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You detest your daily commute. Abhor it. It takes an hour to travel while stuck in congested traffic and breathing toxic fumes! How can you make it more manageable? You could use that time to learn some French before your upcoming trip to Europe, something you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t had the time for, along with a language app. Your commute sounds better already, don’t you think?

Greetings from the fascinating world of habit stacking! This straightforward and highly effective concept combines two tasks—one that you must complete and one that you choose to complete—to help you get more done and feel much happier.

What is habit stacking?

The term “habit stacking” was coined by author S.J. Scott in his book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. Basically, it means you create a new habit by attaching it to something you already do regularly. For example, while brushing your teeth, you can walk briskly in place – a multitasking moment that’s good for you in two ways. “Habit stacking as a concept is an understanding of the way our brains function,” says Deena Manion, Psy.D. LCSW, a psychologist in private practice in Agoura Hills, CA. “If you connect a new habit to something you’re already doing every day, it can be a very important act of self-care.”

How does habit stacking work?

Habit-stacking starts with a “trigger” that you’ll come to associate with a new, good-for-you action. “What we know from lots of prior research is that habits are kicked into gear by a particular cue,” says Kristin Diehl, PhD, professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles. “A cue could be a specific location, a certain time of day, or a series of actions. For habit stacking, the cue is a prior action, like brushing your teeth, that can serve as the cue for the next habit.”