15 Things I learned from Atomic Habits by James Clear









My Book of the Month, August 2020: Atomic Habits – James Clear

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He caught me since page one, his story about the brain injury and how he had to learn everything again was incredible, if someone can recover from a comma, start from zero and be so successful, there is definitely something I can learn from them. 

This book deconstructed everything I think I knew about habits and how to build them, I am more patient with myself and I’ve learned to look at the big picture the right way. Here’s a summary of the most relevant points I learned from this book.

Right now you can get this hardcover for only $16.20 it’s 40% off, that’s cheaper than the paperback option! It is also available on Kindle, but I always prefer my favorite books on paper, and this one is definitely worth having on the shelf.

 

1. What is an atomic habit?

As atoms are the fundamental bricks of all matter, tiny habits are the bricks of every individual. The things that you do consistently every day are what define you, whether they are good or bad habits. 

Therefore an atomic habit is that behavior you reproduce daily without you putting much thought on it.

2. Build habits to become the person you want to be, not for the goals you want to reach

We focus so much on the goals that we miss the whole point, and by focusing on the goals we lose motivation very easily. Instead, we should ask ourselves who is the person that constantly achieves those goals and what would that person do every day.

 

To me this is actually seeing the big picture, not focusing on the accomplishments at the top of the mountain, but becoming the person who successfully climbs and reaches the top of the mountain.

 

He gives a pretty clear example, if a basketball team wants to win a game, it would be absurd if they only focus on the score chart and not on the things the players do while in the game.

 

3. Pointing and calling to raise self-awareness of your bad habits.

This may sound silly but I spent a whole day pointing and calling every action I made through the day, as recommended by James and giving each action a score to tell if this particular action was taking me closer to the person I wanted to be, pulling me back, or made no difference. 

 

I found that most of the actions were bad habits, I check my phone way too often for my productivity goals to be reached for example.

 

This is a golden piece of advice, pointing out every action you do in autopilot will give yourself a sense of awareness, write it down on paper and evaluate whether it is good or bad, better said, does it take you closer to the person you want to become or does it pull you back?

 

4. Stacking new habits on top of current ones.

If you find yourself having a hard time building a particular habit, commit yourself to do it after you finish doing something you do every day on autopilot. Make it as specific as possible, for example, the smell of coffee could be the trigger to sit and study.

 

If every morning you make yourself a cup of coffee, right after you pour the coffee on the cup and feel that delicious smell, go with the cup in hand to your desk and start studying at least for 30 minutes, you can make it longer with time.

 

5. Environment shapes your behavior

If you live in an unhealthy environment and this doesn’t have to be obvious, you will have a hard time having healthy habits. For example, the more visible a jar of cookies is, the more you’ll choose them for a snack instead of the apples laying in the bottom of the refrigerator, if you can see them easily you’ll probably choose it.

 

Same goes for every habit you want to build, you can modify your environment in order to have more access to this new habit. Want to drink more water? Have a bottle in the common places of your house. Want to watch less TV? Have the remote away from the bed or take the TV out of your bedroom.

 

You can link yourself to a particular habit in a particular context, set a little corner of your room with a comfy arm chair, and a shelf with the books you want to read daily, eventually you’ll associate that corner with reading.

 

6. Temptation bundling to make habits more attractive.

While exercise doesn’t seem as enjoyable as scrolling through social media for some; if you really want to build a habit that brings you out of your comfort zone, place it before something you enjoy doing.

 

This way the anticipation of that thing you enjoy doing will give you the spike of dopamine needed to get you on track and start doing what you need to do. It’s pretty simple, the temptation of that thing you want to do will push you to do what you need to do in order to get what you want.

 

So, if you are an Instagram junkie, and want to exercise more, put yourself the challenge to only be able to check out Instagram after you’ve completed a quick 5-minute work out session, start small, and keep on moving forward. 

 

7. Surround yourself by people who have your desired habit as normal

We internally and unconsciously want to fit in, it’s very difficult to avoid the crowd. But, what if you found a tribe that had all your desired behaviors, the habits you want to implement in your life are normal to them? You’ll push yourself to reach the same level or become even better to be recognized and praised.

