6 Nuggets from Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Productivity

Takeaway: There are countless ways to form a new habit, which James Clear covers in Atomic Habits (and in our interview). A few of my favorites: sort your habits by how much they’ll help you out in the long-run; become more thoughtful about your environment; question habits that provide immediate enjoyment; make new habits take less than two minutes of your time; develop “home court” and “away court” habits; and focus on developing your identify, not your goals.
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 1s.
Podcast Length: 30 minutes, 45s (link to play podcast at bottom of post).

Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is one of the best books about habits I’ve read—I’d put it up there with The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, as being one of the best books on habits available.

This week, James was generous enough to join me on the podcast to dig into how to establish new habits and break negative ones—especially around losing weight, given we’re in the middle of that weight-loss challenge for the show.

There are too many nuggets in the book—and the interview!—to list out in one blog post. But here are just a few of my favorites from the book and the interview, which should get you thinking about your own habits:

  • Make a list of your habits, and sort them by how much they will help you out in the long-run. This is a great way to identify the habits that bring you real, lasting value over time, and which ones are a distraction from your larger goals.
  • If you want something to be a big part of your life, make it a big part of your environment. This is a simple idea, but is very powerful in practice. Want to eat better? Make sure there’s a plethora of healthy food in your kitchen, so you crowd out any unhealthy options that are available. Want to learn the guitar? Keep your guitar in the living room, so you can just pick it up and play. By introducing—and removing—objects from your environment which aid and detract from your habits, you build stronger habits. As James puts it in the book, “environment is the invisible hand that shapes behavior.”
  • Question all habits that provide you with immediate enjoyment. James writes: “As a general rule, the more immediate pleasure you get from an action, the more strongly you should question whether it aligns with your long-term goals.”
  • Practice the 2-minute rule. The 2-minute rule is this: when you start a new habit, make sure it takes less than two minutes to do. If your goal is running a marathon, try just tying up your shoes for a couple of minutes. If your habit is to work out at the gym, show up at the gym, and work out for just two minutes. This way, you have a framework that you can actually build upon in developing your habits later on, instead of trying to wish habits into existence.
  • Pay attention to your “home court” versus “away court” habits. Something else I asked James in our interview is how we can maintain our habits around life disruptions, such as travel. He recommends developing two types of habits: “home court” habits, which we do when our environment is predictable, and “away court” habits, which we invest in after developing solid habits at home.
  • Focus on your identity, not your goals. According to James, “the most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” He views habits as “votes” for your identity: by focusing on which behaviors help you become the person you aim to be, instead of which behaviors simply bring you closer to your goals, you connect with your habits on a deeper level. Instead of trying to develop a meditation habit, begin to think of yourself as a meditator. Or, instead of trying to lose weight, begin to think of yourself as someone who deeply cares about maximizing their health and longevity.

There are too many nuggets from the book and the interview to cover here, but these are just a few of the ones I found especially powerful! Enjoy the conversation, and have a great week!

Written by

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity, and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 18 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site, and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive, without hating the process.

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