Atomic Habits for the New Year

I started the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear halfway into 2020. I didn’t get very far last year, but I’m really glad I picked it up for the new year.

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement”

Every January I make resolutions I know I will inevitably break, but according to Atomic Habits, it’s not that I’m incapable of meeting my goals, it’s because of the faulty systems I put in place to achieve those goals. If I make a resolution to lose weight and endeavor to go on a diet, it might work but more likely than not, I’ll be back to junk food habits by mid January. Whereas if commit to cutting out sugar in my coffee every morning, or commit to walking around the block every morning at 7AM, these are laying the foundation for future habits that incrementally help get me to my goal! I might not see drastic changes just from cutting out sugar in my coffee, but once it becomes habit, it’s one less decision I have to make towards losing weight. I can start to focus on eating healthier in other areas of my diet

You don’t have to look very far to see an example of failed resolutions. My last blog post was a year ago when I posted about how I was taking on the #100daysofcode Challenge (spoiler alert: I didn’t make it to 100 days). For those that fulfill this challenge, it is truly worth congratulating. I only made it 20 some odd days before I fell out, and definitely using some of the techniques outlined in Atomic Habits could have given me a better chance of meeting those goals.

James Clear outlines four principles with which to build lasting habits, they need to be:

Make it Obvious:

Many of the goals we make are vague and we don’t always fit our daily lives around meeting those goals. If my goal this year is to be healthier but my daily habit is to pull out potato chips as I binge Netflix, then I have to build very clear and obvious habits.

At 8AM I will put on my gym shoes and walk around the block.

Here I have made my intention clear with a time and an action. The gym shoes and workout clothes could be set up so that I can’t miss them when I wake up. I’m not going from couch potato to marathon runner overnight, but the daily walks around the block will begin to build to two blocks, then to light jogs, maybe a mile, but it all starts with building a routine of getting out the door and walking.

Make it Attractive:

Pair the habits you need with the habits you want

I will walk around the block, then spend 15 minutes on Instagram

Build a community of people who will reward you for certain habit. For example, if you want to read more and join a book club, you will build the habit of reading in an environment where other readers will reward and encourage your reading habit.

Make it Easy:

I have a terrible habit of staring at my phone in bed instead of sleeping. Why? Because I have threaded my charger through my bed frame in order to watch youtube without draining the battery. I made it so easy to compound this negative habit which has led to turbulent sleeping patterns.

I will not use my phone in bed

By placing the charger at the other end of the room and going to bed without my phone I’ve made it easier to go to sleep without distractions from my phone. Inversely, I’ve made it difficult to compound the negative habit of watching YouTube until 3AM. Another way to make a habit easier is to start small. If my goal is to walk around the block, but even that is feeling like a mountain, limit it to two minutes.

I will put on my shoes and walk for two minutes and no more.

Make it satisfying:

If you’re a list maker, there is something so soul fulfilling in crossing off a task you’ve done.

For every day that I walk around the block I will check off that day in my calendar.

Or if you’re more of team player, you can walk around the block with your neighbor and hold each other accountable, so that both of you create satisfaction in motivating one another to complete your daily habits.

My thoughts on the book

“Success is the product of daily habits — not a once in a lifetime transformation”

One of the things I enjoy about this book is that Clear opens each chapter with memorable anecdotes and stories which serve to introduce his main point. These introductions really set me up to accept the concepts and techniques he was about to explain. Another thing I absolutely love is that he summarizes each chapter, he gives the reader a TL;DR! This was super convenient when I picked this book up after months of not reading it. And I have a feeling it will be extremely convenient when I pick this book up again for a refresher.

There were some techniques I read with skepticism. He advocates the use of a habit tracker, but after having gone through many a failed habit trackers it was difficult to read without predicting impending failure (#failed100daysofcode).

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress”

After finishing the book I really want to give everything he talks about a chance to work. Maybe it’s just the relentless optimism that arrives every January, or the rational and simple explanations he gives towards reaching our goals. But after two weeks of going to bed without my phone I no longer crave social media when I close my eyes. It hasn’t changed my life in an impressive manner, but it’s one less thing I think about before going to sleep, and I hope the more consistent I become, the more habits I can tackle throughout the year!




Coastie To Coding

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