 

Even if you don’t do it to be recognized, you can always find a tribe, a support group, people with similar goals and interests; this is another way to make the habits attractive and you’ll find it easier to stick to them. 

 

8. Reprogramming yourself to enjoy hard habits

This is another way to make habits attractive, as a way to motivate yourself to do hard stuff, change the perspective on how you see it, instead of saying “I have to study” change it for “I get to study what I love” it is a privilege that not many people have. 

 

Have a little motivational routine before having your hard habit done. Whether it is listening to your favorite music or having a big cup of tea, do it before starting to work on the hard stuff and it will be more enjoyable with time.

 

9. Being in Motion is different from taking action

We spend way too much time in motion, preparing ourselves, researching to make things perfect, and eventually, this search for perfection becomes procrastination. 

 

We feel like achieving something when doing this, but the actual progress is made when we take action, even if it’s a little step you take further, it won’t be perfect but it will be progress.

 

10. Making the right little choices

James says that any habit can start with 2 minutes, you have to make it super simple to take the first step. Even if it is just writing one sentence, if you do it every day consistently, you’ll soon find yourself writing more; one good action can lead to a succession of good actions towards the good habits you want to build.

 

11. Choosing long term gratification over short term gratification is not in our brains’ nature

We are biologically built to prefer the instant gratification, is a survival instinct, for our ancestors the food was scarce they had to look for it constantly and it felt satisfying, they had to be running from predators and looking for places to hide the instant gratification was the safe place, and so on.

 

In modern life, the choices we make for long term gratification are not as satisfying but are the ones that’ll get us where we want to be. Therefore, to make a habit stick it has to feel like a little victory every time you repeat it. An example, if you want to stop buying fast food and start cooking at home, every time you avoid buying fast food put the money you would’ve spent there in a savings account for something nice you want to buy.

 

12. Habit trackers are super effective:

They give us that sense of instant gratification, checking off a little square for one more day of consistently working out, practicing a language, or writing 300 words are great ways to see the progress made on a certain amount of time.

 

Habit tracking can be done as journals of exercise, for example, it doesn’t matter how small the amount, of exercise you did one day, if it’s only 5 squats, that already counts, 5 is more than 0. Showing up for your habit, going to the gym for 5 minutes, it builds up to the person you want to become.

 

In those days when you’re feeling demotivated look at your habit journal, is it really worth it to break your streak?

 

13. The Habit Contract

Making a commitment to stick to a habit with stated consequences if you fail to do so will help you stay motivated; there has to be a punishment of some sort involved and someone else willing to be a part of the punishment. 

 

He gives the example of Thomas Frank, who wakes up every morning at 5:55 a.m. and he has a scheduled tweet that says: “It’s 6:10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this for $5 via PayPal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.” 

 

If you have an instant punishment for not maintaining your habit you’ll avoid the punishment by sticking to the habit as most as you can.

 

14. The Goldilocks Zone

This is the right spot where a challenge is not easy enough to be boring or difficult enough to be disappointing. It’s the exact amount of hard work you need to make some progress and feel motivated by the small victories you can achieve without forgetting there’s so much more to grow.

 

While your brain is working on the right challenge you might experience being in a flow state, time flies and you are completely immersed in the activity you’re performing, this is when real progress is made. Get small new challenges achievable but not so easy not to improve your skills, this will keep you motivated.

 

15. Why is reviewing your habits important

Once we establish the desired habit and we act on autopilot is very easy to forget to keep challenging ourselves to become better at something greater. 

 

To actually master a habit we need to reflect from time to time how our habits are taking us to where we want to be, who we want to become, and if we haven’t made progress more than being good at something, try and challenge ourselves to become better, to specialize, find new things to learn from our field of expertise, this way the habits stay interesting and satisfying, it’s a never-ending cycle.

 

Final Thoughts 

This book opened my mind to a whole new level, I used to take on so many habits at the same time and pushed myself so hard, that the impulse lasted short, I got tired in a week or less when trying to build most habits, I needed those instant results, and when I didn’t get them… the disappointment, the failure.

