Atomic Habits has reached #6 on Amazon Charts this week, so we decided it’s a great opportunity to write an honest review on this interesting book. If you want a preview and all the reasons to read Atomic Habits read on.
About Atomic Habits | 8 great ideas about forming habits
The problem with setting goals is that at some point you will reach them. The first thing James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits is the establishment of systems, not goals. If your goal is to lose 5 kg, sooner or later you will succeed. Then you’ll probably gain weight again or you probably won’t. But that will not radically change your life.
In other words, what you need to do is not set a goal, but a system. One that represents you as a person and on the basis of which to establish your future choices.
Your goal should not be to lose 5 kg but to become a person with a balanced diet and who exercises enough. Your goal should not be to read 30 books in 202o – but to become a person who makes time every day to read.
“The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself”
The first step in creating new habits is to know what, when and how you want to do. From what I wrote above, you might think you have to run away from numbers. No way. But the solutions proposed by James Clear aim at these atomic habits, micro-objections repeated many times enough until they become automatisms.
The author also talks a lot about stimuli. If we deconstruct our habits, we will notice that they are related to each other. For example, you wake up and the first instinct is to look at the phone screen, then go brush your teeth and when you get out of the bathroom, go and make yourself a coffee.
If you intend to spend less time on the phone without first identifying the moments when you do it (immediately after you wake up, while you are making your coffee, while you wait for the bus to come, at the traffic lights, etc.) you may not succeed.
“Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behaviour over time.”
What do you want to do? Spend less time on the phone. How will you measure it? Let’s say you use a dedicated app for that. When do you spend time on the phone? Identify and reduce those that are not vital to you. How will you do that? Linking the habits that frame staying on the phone (example: you wake up and then go to brush your teeth without looking at your phone screen; you will do this only when you prepare your coffee).
Only by identifying the moments can you begin to measure. Because this way you will create a system. It’s exactly like a diet: if you forbid yourself to eat sweets for three weeks, at the end of the period the first thing you will do is to eat in a short time everything you have excluded from the diet for a longer period of time.
Never neglect the power of the environment. In Atomic Habits, James Clear also says that the easiest way to form new habits is to join a culture where the habits you want to develop are normal behaviours. For example, it will be easier for you to smoke less if you make friends with a group where there are no smokers and you often meet in the house of one of them who does not allow you to smoke inside.
“We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).”
Smoking is a more difficult example. But if you want to read more, for example, what you can do is follow several Instagram pages dedicated to reading. Being always exposed to a habit, the chances of adopting it are much higher.
Because one of James Clear’s laws about these atomic habits is to make things obvious. The reverse of the medal is valid: if you want to give up a bad habit (example: you want to eat fewer sweets) maybe it would be good to unfollow all chocolate brands and cake recipe accounts.
Find a way to connect something you already love to a new habit. After reading this idea in James Clear’s book, I signed up for Audible, bought an audiobook, and went to the gym listening to that book. It may seem very strange for someone who loves to focus on the exercises he is doing. But the truth is that I am not a friend of sports, but I do it because I want to be in shape and, why to lie, to lose a few more pounds. Would I have preferred to read instead of going to the gym? Surely! That’s why I combined the two.
Create a world where good habits are the easiest. You have certainly noticed that if you have a lot of sweets in the house, the probability of eating something by the end of the day, even if you are on a diet, increases.
That is why it is recommended to replenish your stock with lower-calorie foods, healthy snacks, fruits. There is nothing new about this, but the way James Clear says it in Atomic Habits made me mention it in the article. He says that if you want to stick to a habit, you have to turn it into the easiest possible action.
Despite what we think, building habits is not a chore if we make things accessible. The way your refrigerator looks is the best example of the lifestyle you want to follow.
“Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.”
Do less than you hoped for (a definition for atomic habits). This is where the explanation of the term atomic habits comes into play. James Clear proposes you to do something that seems unimportant to you, but to stay constant in it. My challenge, the 10-minute reading challenge, is the perfect example.
Everyone has 10 free minutes in a day (even if fragmented). Why would it make a difference to read 2 minutes? If you do this 5 times a day, at the end of the day, you will have between 6 and 15 pages read. In a month, that translates into a book read.
“The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.”
If you get lost in planning a weekend a month that you will dedicate exclusively to reading, you may not finish a 300-page book in two days. Because you don’t have the exercise of reading, because other things will always intervene; because you can choose a not so captivating book that won’t keep you nailed on the couch 4 or 5 hours a day.
Always monitor your progress. Let me tell you a short story. The period when I had a bullet journal was the period when I had a skin routine that I was very proud of. The habit of having a tracker habit helped me a lot. I plan to resume this habit, but at the moment I have invested my energy in other habits (to exercise more and spend less time on the phone) and, from my own experience, if I have more than two different goals that require my attention, they end up failing in everything.
What is a habit tracker? A habit monitoring system. It can be a calendar to tick the days when you made a habit. Or a super colourful table in a bullet journal (colouring is optional, but for me that part was engaging). There are definitely great apps that can help you with this.
If you miss a date, it’s an accident; if you miss twice it’s the formation of a new habit (my favourite idea from the book Atomic Habits)
I left what is best for the end. If I had to keep one sentence from this book, then that would be it. We always think it’s okay if I had a cheat day from the diet and ate pizza because I went out with a friend. But if three days later we order pizza because we don’t feel like cooking, then we are already forming a habit of “cheating” knowingly.
It’s ok to have days when you hurry, do not care if you are fit, days you just don’t feel like it. But when you want to form a new habit, do not miss twice (it’s not about consecutive days, but about the recurrence that you set). Don’t have the energy to go to the gym? Do some light cardio for 10 minutes. Are you too tired to read? Read-only 5 minutes and then watch a movie.
Thing to remember
- Positive habits turn time into an ally. Evil turns him into an enemy.
- Success is the product of daily routine, not once-in-a-lifetime changes.
- The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
- It is easier to associate a new habit with a new context than to try to form it in an environment full of competing clues.
- In the long run, we become a product of the environment in which we live. Simply put, it is almost impossible to keep your positive habits in a negative environment.
- Every habit has multiple effects over time. Unfortunately, the results are often contradictory. In the case of negative habits, the immediate result gives us satisfaction, but the final one is undesirable. In the case of the positive ones, it happens exactly the opposite: the immediate result is unpleasant, but the final one is satisfactory.
- The faster and more costly the effect of a mistake, the faster we learn.
- The biggest threat to success is boredom, not a failure.
- Professionals are conscientious, amateurs get in the way of everyday problems. Professionals know their priorities and act towards the proposed goal. Amateurs are distracted by daily emergencies.
- In forming a new habit, the key is repetition, not perfection. You don’t have to study all the details of a new habit. You just have to practice. Rehearsal is the mother of learning and is one of the most important stages in the formation of a new habit. The formation of a habit depends on frequency, not time.
I believe that small, everyday habits really make a difference. I don’t believe in epiphanies and overnight success, or I think they exist, but in movies. In reality, in order to build a better life, you have to work every day and make changes that at first glance seem small, but over time have a big impact.
The habits we have are the ones that define our identity and, ultimately, our life. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear offers concrete solutions that help us get rid of bad habits and make room for good habits instead.
You can find the book here: Atomic Habits Amazon.