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Cover image for Atomic habits: Book review and cheat sheet

Atomic habits: Book review and cheat sheet

ruffle1986 profile image Tamas Fodor Updated on ・6 min read

If you read my previous post about mini habits, you know that I'm a firm believer in the benefits of habit development.

One of my goals for this year is reading two books every month. So I developed a few mini habits to manage this task. If you're interested in the books I've read already this year, you can find the list here. I haven't decided on all the 24 books I'm planning to read so it's a constantly growing list. When I finish a book, I put it on the list.

In the previous post, I gave a brief overview of why mini habits can change our lives significantly and now I want to take it to the next level. Well, it has turned out that there's an entire book on the topic out there.
Ladies and gentlemen! Behold Atomic habits by James Clear, a number one bestselling book on Amazon about how tiny changes can have a huge effect on our every day lives especially if we'd like to achieve success.

Dare I say, it's a great book and a must have on your bookshelf. Especially if you need a step by step guide to change your behaviors in order to build good habits and get rid of bad ones. The book also includes many scientific facts and stories from great habit builders in history which I've found very entertaining. The book touches many different scientific aspects including biology, neuroscience, and psychology. It's like Christmas for me.

As Dan Lok, the famous entrepreneur and businessman once said, "Don't read books, use them!". Yes, reading is a very important part of this concept but you get the idea. So this time I've decided to provide a more useful post rather than a motivational speech. This article is about my thoughts on the book and also provides a cheat sheet and examples from my everyday life to make it easier for you to practice the ideas.

The 4 laws of behavior change

The book is built around the four stages of the habit building process that you should follow. The author refers to it as the Four Laws of Behavior Change:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

Inversion

Speaking of good habits, you might be satisfied with your life. Maybe, you just have some bad habits you want to get rid of like smoking or desperately checking social media to compare yourself to others. The inversion of the four laws comes to the rescue.

  1. Make it invisible
  2. Make it unattractive
  3. Make it difficult
  4. Make it unsatisfying.

I really liked the idea of taking advantage of human nature and instead of focusing on putting a huge amount of energy to become a new next-level superhuman and get rid of what we are in our genes, make it serve us. Human nature comes with a lot of things that stop us from breaking bad habits. Our brain wants instant gratification and doesn't accept the delayed reward. The book lists many good techniques to turn these obstacles to our advantage.

Identity

According to the book, the first step is coming up with the idea of the person who we want to become. When we’re aware of the identity of this person, it’s much easier to collect the habits which support us on the path of becoming that particular person. Otherwise, we're just hanging around probably. Just write them down on a paper or somewhere else. It’s easier to feel like you're committed.

Here’s my list:

  • I’m a writer
  • I’m a conference speaker
  • I’m a teacher
  • I’m a swift developer
  • I’m a minimalist

Habits scorecard

The idea of the habits scorecard is about collecting your current habits. The habits you do on a regular basis without failing. It’s very important to keep in mind that it’s a list of all of your habits, not just the good ones. It’s ok if you have some bad habits. Let's just accept it for now.
Once you are done with the list, you should mark each habit based on whether it helps you to build your new identity, prevents you or just simply neutral. The book uses "+" for supportive habits, "-" for unsupportive habits and "=" for neutral habits. If you’re anything like me, you would make it look dope with emojis.

✅ - supportive
❌ - unsupportive
🐒 - neutral

Let me share my list with you. These are my daily habits. The habits I do every day.

My daily morning routine:

Wake up 🐒
Check emails and social media ❌
Check my todos ✅
Make my bed ✅
Go to the kitchen 🐒
Drink a big cup of tap water ✅
Drink a cup of coffee ❌
Go to the bathroom 🐒
Turn on music ❌
Brush my teeth ✅
Wash my face ✅
Get dressed 🐒
Clean the surfaces from water and dust ✅
Leave the bathroom 🐒
Go to the living room 🐒
Learn Swift for an hour ✅
Take on my shoes 🐒
Take on my jacket 🐒
Go to the gym ✅

Work (when I arrive):

Make a cup of coffee ❌
Have a breakfast ❌
Tweet about my Swift learning progress ✅
Watch a maximum 10-minute motivational video ✅
Check work-related emails 🐒
Check my sprint progress in a PM tool ✅
Check social media ❌

My daily evening routine:

Go to the bathroom 🐒
Turn on music ❌
Have a shower ✅
Wash my face ✅
Brush my teeth ✅
Put on deodorant ✅
Take on my pajamas 🐒
Leave the bathroom 🐒
Pack my gym bag ✅
Go to bed 🐒
Check social media ❌
Read a chapter ✅

Implementation Intention

Based on several studies, we more likely stick with a habit if we attach it to a certain time and location. This is the so-called implementation intention. There’re a lot of other components of successfully sticking with a habit of course and it may not be the best for you. I know from experience that it’s very difficult to be on schedule if it’s not clarified. Use the formula and write it down.

The formula is the following:

I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]

Here’s my list:

  • I will exercise for one hour at 6 a.m. in the gym
  • I will learn Swift for one hour every day at 8 a.m. at my desk
  • I will write an article every Sunday at 6 a.m. at my desk

Habit stacking

Another great way to form a new habit is by connecting it to an already existing one. If implementation intention is not your thing, this might work for you. You can also use the two together of course.
Since we already have a list of our habits, we can easily find a good place for a new one. It’s better to connect the new habit to a good habit obviously because you probably want to get rid of the bad ones. It’s just a matter of time.

Formula:

After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]

Environment

It happens very often that where we live or work prevents us from forming habits. It's not about the place but rather how we organize the things around us. Make your room your friend instead of your enemy. If you want to read every day, put a book on your pillow every morning. If you want to play on the guitar, put it in the middle of your living room, and so on.

I think I’m mostly fine with this part but there are always rooms to improve. For example, I work on my sleep quality and I don’t have a television in my bedroom but I read books on my phone before sleep time. I use the Twilight app to filter the blue light but it’s not just about that. I tend to check social media between chapters. I have a Kindle but I don’t have a reading lamp near my bed so I think it’s time to buy one. :)

The Two-minute rule

It's about procrastination. As I pointed it out earlier many times and basically this is the whole idea behind atomic habits, we tend to give up because the expectations are too high. Go small! At first, create habits that require only two minutes to get them done.

If it's easier for you to use some tools to figure your own plans, you can find many resources and templates on the official website of the book.

The Habits Cheat Sheet
Habits Scorecard Template
Implementation Intentions Template
Habit Stacking Template
Habit Tracker template
Habit Contract template and example

I highly recommend you to get this book. For me, it was worth every penny and I'm 100 % sure that I'll read it again to get some motivation on those sad rainy days when I feel stuck.

Remember! Don't just read it. Use it!

Discussion

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dezfutak profile image
Dez Futak

BRILLIANT synopsis Tamas - many thanks for investing the time to create this article!

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salimsayyid profile image
Salim Sayyid

A very useful book review. Thank you, Mr. Tamas Fodor.
Kindly note that in your post, both the links below mentioned open to he resource "Habit Tracker Template."
Habit Stacking Template
Habit Tracker template
Best Regards
Salim Sayyid

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ylhn15 profile image
ylhn15

Great read but what's so bad about turning on the music?

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ruffle1986 profile image
Tamas Fodor Author

Thanks!

That's a very good question. I was wondering a lot and eventually decided to mark it as a bad habit because I tend to waste a lot of time to choose the perfect song to brush my teeth.

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Manuel Romero

Great article!