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Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits

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This book was first recommended by Ishani while she was reading this. In fact, I loved this book so very much that I completed this book even before she did. Months later, I recommended this book to Vidhi and ended up reading this again.

The best thing about this book is the simplicity and practicality of this book. From the name of the book, I assumed this will be one more book with a lot of advice to live a productive life. But this book was easy to read, simple to understand, and very very practical.

These are my learning from this book.

The Fundamentals

I loved the approach of taking a new identity instead of just taking a new habit. For example, the story about two people resisting a cigarette. Two possible responses are “No thanks. I’m trying to quit” and “No thanks. I’m not a smoker”. The first one is a hope to pick a new habit, but the second one is a strong one and signals a shift in the identity.

The 1st Law: Make it Obvious

Changing the environment. It is actually very easy to change the environment than trying to motivate oneself. For example, simple things like drinking enough water every day has been always hard for me. I’ve tried apps to remind me about drinking water. And what finally helped is simply to keep 4 bottles filled with water. And I’m not sure how, but I finish the bottles every day once they are on my table.
Same way, sticky notes on the table to remind me about the task at hand and a big white-board at home to remind me about the overall goals. Changing the environment is actually much easier than trying to fight against bad habits.

Habit stacking is a simple and easy technique to build a good habit on top of another. The way things can be chained makes it easy and appealing. The tricky part about this is that if the first item in the stack is ignored, the whole stack tumbles.

The reverse of this law is also very interesting. Fighting a bad habit is hard, but if all we need is to change the environment, it makes the whole process appear very simple.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive

The dopamine spike is an interesting graph, but I doubt if I’ll ever remember this when I have to make a decision. The simpler takeaway is that the anticipation of the reward is much more interesting than the fulfillment of an action. I liked the temptation bundling (which I think is just another name for habit stacking). Bundling an action you want to do with an action you need to do (like washing dishes while watching friends), helps a lot.

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy

The biggest learning for me is that starting small in a repetitive way is much better than starting with a big bang and stopping it after a few days. The amount of time we spend isn’t important, but what matters is the number of times we do a task. Being repetitive is what makes a habit. The reverse of this law is that all we need is some small friction to avoid a bad habit.

The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

To continue with a habit, we need to make a habit enjoyable. It sounds obvious, but we can’t build habits out of things we hate to do (even if it is good for us in the long run). The idea is to make sure the good habits have immediate rewards instead of long terms rewards. We all are running towards instant gratification and the big plan is to make sure good habits give us instant gratification (usually, they dont).

There are times when one might skip an habit, the goal is to make sure we never miss it twice. Also, having a habit tracker helps a lot. I use a simple notebook to track tasks and habits everyday (will write more about this later). Having an accounting partner really helps. In fact, one reason why I was able to blog every week is to have multiple accountability partners who ensure I write something every week.

Final thoughts, I believe this is a book all of us should read at some point of time in our life. This is one book which will make all of our personal and professional life much much better!

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