 

Now I have the techniques to trick my mind into making hard habits instantly satisfying and I’m definitely going to apply some of this into my life, to become the person I want to be.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve and grow, develop new skills and habits but getting frustrated everytime they try, it will open your understanding on human behavior and how to control it in your favor to build new habits.

 

How to create a sleep routine to wake up early and be productive

 

Would you rather be dreaming or working for your dreams? It is not a secret that many successful people including scientists and billionaires who wake up early, start their days beating the hardest tasks on their lists when most of us are still sleeping.

Keep on reading and you’ll find a surprise so you don’t miss a single step to maximize your productivity in the mornings!

 

How to wake up early and not feel tired

Of course, there’s no use for you to wake up at 4 am if you’re going to feel groggy and sleepy. Then what can you do to feel more energized when waking up early? The key is on your sleep routine, these are all the steps you take before bed, even without noticing it, there is a pattern which is not that hard to change.

Why having a bedtime routine is important

Humans are prone to establish routines, certain behaviors tend to stick more than others, that’s why it is so important to consciously set up healthy nighttime habits to have a good night sleep and wake up with more energy in the morning. Before bed, you can set up everything to have the most productive morning,

To wake up early, you have to sleep early; the earlier you want to wake up, the earlier you’ll have to go to bed. Always keep in mind the recommended amount of sleep for adults, don’t try to be a superhuman and sleep only 4 hours to wake up early, because it will wear you down in the long run.

Creating a healthy sleep routine

Changing your sleeping habits is not something you can just switch; a night owl can’t become an early bird overnight. Nevertheless, you can try to modify it gradually, taking baby steps into the best bedtime routine for you to ensure a productive morning.

Why is my sleep routine not working?

If you find that you can’t wake up early even with an alarm there are some major changes to be made in your night time routine; as a heavy sleeper as you could be, after a good night of resting sleep you should be able to wake up when the alarm rings. Maybe it is not loud enough, or maybe you’re missing some of the next steps.

 

Establishing a night time routine

1. Reduce screen time:

Screens are a source of blue light that reduces our bodies’ production of melatonin (the hormone of sleep). If you must use your devices turn on the night mode or apply a filter for blue light, so it doesn’t mess with your circadian cycle

2. Have dinner earlier:

A light dinner would be better for this time of the day, try avoiding fatty or spicy food and caffeinated drinks that might interfere with your sleep. Also laying down right after you’ve eaten increases the risk of heartburn and indigestion which traduces in an uncomfortable night.

3. Get a nice environment to wake up to:

Nobody wants to wake up to a cold, messy room. If possible try and tidy up anything that’s out of place. On cold days program the heater to turn on about 30 minutes before you’ll wake up so it isn’t that difficult to leave your comfy sheets.

4. Make a to-do list for the morning:

Why would you wake up early in the morning for no reason? If there is an exciting project you´re working on first thing in the morning is probably the best time to make some progress. Experts in neuroscience advise tackling the most difficult task in your list in the morning, this is the optimal timing for productivity.

5. Set up an alarm and place it away from bed:

Recommended by various productivity gurus this trick only works if you have set up your alarm to a time where your body is already fully rested, you’ll have to break your comfort zone to turn it off, and it is more likely that you stay up.

6. Have your “me-time”:

Take a nice shower/bath, listen to your favorite music, do some yoga or meditation, put on your comfy pajamas, give yourself a foot massage or read a book. Whatever it is that one thing you need to feel relaxed and forget about daily stressful situations, this is the moment to do it, everyone needs some me-time before bed.

7. Drink water:

This is a personal favorite, drinking water right before going to bed, it’s a bit tricky because the effect of having to go to the bathroom might happen on the middle of the night, but in most cases, if you naturally have a deep sleep pattern, by the time you wake up the urge to go to the bathroom will keep you out of bed.

8. Visualize:

Check the time when you lay down let’s say it is 23:00; really visualize the numbers and then visualize the time you want to get up 6:00; this helps you to mentally prepare your body for this challenge.

