How to Get Started with Habit Stacking: A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Easily Establishing Any Habit You Want

You’ve heard me say it a million times: Habit Stacking has been a complete game-changer for my ability to create new habits and make them stick!

I first learned about the method a few years ago when reading Atomic Habits by James Clear (highly recommend), and since then, I’ve used it to build a regular fitness routine, meditate, write more, and even keep my house clean.

If you’d like this info in video form, go ahead and press play on this short video I created. It’ll walk you through a brief explanation of what Habit Stacking is, give you a simple exercise you can do to determine what Habit Stacks you should create, and give you three great tips for creating Stacks that are strong and effective.

What Is Habit Stacking

From the time we are born, our brains are busy building neural pathways for the habits and routines we do frequently. As we reach adulthood, our brains undergo “synaptic pruning,” which removes extra synapses it has deemed irrelevant and leaves the ones we regularly rely on. This can make it hard to develop new habits as an adult.

Thankfully, we can hack this with a method known as Habit Stacking. Habit Stacking suggests that you connect the new habit you want to develop to an existing habit that has stuck around and is well-formed. The established habit then becomes a “cue” to trigger the new habit.

How to Get Started

I recommend trying this exercise to determine what Habit Stacks you should create. Grab a piece of paper, and along the left side of the paper, make a list of the habits or routines you regularly (and reliably!)  perform throughout the day. It can be helpful if you work through your day from start to finish so that the list ends up being chronological, from the things you do when you first wake up to things you do right before bed.

Next, write a list along the right side of the page of habits you’d like to develop in the next few months.

Then draw a line to connect an established habit (the left column) to a new habit (the right column). Try to connect habits that are similar in time or duration (for example, if you want to start doing 5 minutes of yoga each morning, connect it to something else you do in the morning — like brushing your teeth or making coffee, rather than something you typically do at night).

Tips for Strong Habit Stacks

If you want to get the most out of Habit Stacking, you’ll want to incorporate the tips below to ensure they are as strong and effective as possible:

  1. Include the details! Being specific about when, where, and how long or how much you’ll do the new habit will help it stick.
  2. Start small! Habits need to be developed before they can be improved, so start small and then increase them. (i.e. Start doing 3 minutes of yoga, make it a habit, then do 10, 20, etc.)
  3. Make it a “staircase.” You can layer multiple habit stacks onto each other to create a habit staircase. (i.e. “After I make the bed in the morning, I will stretch for 5 minutes on the bedroom floor and then do 5 minutes of meditation.” You now have two new habits connected to one old, established habit.)

Now we can combine the habits from the exercise above with the tips to create strong Habit Stacks, like this:

If you enjoy developing new habits and tracking your progress throughout the week, month, or year be sure to check out my Habit Tracker Template for Google Sheets! It helps you identify up to 10 new habits you want to develop and track their completion over time. The more habits you perform in a day, the more the emojis at the bottom of each column will change! The spreadsheet is color-coded to encourage action and gives you an annual overview on the “Tracking Tab.” You can learn more about it here.

Want to work with me directly? Be sure to check out my upcoming group course, Thyme Transformation. You can The Habit Template (below) free when you join the waitlist!

How to Get Started with Habit Stacking

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