How to Build a Routine That Actually Sticks: The Power of Habit Stacking and Behavioral Science

In today’s fast-paced world, building a routine that not only fits into our busy lives but also sticks for the long term can seem like an uphill battle. It's one thing to start a new habit, but quite another to make it a permanent part of our lives. This is where the magic of habit stacking and the insights of behavioral science come in. By understanding and applying these concepts, we can create routines that are not just temporary changes but lasting transformations.
Feb 05, 2024
How to Build a Routine That Actually Sticks: The Power of Habit Stacking and Behavioral Science

Understanding Habit Stacking and Behavioral Science

Before we dive into the how-tos, let's understand the key concepts:

Habit Stacking

Habit stacking, a term popularized by S.J. Scott in his book on habit formation, refers to the practice of grouping together small activities into a routine that you perform sequentially. It leverages the existing habits as cues for new ones, creating a chain of habits. This method is powerful because it builds on the behaviors you already do automatically, making it easier to incorporate new habits into your life.

Behavioral Science

Behavioral science offers insights into how human actions are influenced by our environment, emotions, and past experiences. It teaches us that habits are formed and sustained not just by willpower but by designing our surroundings and routines in a way that nudges us toward our goals. Understanding the principles of behavioral science can significantly increase our chances of making our routines stick.

Step 1: Set Clear, Achievable Goals

Start by setting clear and achievable goals for your routine. Use the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to define what you want to accomplish. Your goals should not only be well-defined but also motivating.

Step 2: Identify Your Keystone Habits

Keystone habits are the routines that have the power to transform your life. They create a domino effect, positively impacting various aspects of your life. Identifying and focusing on these habits can provide the most significant benefits. Examples include exercise, meditation, and reading.

Step 3: Start Small with Habit Stacking

Begin by choosing a small habit you already do daily without fail, like brushing your teeth. Then, stack a new, small habit onto it. For instance, after brushing your teeth, immediately meditate for one minute. The key is to start so small that it’s almost impossible not to do it, then gradually increase the complexity and duration of your routine.

Step 4: Design Your Environment for Success

Your environment significantly impacts your behavior. Adjust your surroundings to make good habits easier and bad habits harder. If you want to read more, place a book on your pillow every morning. If you aim to eat healthier, prep your meals in advance. The less friction there is to perform a habit, the more likely it will stick.

Step 5: Use Behavioral Triggers

Utilize cues in your environment to remind you to perform a habit. These triggers could be a time of day, an alarm, or placing visual reminders in strategic places. Behavioral triggers act as signals to start your habit stack.

Step 6: Reward Yourself

Rewards play a crucial role in habit formation. They satisfy our brain’s craving for instant gratification, making it more likely that the behavior will be repeated. After completing your habit stack, reward yourself with something that feels good. This could be a moment of relaxation, a treat, or a few minutes of social media time.

Step 7: Track Your Progress

Keeping track of your habits provides clear evidence of your success. Use a habit tracker, app, or journal to record your progress. This not only offers motivation but also helps identify patterns or triggers that may lead to skipping your habits.

Step 8: Be Patient and Consistent

Habit formation takes time and consistency. Research suggests it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit, depending on the complexity and the individual. Patience and persistence are key. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks; they are part of the process.

Step 9: Adjust as Needed

Be flexible and willing to adjust your routines as your life changes. The most sustainable routines are those that can adapt to different circumstances. If a habit consistently doesn't stick, reassess and modify it until it fits seamlessly into your life.

Step 10: Leverage Technology

In our digital age, technology can be a powerful ally in building and maintaining routines. This brings us to an invaluable tool for your journey: the Routinery app. This app automates the process of habit stacking and routine building, offering reminders, progress tracking, and personalized suggestions based on behavioral science principles.

Join the Routinery Team!

To truly make your routines stick, consider leveraging the Routinery app. It's designed to automate the entire process shared above, making it easier for you to focus on what really matters: living your best life. Download Routinery today and take the first step toward building a routine that not only sticks but also transforms your life.


Building a routine that sticks is not about overhauling your life overnight. It’s about taking small, manageable steps, understanding the science behind habit formation, and using tools like the Routinery app to make the process smoother and more effective. By applying the principles of habit stacking and behavioral science, you can create a routine that not only lasts but also significantly improves your life. Remember, the journey to building lasting habits is a marathon, not a sprint. With patience, persistence, and the right strategies, you can develop a routine that truly sticks.

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