20 MARCH 2020 /

Chapter by chapter breakdown: Atomic Habits by James Clear

In 2020, my focus is on reading more non-fiction and whilst reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, I summarised each chapter with one sentence. By taking notes in this way I can easily digest and review the content and then come back to these again and again. 

The book is incredibly well written with accompanying diagrams and examples to demonstrate important concepts and at the end of each chapter, James Clear summarises all the key points.

If you are looking to create new habits or break bad ones, check out the chapter by chapter breakdown below for a brief insight into the tools and techniques provided in the book.

The Fundamentals: Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

1. The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

Build a system of atomic habits by implementing regular routines that are small and easy to do to result in compound growth.

2. How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Shape your habits around who you want to become.

3. How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Your habits are shaped by the systems in your life and become automated when they take little energy and effort. The Four laws of behaviour change: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying.

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious

4. The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

Be aware of your habits as some we may do unconsciously, use the pointing and calling technique to consciously acknowledge behaviour.

5. The Best Way to Start a New Habit

Use implementation intention by setting a clear time and place for your habit and add on to an existing habit through habit stacking.

6. Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

Habit cues are influenced by environments and context, make them obvious to trigger habits or build habits in a new environment.

7. The Secret to Self-Control

Self-control is a short term strategy; optimise your environment to make good habit cues obvious and bad habit cues invisible.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive

8. How to Make a Habit Irresistible

Temptation bundling pairs a habit you need to do with a habit you want to do to make it more attractive where the anticipation of reward is driven by dopamine.

9. The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

We imitate the habits of the close, the many and the powerful. Join a culture with your desired behaviour and a shared interest.

10. How to Find and Fix the Casuses of Your Bad Habits

Habits are associated with emotions, to quit a bad habit make it seem unattractive and to create a motivation ritual by doing something that evokes good feelings before a difficult habit.

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy

11. Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

Motion is useful, action will deliver an outcome and repetition makes an action more automated.

12. The Law of Least Effort

Redesign your life to create less friction to good behaviours and more friction to bad behaviours.

13. How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

Implement a habit that takes only 2 minutes and then over time build on it.

14. How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

Future-proof your habits by using commitment devices to make bad habits difficult in the present and automating your desired habits.

The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

15. The Cardinal Rule of Behaviour Change

If you enjoy a habit you will repeat it, link an immediate reward to the habit to initially incentivise the habit and over time it becomes your identity and the intrinsic rewards will sustain it.

16. How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

“The first mistake is never the one that ruins you” - habit trackers can be used to measure progress and make the habit satisfying.

17. How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

Make a habit unsatisfying by using techniques such as an accountability partner and/or habit contracts with negative consequences for failing to put your habit into action.

Advanced Tactics: How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

18. The Trulh About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)

Tailor your habits around your personality and use explore/exploit trade offs to find areas of strength.

19. The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

Work on tasks at the edge of your current ability, in this zone you can achieve a flow state and also learn to enjoy the task even when you’re bored of it.

20. The Downside of Creating Good Habits

It is important to reflect and review to prevent building mistakes into habits and to avoid holding tightly onto an identity to encourage long term growth.

Conclusion: The Secret to Results That Last

The four laws of behaviour change present a set of tools and strategies to build better systems and better habits. Small habits can compound to make remarkable changes.

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This article is also on Medium & the featured photo is by Isaac Smith on Unsplash.

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Kerry Parker

Data Scientist with PhD in Physics. Interested in learning, software development and productivity, see more posts on Medium.