after putting on your shoes.
“When you’re stacking habits, try to create an environment that supports the process,” Berenc says. That could mean setting a morning alarm that tells you to do your push-ups, keeping your mala beads bedside to remind you to meditate, or leaving your bottle of SPF next to your coffee machine.
The last step is to reflect on how well you’ve done at normalizing your new habit. “If it came easily, you’ll want to know why so you can apply that strategy to other habits,” Berenc says. “If you were challenged, it’s equally important to know what you can change to make yourself more successful.”
If you notice your new habit is becoming more of a subconscious event in your daily life, that’s your opportunity to take on something new. “The aggregation of all of these small habits create a large impact on your life,” he says. “Don't look at the isolated instance of doing 10 squats, but how they build up over time.”