Habit Stacking

by | Nov 6, 2018


I recently read the fantastic book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. I’ve read a few books and quite a few articles about habits and behavior change and this book was by far the best I’ve read. It was straightforward, to the point, and had really good tools to use to create or change habits.

One strategy it discussed was “Habit Stacking.” This technique works by taking a habit you’d like to develop and pairing it with a well-established existing habit.

For example, a habit of mine that is ingrained is that I drink coffee in the morning. Two habits that I’d like to be more consistent about are meditating and listing three things I’m grateful for in my 5 Minute Journal App (great app).  So, I’ve stacked the habits. I’ve committed to myself not to drink coffee in the morning until I’ve journaled and meditated. This has been very effective (so far) because my coffee habit is so well-established.

Another: I don’t floss my teeth regularly enough. My flawed routine has been to floss after brushing in the morning. But, I often feel rushed and skip flossing in order to get to work or whatever. Based on the habit stacking concept, I’ve switched so that I’ve committed to flossing before I brush my teeth at night. In the morning when I’m done brushing I put the floss on top of my toothbrush to cue me to floss first. Again – so far so good.

As you may have noted from my personal examples – the order matters a lot. You should usually order the habit to be developed prior to the established habit.

Want to learn more? Here’s an article on Habit Stacking by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: Habit Stacking

1 Comment

  1. Nice. I love that you meditate BEFORE coffee. That is how you are supposed to do it, but I definitely need my coffee first thing before I meditate. Thanks for the reminder about a gratitude list. It is transformative. I am going to try habit stacking.


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