6 months ago, I decided that I wanted to start flossing consistently. I knew it would be good for my long-term dental health.
However, on most nights I would completely forget to floss. Even when I remembered to do so, I usually didn’t want to stop what I was doing.
But a few months ago, I finally figured out how to solidify this new habit using a technique called "habit-stacking."
The basis for habit-stacking is attaching new habits onto pre-existing ones. This provides a ready cue to perform that habit, which makes it much easier to stay consistent with.
I ended up stacking flossing onto brushing my teeth, so I placed a sticky-note which stated “floss then brush” onto my bathroom mirror. This way, I would always remember to floss right before I brushed.
After a few weeks, this habit became a fundamental part of my evening routine. I haven’t missed a night since.
Habit-stacking is incredibly powerful. After building the flossing habit, I started to slowly tack on additional important activities.
I started with skincare, by placing facial products right next to the toothbrush and floss. After gaining that habit, I expanded to other areas like making my bed and taking dietary supplements.
Here’s how you can habit-stack in three easy steps:
1. First, make a list of every simple habit you already perform. This could be brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or eating breakfast. Isolate empty spots before or after that you can insert new habits into.
2. Once you find an open area, make the habit incredibly obvious. I used to store my floss in a drawer, which caused me to forget to use it. This is why you should place the new object near the pre-existing one or set up some sort of reminder.
3. Finally, only add one habit at a time. If I created a complex routine all at once, I would never stay consistent with it. Slowly add on additional steps only when the previous one is completely solidified.
If you want to learn more about habits, check out my summary of the bestselling book Atomic Habits here.
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