The Joy of Building and Destroying Habits – Review of Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear is a well-written resource on developing habits. For anyone interested in an overview of habit formation, this is a solid book to turn to.

Habits are powerful in helping to create flow, clear clutter, and avoid the pressures of deadlines. When we organize systems, it is important to recognize how much of those systems are formed by our habits.

A quote that stands powerfully is,

“You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” (p27)

Clear makes the argument that we can all develop habits and that we can and should take charge of them. We do so by starting and continuing small. In this way, the title word “Atomic” refers to both small and powerful.

He describes an anatomy of habits and then proposes 4 laws of working with them, paralleling their anatomy. The anatomy is as follows:

  1. Cue – an internal or external trigger
  2. Craving – a feeling
  3. Response – an action or thought
  4. Reward – a feedback system

Using these points of anatomy, we can reflect and consider if a habit is something we wish to develop or dismantle.

If we wish to develop a habit, we can attempt to:

  1. make a cue obvious
  2. make a craving attractive
  3. make the action easy to do
  4. make it immediately satisfying

If we wish to dismantle a habit, we can attempt to:

  1. make a cue invisible
  2. make a craving unattractive
  3. make a corresponding action hard to do
  4. make it immediately unsatisfying

Each of these ideas is fleshed out throughout the book. The chapters are well laid out beginning with success stories of people who have reached impressive heights using the systems of habits they’ve developed, rather than any goals they’d set out to achieve.  Beyond being simply about habits, he touches on quite a number of solid task and time management principles.

I’ve added this book to the recommended reading list at the bottom of the Start Here page.

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