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February 10th, 2021

A habit stack is a group of ritual behaviors that support one another by being tied together.  We all have habit stacks. Nearly everyone has a ‘morning ritual’ which is a habit stack, and it usually comprises of brushing teeth, shower, all manner of bathroom activity, getting dressed, and of course the coffee.  It’s a curiosity of the improving mind to wonder if more habit stacks can’t be engineered to be as productive and compressed as that morning routine.


The workout is often another routine, a habit stack that becomes an automation after enough time.


But perhaps most important for creating new stacks of productivity is that we often unconsciously pair these routines with a ritual incentive.  In the morning it’s that hot coffee for many people.  After the workout, it’s a good meal.


The ritual incentive is a great tool to incorporate when trying to pick up a new habit, especially one that inspires a grudging groan when the time comes.  An important caveat is to make sure the incentive doesn’t undo the good work of the habit.  Eating a tub of ice cream after a good workout is counter-productive in all sorts of very human ways.  That being said, if there’s an incentive that’s inline with the underlying goals of the habit it’s accompanied with, than all the better.


We tend to think that we should be able to get ourselves going with all stick, but some carrot after the ordeal can go a long way.  And it’s amazing how effective a small the incentive can be, be it a cup of coffee as reward for meditating in the morning, or that hot shower, or even something as simple as listening to a favourite song.  The reward itself becomes charged more than usual with the sense of accomplishment that lingers after a habit completed.  The two become mutually reinforcing.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 1032: Ritual Incentive

Tinkered Thinking

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