Book Review – Atomic Habits

I look at every day as an opportunity to improve myself not just on new years. If you’re into improving systems (Such as using DevOps) then why not improve the most important system you have…Yourself.

James Clear has written in my opinion a clear and practical way of changing your habits by working on a system of habits in his book Atomic Habits. Instead of having a resolutions such as “I will lose 500 pounds by the end of the year” or “I will make $1,000,000 a year” which are for the most part impossible goals since you don’t have the systems of habits needed to not only reach the goal but to support it in the long run.

Without the system, more than likely even if you reach your goal let’s say losing 50 pounds… without the systems of habits, months after you reached your goal you would have not only regained the 50 pounds you lost, you have gained another 25 pounds on top of that. The same thing that happens with the Lotto winners who won a million dollars, they end up spending it all and being worse off than they were in the beginning.

What are the Systems of Habits? Every system is made of smaller individual components or atomic habits. Instead of doing many individual tasks that require lots of conscious effort, why not build a collection of complementary habits. For instance, suppose you want to write a book, you start with a daily habit of writing 50 words a day in the morning. Writing not when you feel inspired but out of habit.

James Clear gives several examples of building habits that help you obtain long term goals. Marginal incremental gains will result in tremendous long term gains. Each habit has a long term cumulative effect on reaching your goals.

An example he gives is the British cycling team. In over a hundred year s they, only one gold medal in the Olympics in cycling and they never won The Tour de France championship. Enter David Brailsford, a specialist in marginal gains. He started changing little things such as the clothing that the riders would wear for wind resistance. Bicycle seats were more comfortable for the riders. Matresses and pillows were more comfortable to give the cyclist a better night’s sleep. They also changed the type of gels they used for muscle recovery. Painted the inside of the vans white so they can see if there was dust in the vans. Hundreds of small improvements. In less than five years, the British cycling team started winning gold medals. They dominated the cycling event in the Olympics in ChinaThree of their riders went on to win the coveted Tour de France multiple times (2012, 2013, 215,2016,2017,2018).

The idea is to work on small consistent habits that you learn to do without thinking and effort that complement other habits that help you achieve your long term goals. Those habits don’t stop after you reach your goal, they continue and allow you to achieve the next goals you have. Pushing you forward without much effort. Just getting started is the hard part.

I have already applied these principles to developing a system of habits of my own.

Here are a few examples of things I’ve done to be a better writer:

1 – Review daily a technical stack such as a framework, language, operating system, etc.

2 – Write at least 50 words a day in any form, such as an article, discovery journal, etc.

3 – Exercise every day at least one pushup.

Each one of these habits complements each other towards the goal of being a better writer. Reviewing the nuances of a framework or language helps me to keep my skills sharp on languages or frameworks I don’t use as often. Writing regularly not when I’m inspired or under a deadline keeps me consistent and disciplined in my writing. Exercise helps me keep fit and helps me manage my energy as I write.

I make it convenient to track my habit with a Goal Tracker app on my Android phone. I use an Anki App for my Android device to review things like IOS and Javascript.

What I notice I started to do after a certain point, that the daily checklist activities became automatic. They became habits I didn’t have to think of tracking at some point. All of these habits aid in reaching my long term goals.

I highly recommend this book not only to learn something about yourself but learn HOW to think strategically about developing habits that help you reach your long term goals.

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