9. Go to bed early:

Take note of the time you want to wake up to, and count down at least 7 hours of sleep, this should be the time you go to bed. You can do this gradually through the week until you get to your ideal wake up time, for example, if you want to wake up at 5 am, but you usually wake up at 9 am, try reducing 1 hour every couple of days until you get to wake up at 5 am without feeling grumpy.

 

How long should a bedtime routine be

This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours or more depending on your family dynamic or if you are a single person and the routine only depends on you. I’ll set up these examples for families and individuals, but times can vary greatly. Besides, this isn’t necessarily the order in which you should take the steps; maybe having your me-time right when you get home is better for your routine, you can adapt them to your own pace of life.

Task Time
Families Individuals
Meal prep 40 min 10 – 20 min
Dinner 30 min 10 – 15 min
Quick clean up 10 min 5 – 10 min
Get ready to go to bed (me-time) 40 – 60 min 25 – 40 min
Schedule next day tasks and set up an alarm 10 min 5 – 10 min
Tuck in kids 20 – 25 min
Fall asleep 10 – 20 min 10 – 20 min
Total time 2h 45’ – 3h 15’ 1h 05’ – 1h 50’

 

Right when the alarm beeps

1. Don’t hit snooze:

What a gentle way to start your day with a failure; hitting the snooze button. Don’t let this happen, right when you hear the alarm get on your feet and turn it off. The next thing to do is making your bed, so you don’t even think about going back to it; once you’ve made your bed you’ve accomplished your first victory of the day!

2. Go straight to the bathroom:

This is the moment when the glass of water before bed trick kicks in; release your bladder, and splash some fresh water in your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair, for a step up and supercharge yourself take an energizing shower.

3. Have a glass of water:

After 7 hours or more without water, your body is dehydrated, even without you noticing it, water helps you boost your metabolism and is part of the energetic processes in our organism.

4. Have breakfast:

The most important meal of the day, you can’t miss this one or eventually, you’ll run out of energy and all your hard work in getting to wake up early will be lost. Whole grains, carbohydrates, and proteins are fundamental in your breakfast, try and make it as complete as possible.

5. Stretch:

Get that blood pumping up and down your body, stretching is a great way to shake out the laziness you might feel after waking up early in the morning, in addition, you can do some quick exercises or a yoga routine (always is a good time for yoga). Warming up your body increases the metabolic activity in the brain cortex, take advantage of this morning exercise to tackle your highly cognitive demanding tasks once you’ve raised your body temperature a little bit.

6. Start your day:

Now it’s time to beat the heck out of that to-do list. Remember, don’t think about it twice, just sit down and get the job done. Or stand on your feet and get to work, whatever it is on the first place of your list, start it right over. Get things done!

 

Wake up early and be productive

It is a no-brainer if you have 2-3 hours of work done before the world starts to wake up and bombard you with notifications, calls, requests. You are several steps ahead in productivity than most. Take advantage of the perks of being awake before everybody, you’ll have uninterrupted work time, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll find this to be the most productive time of the day.

 

How long does it take to establish a sleep routine

A sleep routine is a sequence of daily habits that you’ll include in your night to make the best out of your sleep hours. As habits, they would take anywhere from 18 days to 256 days to stick. Do you feel overwhelmed about that number? How about if I tell you than in just 8 days of waking up earlier and having 3 hours of work done, you’ll have 24 hours of PRODUCTIVE working time.

You’ve just added one full day of uninterrupted work to your week. By just making a little effort,  self-discipline, and strength. Is it worth it? Of course, it is, In 256 days you’d have 32 EXTRA days of productivity, by making these little changes in your routine.

 

How to maintain a sleep routine

Does this mean that I’ll have to wake up early every day? Yes, every single day, weekends and holidays included, this is the only way you can maintain your sleep routine and your peaks of early morning productivity. Start slow, have some realistic goals according to your usual routine, it might take you 1 month or 3 until you actually start feeling comfortable by waking up early, and your bedtime routine starts flowing naturally, but it is so worth it.

 

Don’t miss a single step

I’ve created a one-page PDF with this Step by step process. Print this Cheatsheet and place it where most of your routine takes place, so you don’t miss a single step, also you can track the days you’ve woken up early to stick to this good habit. You can download it at my FREE Resources page, to get access sign up below: