Book review: ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear

Atomic Habits book review image with clock

Book review: ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear

Are you about to make Beyond Business Groups one of your monthly habits? We are all about working ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ it and one of the fastest ways to get there is by building habits.

One of the best habits to develop is learning – reading, watching, listening.

Beyond Business Groups was designed based on the book group concept – coming together to learn, discuss and share ideas. We are big believers in self-improvement and gaining knowledge through reading. It seems we are not alone! Warren Buffett – arguably the most skilled investor of our time – said reading 500 pages a day was the key to success, because ‘that’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.’

Atomic Habits is a book that helps you gain this compound interest by providing simple strategies for improving yourself every day.

I have read the book and listened to some podcasts about the book and the repetitive message is this – if you have bad habits, you are not the problem – your systems are the problem. I love this idea. It helps turn something that may feel too hard and overwhelming into simple steps you can apply daily.

Brain training to improve habits

Clear calls on brain training techniques and draws on some complex psychology studies to demonstrate how it’s possible to change. But he doesn’t dwell on the research. He uses examples from a range of people – sports stars to artists – to demonstrate the positive impact of small changes applied regularly.

While the information is nothing new (there have been many books written in this topic) the way of approaching the ideas are. And while you can access a lot of the ideas through his blog and website – I love to have a book to write notes and highlight important points.

Clear’s ideas of habit stacking and habit tracking are interesting and practical. If you are new to the idea of building small habits – this is a good place to start. If you’ve done a lot of reading in this space – it’s never a bad idea to have a different perspective.

Here’s the math

On the 1% increment: If you aim to get 1% better each day it takes 70 days to get twice as good at something. It takes 41 more days to get 3 times as good. In a year, you’ll be 38 times a good if you get 1% better each day. That’s the power of compounding.

  • Positive habits that can compound: Productivity, knowledge, positive affirmations, relationships, etc.
  • Negative habits that can compound: Stress, negative thoughts, outrage/anger, unresolved feelings/emotions, etc.

Clear talks about the four steps to create a habit and the four laws of behaviour change: ‘Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.’ The four laws of behaviour change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.

‘An atomic habit is a little habit that is part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.’

While I love the focus on small steps – I don’t necessarily agree that you give up goals in favour of habits as he asserts. I think the two can go together. Business goals, personal habits.

The verdict?

‘Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become’ (Atomic Habits).  What type of business person do you want to become?

Other books on the topic of habits and self-improvement:

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and John David Mann