018. Atomic Habits by James Clear - Part 2

Part 2 of 2. We review Atomic Habits by James Clear

Motivation, Motion, and Action

  • Be specific about your habits!
  • From the book:
    • People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through. Too many people try to change their habits without these basic details. 
  • Don't be a busy-body. Make sure your habits are moving you toward that ideal vision of yourself and your goals.

Motivation and Environment

  • In practice, being aware of your motivation at the times you need it is hard to do. It makes a lot more sense to identify your motivation and build a system around it so that you don’t have to remind yourself of your motivation. This is especially true when you are attempting to transform your identity to build better habits.
  • We're fangs of the inversion of the steps to form a habit as ways to kick out bad habits. For example, the opposite of make it obvious is make it invisible.
  • It’s worth using this approach to the extreme to break your worst habits: uninstall social media apps, hide the remote, throw away the sugary processed foods, and so on.

Find, Fix, and Track Habits

  • Yes, yes, yes: find alternative ways to reduce stress as opposed to trying to remove the stress. Align your approach with who you want to be to amplify the results of your habits.
  • Remember that each step is small and leads to incremental change but over time they really add up.
  • Erik really wants to go through the exercise of listing his habits and marking them bad, good, or neutral. It was hard not to do it while reading this book. Who’s with him?

The Power of Sticking to a Habit

  • When you are trying to form a habit, focus on making the habit easy to repeat instead of trying to be perfect at doing it.
  • Repetition is more important than getting it right the first time. Preparation rarely reduces failure
  • This reminds us of the melting ice example. You have to know that adding heat will eventually cause the ice to melt. You have to pick habits that eventually lead to results.

Law of Least Effort

  • Leo actually practices this example from the book:
    • You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle. By comparison, if the gym is off the path of your normal commute—even by just a few blocks—now you’re going “out of your way” to get there.
  • This works well for Erik in a lot of situations. The first that comes to mind is taking care of his body: home gym, body weight exercises, and stretching have been a lot easier to stick with than going to a gym or yoga studio.
  • There are examples that don't fit the Law of Least Effort very well, like studying. Free time can be severely limited during the day and the times where studying may require the least effort may not be the best time to learn or dedicate time to the habit of studying.
  • Sometimes if something is important, it’s worth extra effort. Not to mention that the effort can be reduced and simplified with environment design. In other words, this "Law" is not a hard and fast rule and the book does offer strategies for approaching exceptional situations.

Using Extrinsic Motivation

  • Hint: make the good stuff feel great right away and make the bad stuff feel bad.
  • Linking extrinsic motivation (immediate reward) of a habit to the intrinsic motivation (your goal) makes a lot of sense!
  • Love this quote from the book:
    • It’s possible to train yourself to delay gratification but you have to work with the grain of human nature, not against it.
  • Erik connects with identity-based habits so much in this book. He loves the idea of making avoidance habits visible and looking holistically at your identity to find the right ways to immediately reward yourself so that they don’t conflict with your other habits (e.g. choosing a massage instead of a big bowl of ice cream to align with your healthy lifestyle).
  • An important lesson from this portion of the book: tracking habits is good, but it’s important to measure the right thing and apply all of the habit rules to measuring (make it obvious, easy, etc). Beware of vanity metrics and if a measure plateaus, pick a different one to keep you from stalling out on your habit.

Drawbacks of Good Habits

  • This part of the book is very humbling!
  • Developing good habits won’t get you to mastery of a skill, it will only get you good enough (OK Productive approves this message). To keep getting better and to reach mastery you need dedicated practice and regular revising of your habits.
  • Reflection and review make sure your habits continue to help you grow.
  • Don’t cling to your identity and reframe your identity in ways that can be changed, because it can and will.

Closing Thoughts

  • Always be working at your habits!
  • Track your habits over multiple time ranges. Track the day-to-day, aggregate and average them over time, too.
  • We want all “self help” books to be like Atomic Habits: short, well-organized, easy to summarize, with cheat sheets, templates, and lots of actionable information, and loads of supplemental material that continues to release after your purchase and is given in formats that will always be yours.
  • Erik reserves 5/5-star ratings for books with lasting sticking power. It's only a little while after reading, but Atomic Habits is one of those books that will be coming up time and time again in the future.
  • Let's start using the concepts in the book and run some experiments in habit making and breaking!

Related Episodes

  • 001 - A Sleepy Episode: Erik’s approach to getting a good night’s rest and a great start to the day is a good example of habit stacking
  • 003 - Goals and Actions: One point we make is to pursue goals in small, actionable ways
  • 004 - Power of Habit Review: We read and review The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • 005 - Making Quick Decisions: The 5-Second Rule is strikingly similar to the 2-Minute Rule outlined in Atomic Habits
  • 009 - Working On Your Own: Environment design is very important to getting the most out of your work day when you’re a freelancer/solopreneur
  • 010 - Time Wasters: Another exercise in environment design focused on removing bad habits that waste your time
  • 011 - Year in Review: Habits aren’t enough, you also have to stop occasionally and consciously look at and re-evaluate what you’re doing
  • 014 - Project Breakdown: Our process of breaking a big project down into actionable and measurable pieces is really similar to breaking a big goal or identity shift into atomic habits
  • 015 - The One Big Thing: Leo and Erik both use habit tracking, writing things down, and environment design as the biggest boosts to their productivity

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