Sunday 2nd May 2021: Atomic Habits notes

Atomic Habits written by James Clear. Managing habits. Incremental and ongoing improvements. Very readable. Very relateable. Some useful ideas to think about and suggestions to give a go. An aid memoir / some key takeaways I got from reading the book over this weekend.

It’s remarkable the progress you can make towards any destination if you don’t stop moving in the right direction. Tired of starting over or getting lost? Check your heading and don't stop moving towards it.

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure. Goodhart’s Law. Named after the economist Charles Goodhart.

Facets of habits and behavioural change

  • The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible. Conventional wisdom holds that motivation is the key to habit change. Our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient.

  • Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

  • The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits.

    • make it obvious
    • make it attractive
    • make it easy
    • make it satisfying
  • A craving is the sense that something is missing. It is the desire to change your internal state. What you really want is to feel different.

  • Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it. This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in.

  • The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning. Focus on taking action, not being in motion.

Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities. Choose the habits that best suit you.

  • What feels like fun to me, but work to others?
  • What makes me lose track of time?
  • Where do I get greater returns than the average person?
  • What comes naturally to me?

Maintaining a habit

  • When starting a new habit, keep the behavior as easy as possible so you can stick with it even when conditions aren’t perfect.

  • Maintaining the habit when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference.

  • Improvement requires a balance between challenges that push you to your edge while continuing to make enough progress to stay motivated.

  • Behaviors need to remain novel in order for them to stay attractive and satisfying. Without variety, we get bored.

  • When habits become ordinary, we might sometimes start derailing our progress to seek novelty. Men desire novelty to such an extent that those who are doing well wish for a change as much as those who are doing badly - Machiavelli

  • At the moment when you begin to feel like you have mastered a skill—right when things are starting to feel automatic and you are becoming comfortable—that you must avoid slipping into the trap of complacency. REFLECT & REVIEW.

  • Doing or not doing a habit is a continuous process. There is no finish line. There is no permanent solution. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.

Habit reduction

Do the opposite of the above for habit reduction. Make it invisible (manage internal and enviornmental triggers), make it unattractive, make it awkward and unappealing.


I'm feeling energised and optimistic. New ideas and renewed intent. Now from motion to action...


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