Search for books on habits on Amazon, and you get over 40,000 results. Some of them, like Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, are recent best-sellers. At least one, The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People by Stephen Covey, spawned an empire of books and products. Even with all the books on habits, even with all the great books on habits, you’ll learn something from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.
I’m no habit expert, but I’m always on the lookout for ways to be more productive. Because I’m a coach who helps people write books, I look for ways they can be more productive.
Most of my clients are part-time writers who have a full-time job doing something else. They’re salespeople and coaches and business owners and executives who want to write a book and live a full life. They need all the help they can get.
Atomic Habits by James Clear is the book for them, and perhaps for you. It’s a practical book. Clear concentrates on the “do” of habits rather than the theory, history, or background.
The writing is clear and readable. There are chapter summaries at the end of every chapter. Clear uses charts to summarize important points. There are downloadable forms and diagrams on his website.
The author organized the book around a set of four “laws.”. He begins with a brief section on habit formation and abandonment. There are chapters to each of the four laws: Make It Obvious, Make It Attractive, Make It Easy, and Make It Satisfying.
That’s what you do if you want to form and maintain a habit. If you want to abandon an unproductive habit, use the same four laws, but reverse of each law/step. After the basic material, Clear offers us some advanced tactics.
Along the way, the author covers a lot of subjects that are helpful but aren’t usually part of a book on habits. Here are some.
Clear discusses the pros and cons of habit tracking, who’s likely to do it and who’s likely to find it onerous. He spends time on how to create environmental cues that help you do what you want to do and avoid what you don’t. There’s a section on using an accountability partner. He connects habit formation and abandonment with common issues, such as procrastination.
In a Nutshell
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear is a practical, wide-ranging book that will help you create habits you want to create and abandon some you want to stop doing. It’s well-written, with helpful summaries, charts, and supplementary material. It’s deep and thorough enough that you’re likely to return to it in the years to come.
You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.
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