Habit Hacks: Habit Stacking

Tara Penawell Habit Hacks Blog Cover Photo

Simplify starting and consisting a new routine with Habit Hacks! Every month, Elite Personal Trainer and Health Coach, Tara Penawell, will serve up and break down the building blocks of creating a routine that sticks. Learn hacks from the pro that will help you actualize your goals! 


“Simplify, simplify”
-Henry David Thoreau

Now that you’ve set some quality goals for yourself, it’s time to go forth on achieving them. Consistent repetition will be key in making a habit of your new routine. Your daily routine is full of habits. If I were to ask you what a ‘habit’ is, you might say “something I do without thinking” or “something I do that I wish I didn’t do”.

These little routines or rituals we do every day are programmed into our brains and are reinforced by repetition. This is called a habit loop. This is a three-step process that James Clear, author of ‘Atomic Habits‘, has dubbed ‘the 3 R’s’: 

  1. Reminder. Also known as cue or trigger. 
  2. Routine. The behavior or action that you take. 
  3. Reward. The benefit or reward you get for performing the behavior. 


When you want to establish a new routine, the easiest way to make it happen is to connect the new habit to one that has already been established and deeply entrenched. This is a process called habit stacking. The basic pattern is: 

Before/after I do my current habit, I will do this new habit.


  1. Before I drink my coffee, I will take my vitamins that I conveniently put next to the coffee maker. 
  2. After I brush my teeth, I will set my gym bag with my clothes, shoes, and headphones next to the door. 
  3. Before I read my book at night, I will write down one thing that I’m grateful for, or meditate for one minute. 
  4. After dinner, I will take a 10-minute walk. 

Habit stacking takes advantage of an already established connection in your brain. Since you already do the one activity, it makes it easier to tack another onto it. To further enforce that you do it, create triggers for yourself, such as writing it down somewhere you’ll see it, or setting a reminder on your phone. Try to perform the new habit at the same time and consistently. Before you know it, you’ll have established a new habit! 


Taking this concept to the next level, you can establish a whole morning or evening routine by creating a checklist of daily tasks, or ‘habit chains’. This simplifies the process because you just need to remember to follow the checklist instead of focusing on each individual task. Start small – keep each task simple and add to already established routines. Make each task under five minutes –  breaking new additions down into 5-minute chunks will make it feel less overwhelming. Eventually, the process of following the whole checklist will become second nature.

Example of a Habit Chain: 

  • Wake up
  • Take vitamins
  • Drink a glass of water
  • 5 minutes of meditation
  • Shower
  • Make breakfast
  • Eat breakfast
  • Floss and brush teeth

Habit chains can be created for any time of day. Make one for before you go to bed, to help get you set up for your next day. Or at the end of your workday, use a habit chain to give yourself a strong start for your next workday. Perhaps you create a stack to make your workouts more efficient. Try to keep the habits on the checklist relatively simple and keep the entire checklist to 30 minutes or less. 


By habit stacking and building upon an already established routine, you make it that much easier to ingrain a new habit into yourself. Take stock of what your goals are, and what your current day-to-day life looks like. Which of your established patterns would it be easiest to add onto? Start simple, be patient, and before you know it, boom, you’ve locked in a new routine! 


More Habit Hacks from Tara: 

  1. 5 Steps to Better Goals



Elite Personal Trainer Tara Penawell

Tara has an extensive background in the health and fitness industry, with over sixteen years working as a personal trainer. Her experience and dedication to acquiring new skills qualify her to serve a wide range of clients. She enjoys the diversity of working with people with different goals and backgrounds. Above all, Tara is passionate about helping people meet their goals and find the joy and satisfaction that comes along with their success.

Tara also teaches weekly fitness classes on our schedule at our Downtown location, as well as virtually. Learn more about Tara’s classes and to inquire about private sessions at the button below! 

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