atomic habits, a review

Head to my Instagram! Atomic Habits by James Clear

One of my all-time favorite books.
– Arianna Huffington
Founder, Huffington Post & Thrive Global


I first downloaded the audiobook for Atomic Habits months ago, but I wasn’t in the headspace I needed to be in to create new habits, let alone revive old good habits. After all, I was in survival mode (early pandemic days) and I was just trying to get through the weeks with little wins, never mind trying to create new , transformative yet small habits to better my mental and physical health. However, I recently revisited Atomic Habits by James Clear, and got through it in about two days. This time around… I WAS HERE FOR IT. The Atomic Habits mindset matched my new year’s agreement with myself to adjust and create small changes in my life to build better longterm routines that last. In 2021 Atomic Habits was just what I needed to hear, and I started implementing the author’s ideas right away.

I excitedly jot down a bunch of notes, quotes and ideas in my phone as I listened to the audiobook, and I wanted to share them with you here in hopes that you find a few things that will help you implement better habits too. I would hear something James said and rewind it all so I could make the proper note- I was so inspired! I have hyperlinked some great resources and worksheets on James Clear’s site (no book purchase necessary), and have bolded my favourite points in the below notes.

I highly recommend the read- it’s a bestseller for a reason!

My Notes from Atomic Habits By James Clear:

  • A slower pace of transformation makes it easier to give up on small habits 
  • It isn’t until we look back on small habits years later that we realize their impact
  • You get what you repeat
  • Follow the curve of tiny gains and tiny losses
  • Bad habits make time your enemy
  • Each book you read opens up different ways of thinking about things
  • Achieving a goal is only a momentary change
    • Goals create an “ either/or” mentality
    • True long-term thinking is goalless thinking
  • Building systems
  • Commit to the process that will determines your progress
  • Shift the belief behind your habit
    • Identify as something – behaviour and identity need to be fully aligned ie) I am a runner because it helps me relieve stress and I feel good afterwards
    • Focus should be on becoming “the type of person” not a particular outcome
  • Four Components of a Habit: Cue, Craving, Response, Reward
  • Scorecard
  • Awareness is most important- verbalize your habits. Pointing and calling out is important
  • Make a specific plan- implementation intention people don’t lack motivation, they lack clarity.
    • i.e.) I will ______ at _____ in the ________.
    • Make the time and location so obvious (so it is easier to stick to and easier to commit to).
  • “Tiny habits recipe” or “habit stacking.”
    • Chain reaction of purchases, is an example. Consumption. No behaviour happens in isolation
    • Identify a current habit. And then stack the new habit you want to Implement on top.
    • After ___ (current habit) I will ____ (new habit).
    • Ie) morning cup of coffee
      • after cup of coffee : 2- meditate for 60 seconds
    • Insert new behaviours into current routines
    • Select the right cue
  • On Habit score card– brainstorm your habits (every day), and then things that happen to you every day
  • A small change in what you SEE can change what you DO.
  • Each habit should have a home.
    • Divide your room and digital spaces into activity zones. “This specific chair is only for eating, this tablet only for reading” etc
  • Pair an action you WANT to do with a Habit you NEED to do = habit bundling
  • Change the words “have to” to “get to.”
    • I “get to” wake up early and work out. I “get to” make my family dinner. Liberating change of perspective – we can find evidence for whatever habit we choose
      • Not burdens- change them into opportunities
    • Reframe our habits to highlight their benefits instead of drawbacks
      • i.e) Exercise: it’s time to build endurance and get fast. (I have to go for a run)
      • Finance: Living below your current means increases your future means. Saving this month gives us more buying power next month.
      • You can refrain “I’m nervous” to “I’m having an adrenaline rush, and I’m excited.”
    • Link the cue with the act
    • Create a habit around a habit you already love. Then use that new habit when you are stressed, for example. Ie) 3 deep breaths and smile before petting your dog.
  • Create a motivation ritual immediately before something you find difficult
    •  Cheat sheet
    • Motion vs action
    • Motion allows us to feel like we are making progress without the risk of failure. We want to delay failure
    • Really with motion, we are just PREPARING to get something done.
    • Practice . Not perfection. To create a habit.
    • “Put in your reps”
    • Make it easy: make it easy to start and the rest will follow.
    • It is human nature to be lazy! It’s smart- it’s energy conserving. People are wired to do what is convenient
  • Reduce the friction in our own environments
  • Increase the friction associated with our bad habits
  • The two minute rule : when you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do —-> gateway habit. Putting in running shoes, making one sales call, meditate for one minute.
  • Standardize before you can optimize. You can’t improve a habit before it exists.
  • The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the easier it will become to slip into the state of deep focus that is required to create things.
    • “Creative ritual”
    • “Same warmup”
  • If it feels forced, try it but stop at two minutes.
    • Stop when you’re going good- Hemingway
      • One sentence about your day. Journal.
      • One push-up is better than nothing. It’s better to do less than you hoped rather than nothing at all. Habit shaping- focusing on the new few minutes (first two minutes of behaviour)
    • So, if you want to start working out, for example, first start by changing into your workout clothes. Once you have got that down, the next step is going out the door. Then it can be working out for five minutes. And so on and so forth.
  • Use commitment devices
  • Automate your habits (using technology) i.e) open an automatic savings plan
  • Make it satisfying
    • “This feels good. Do it again.”
  • Immediate vs delayed rewards
  • The cost of your good habits are in the present, the cost of bad habits are in the future.
  • When the moment of decision arrives, we are choosing for present YOU.
  • The more immediate pleasure you get from an action, the more you strongly question how it affects your long term goals.
  • The brain underestimates the current threats
    • Add a little bit of immediate pleasure for delayed gratification and vice versa.
  • Reinforcement at the end of a new habit you are building: select short term awards that aligned with your goal. (*But make sure they don’t conflict with your goal!)
  • The more a habit becomes a part of your life, the less you have to think about it. A habit needs to be enjoyable for it to last. Change is easier when it’s enjoyable.
    • i.e) the paperclip strategy
  • We have to become comfortable it’s boredom. When habits become routine, it becomes boring. You have to be happy with doing the same thing over and over
  • Be small and flexible with your identity. Don’t cling to anything
  • Habits + deliberate practice = mastery
  • Reflection and review helps you remain conscious of you process over time
  • The harder we cling to an identity makes it hard to grow beyond it

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