I’m a big personal development reader. I love a non-fiction book that’s filled with tips and tricks for building good habits, being the best version of yourself and increasing your productivity. I’d heard nothing but great things about James Clear’s Atomic Habits and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint.
The tag line for the book is ‘tiny changes, remarkable results’ and that is exactly what the book is about. So often I read personal development books that are all about completely reinventing yourself and doing massive overhauls of your life. This book is different. It’s about improving yourself a little bit at a time. Getting better every day. In fact Clear says that the aim of each day should be simply to be 1% better than you were yesterday.
I loved the small steps approach of this book. It’s all about slow and steady winning the race. It’s about creating habits that you can stick to and maintain, instead of habits that are unrealistic and fleeting.
Reading Atomic Habits was massive for my productivity, especially at work. The book is filled with solid, realistic and practical advice for getting rid of bad habits and developing new ones. Today I wanted to share my takeaways with you. Atomic Habits in summary if you will…
Goals vs. systems
Clear encourages the reader to focus on systems not goals. Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
Goals are all about setting ourselves up with a good direction but systems are needed to make progress towards that end destination.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Point? Focus on the journey. One foot in front of the other. Not on the x that marks the spot.
“Winners and losers have the same goals”
It’s the systems that make the difference.
Three layers of behaviour change
Changing your outcomes – On the top level we have a focus on changing your results. Most of the goals you set are associated with this level of change eg. losing weight, writing a book, winning a sports game.
Changing your process – The next deepest level is about changing your habits and systems. This is about implementing routines and developing daily practices that improve your life eg. working out three times a week, keeping your house clean.
Changing your identity – Finally, on the deepest level, we have to change your beliefs and worldview. It’s about changing your self-image, your judgements about others and yourself and overcoming those beliefs which are limiting you. To truly be the best versions of ourselves, we must change on this level.
Starting by thinking about the version of yourself that you want to become.
To make a habit stick you have to make it as easy as possible to do. Start small and reduce as much friction between you and the habit as possible.
If there are four steps between you and the habit already, you’re so much less likely to actually do it. What I mean by this is prep your environment for success.
So set your running shoes and clothes out the night before so they’re right there when you wake up. Keep a water bottle with you at all times so you don’t have to get up to get a glass etc.
Equally if there’s a bad habit you want to kick, you can introduce friction. Don’t bring junk food into the house so if you want some you have to actively go buy it, for example.
Habit stacking is the easiest way to introduce a new habit into your life. It basically involves adding a new habit on top of something you already do every day. Eg. if you want to drink more water, make it a habit to do so every morning after you brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth is already an ingrained habit and so if that acts as your cue to drink a glass of water, you’re already halfway there.
Putting this in a work context, I’ve made it a habit to create my to-do list while I check my emails in the morning. I already check my emails every morning when I start work and so it made sense to create the habit of using the emails to create action points on a to-do list. Now I do both of these things every work morning without fail.
The beauty of Atomic Habits is in the little things. These might not seem like revolutionary tips but my gosh do they work. Its not about deciding tomorrow you will be the superhero version of you, the completely flawless productivity machine. It’s about always coming back to that 1%
“If you can get 1 per cent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty‐seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 per cent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero.”
You can do 1%