Atomic Habits by James Clear

With same habits, you will end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible”.

This book has changed my perspective in life about my goals, habits and behavior. It has inspired me to start new habits that matter to me the most. And to be consistent in doing it each day, without fail.

I have structured this post to list out the most important takeaways for me, from this book.

  • Goals are our desires or longings. A winner and a loser have the same goals. What defines success is making continuous small efforts towards improvement.
  • When you push yourself to work towards something daily, it turns into a habit. Over time, it becomes effortless to do it.
  • When you keep improving a little, day after day, it compounds to give you great results in the long term.
  • 1% better every day for one year = 1.01 to the power of 365 = 37.78 times better than what you are today
  • 1% worse every day for one year = 0.99 to the power 365 = 0.03 times worser than today.
  • Habits shape our Identity and our Identity define our habits. It is important to Identify ourselves already as the person we want to be. Ex. ” I am a healthy person” or ” I am a reader” or “I am a traveler”

Laws of Behavior change

A habit formation constitutes of these four stages: Cue, Craving, Response and Reward. Here’s what one can do to build a habit or get rid of one. It consists of four laws, one to deal with each stage of habit formation.

Habit LoopCreating a Good HabitCreating a Bad Habit
CueMake it ObviousMake it Invisible
CravingMake it AttractiveMake it Unattractive
ResponseMake it EasyMake it Difficult
RewardMake it SatisfyingMake it Unsatisfying
  • You can build a Habits Scorecard to evaluate your good and bad habits. It is done by listing out all that you do in a day and scoring them as a good habit that needs to be continued or a bad habit to be discontinued.

Let us look at each law in detail.

1st Law – Make it Obvious

A Great way to start a new habit is by writing down the following for inculcating a new habit in our routine:

  • I will [do this] at [time] in/at [location]. Ex. I will study for 20minutes at 2:30pm today at my desk.
  • Habit stacking: After [current habit], I will [New Habit]. Ex. After drinking my coffee, I will read for 30minutes.
  • Makes us define our habits and give it a time and space. It helps us remember and increases the chance of doing it.
  • Environment matters. Design your environment. It gives the cue to start a good habit and also to be stuck in a bad habit. Tweak the environment such that the things you want to do is visually present. Like, keep a book that you want to read on your bed. Remove the things you don’t wish to. Example, simply not buying and getting stuff that you would wish to avoid eating. (make it invisible). Self control needs a lot of effort and is a short-term strategy. The environment can give a big push in stopping a bad habit.

2nd Law – Make it attractive

  • Make any habit seem attractive. Habits are dopamine-driven feedback loop.
  • The feeling that a habit leaves behind in the end determines whether we will do it again.
  • Temptation bundling – After [current habit], I will [do what I badly want to]
  • The anticipation of a reward makes us do something, rather than the fulfillment of it.
  • Be a part of a community where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
  • Desire is nothing but your [current state] minus [the state you want to be in]
  • When encountered with a difficult situation – take three deep breaths -> Smile -> Repeat.
  • Do something you enjoy before and after a difficult habit.

3rd Law – Make it easy

  • BEST is the enemy of the GOOD. It is important to make some progress than to wait to make the best progress.
  • Practice more than you plan. Take action, do not be in motion.
  • Time taken to form a habit depends on the number of repetitions we make and not the amount of time.
  • Optimize your environment. Keep things within reach, in your sight, easy to pick up and start. Reduce friction.
  • Two minute rule: Perform the smallest task of a habit for just 2 minutes. Choose the task that just takes 2 minutes. Extend it gradually in a phased manner. That will get you in the flow over time.
  • Make one-time investments on things that assist making the habit easier.

4th Law – Make it Satisfying

  • Most of our habits are rewarded only long-term. There is no immediate gratification. Hence it is necessary to give small rewards to yourself in the short-term or immediately. This will reinforce the habit and make you return to it the next time over.
  • example, Whenever you did not eat out, you add money to your account meant to save for vacation.

How to keep habits on track

  1. Habit tracking: Keep a daily/monthly/yearly record to check your progress. Manually track the most important habit and automate everything else. Too much tracking could also be stressful and can make you loose focus.
  2. Reflection and review keeps you conscious of your performance over time. Have measurable parameters for each habit.
  3. Even if you miss once, forgive yourself but never miss twice in a row. Rebound quickly.
  4. By having an accountability partner – someone who keeps a check and rewards/punishes accordingly.
  5. Challenge yourself just enough so that you are able to achieve it with little effort. Over doing can lead to failure and in turn demotivate you. Likewise, if the challenge is not challenging enough, it could lead to boredom.
  6. You need to keep going no matter what, no matter how small a step. Always stick to the schedule.

A small step daily to be a little better than what you were yesterday, will take you a long way. Consistency is the key. A wonderful book that can transform you into your better self!


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