Notes from James Clear’s Atomic Habits
My notes are in italics, grouped by topic, with some context provided underneath the quotes.
TRACK YOUR BEHAVIOR THEN MAKE A PLAN
The mere act of tracking behavior motivates you to change it
People don’t lack motivation; they lack mental clarity. Make a specific implementation plan.
MAKE IT (the new habit) NORMAL
You can’t stick to positive habits in a negative environment.
It’s easier to build new habits in a new environment because you’re not fighting old cues.
Normal habits are attractive behaviors. Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. You don’t need every vote, you just need a majority to win
Your habits are evidence for your self image.
Chance of being obese is up 57% if you have a close friend who is. We soak up the qualities of those around us.
When unsure how to act we look to others to guide us by group norms. “We’d rather be wrong with the crowd than right by ourselves. Running against the grain of the culture requires extra effort.”
People who come home from war don’t relapse into addiction as much since the same triggers, peers, and cues don’t surround them at home.
MAKE IT OBVIOUS
We have the brains of our ancestors but temptations that they never had to face.
People with the best self control use it the least.
Motivation is overrated; environment is the invisible hand on human behavior.
If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment.
Success is not a goal to reach but a system to improve. True long term thinking is goalless thinking.
Set up systems that work for you to get what you want done rather than relying solely on mental willpower to change your lifestyle.
MAKE IT EASY
Principle of least action — of two things, we choose the one with least effort. We are motivated to do what is easy.
Make good cues obvious and bad ones invisible.
The less energy required, the likelier to be done.
Make it easy as possible to do what benefits you in the long term.
Pick something on your path of your daily routine. Reduce friction.
Be proactively lazy. Prime the environment to make the next action easy.
Make unwanted actions hard. Increase friction for bad habits.
When you start a new habit, it should take two minutes or less.
Commitment devices — make it more work to get out of the habit than to get into it.
Make good habits inevitable and bad habits impractical.
When you start mixing contexts, you start mixing habits and the easier ones win out.
MAKE IT ENJOYABLE
Pair what you need to do with what you want to do.
Highlight the benefits instead of drawbacks. Change “I have to go run” to “Time to build endurance”
You don’t want the habit, you want the outcome it delivers — health, mental clarity, feeling calm.
When the consequences are severe, the learning is fast.
Hack immediate satisfaction to trigger long term satisfaction.We value the present more than the future.
Snack as reward for workout or reward self with massage (another body care action) for workouts. Align short term reward with long term reward.
Even minor pleasure — soap that smells good — reinforces behavior.
What is immediately rewarded is repeated, what is immediately punished is finished.
JUST DO IT
People want to feel like they’re doing something without opening themselves to actually failing.
The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
How long does it take to form a new habit -> how many reps does it take to form a new habit.
Just get your reps in — long term potentiation.
A habit has to be started before it can be improved. Standardize before you optimize. Ritualize the habit to prime yourself to do it.
Ritualize the habit to prime yourself to do it.
Stop reading self-help books about how to change your life and actually start doing things differently; even if it’s just minor changes that compound.
Small habits don’t add up they compound. Don’t interrupt compounding unnecessarily.
It’s better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.
Walk slowly but never backwards.
Once you’ve started, it’s easier to continue.
Best is the enemy of good.
Have gateway habits.
Better to start off by getting in habit of changing into gym clothes once a week (as minor as a change that seems if you’re not also going to the gym), then going to the gym 1 time a week for ten minutes, then 3 times a week for ten minutes, then 3 times a week for thirty minutes and so on than to start off for an hour a day at the gym and burnout then go back to the coach a few weeks later.
MAKE IT CONSISTENT
The problem isn’t knowledge it’s consistency.
Success is who can handle the boredom. Fall in love with boredom.
Crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it.
Be the person who doesn’t miss.
The last mile is always the least crowded.
Hippocampus decreased in size after retirement. Disuse leads to atrophy.
Missing once is a mistake. Missing twice is the start a new habit.
Don’t break the chain — visual reinforcement of habit consistency having calendar that you cross x’s off to maintain a streak.
You get what you repeat.