Fooxes Consulting

Atomic Habits - James Clear

Buch-Review - Hannes Kleist - 05.06.2020

Atomic Habits

I got addicted to habit-change last year during my meditations on life-goals.

With the help of the Productive app, I stopped drinking during the week and during the daytime on weekends and eating before 5 pm. I also started getting up at 5 am, flossing, hitting the gym, meditating, journaling, taking pictures of my balcony, sending funny gifs to my wife, talking to strangers, cooking for the kids, leaning into an uncomfortable situation, hating less, stretching, growing tomatoes, postponing gratification, riding the bicycle and battling my ego in various ways.

This book gives you all the hacks you need to succeed.

The Fundamentals: Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. As the evidence grew, so did my identity as a writer. I didn’t start out as a writer. I became one through my habits. In this way, the process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.

Mind. Blown.

It is a simple two-step process: Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

Alright. That sounds simple enough. 😅

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious

Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Carl Jung is funny.

Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing. The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them. The Habits Scorecard is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior.

You had me at “scorecard”. Everything with a spreadsheet is worth doing. 😂

Social skills. When I walk into a party, I will introduce myself to someone I don’t know yet. Finances. When I want to buy something over $ 100, I will wait twenty-four hours before purchasing.

I actually have those two rules. 💪

Minimalism. When I buy a new item, I will give something away. (“ One in, one out.”)

I will try that. How can I “give” something, though?

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious. The two most common cues are time and location. Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location. The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

I use the Productive app to trigger me at multiple times during the day.

Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit. The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

That’s where an app comes in handy as well. When I opened the app to clear off one habit, it makes it easier to do the other 5 apps right after.

The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.”

He is talking about rooms.

Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time. Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out. Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment. Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. The context becomes the cue.

I found that you need to repeat something every day for 30 days to make it automatic. Like brushing your teeth.

Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.

And there goes my ego 😭

In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

I stopped putting alcohol in the fridge to not get triggered every time I am in the kitchen.

If you’re continually feeling like you’re not enough, stop following social media accounts that trigger jealousy and envy.

This cannot be stressed enough. Social media is soooo bad for you. 🙈🙉🙊

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. You may be able to resist temptation once or twice, but it’s unlikely you can muster the willpower to override your desires every time.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive

Every behavior that is highly habit-forming — taking drugs, eating junk food, playing video games, browsing social media — is associated with higher levels of dopamine.

It’s interesting, that nearly everything that “feels right” is usually bad for you while uncomfortable situations are good for you.

When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it.

I used that insight to maximize the pleasure of drinking 🍺.

The 2nd Law of Behavior Change is make it attractive. The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.

Either reward yourself after a habit or use a habit-forming app so you trigger dopamine when checking off an item.

We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).

Sharing your stats on social media can help here.

The inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change is make it unattractive. Highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit to make it seem unattractive. Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings.

I should add a sign to the fridge: 🍻 ➡️ 🤕

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle.

I love planing.

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.

I found this holding me back and I see this in others. We plan and optimize for weeks and months on end.

I like this definition of the MVP

If you are not embarrassed by what you released, you have released too late.

The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning. Focus on taking action, not being in motion. Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.

When it comes to hard business habits (take blogging, vlogging or sales), the best strategy is to overload yourself. I hired an outreach agency that simply booked calls for me.

If I had done this myself, I would have slowly started researching the perfect customers, scheduling two calls max per week and agonizing over every single one. Because cold outreach is not fun, I would have properly stopped doing this after a month.

Instead, the agency booked up my calendar weeks in advance. So I only had to show up.

I now average 30 sales calls per week. I kind of enjoy them now.

The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.

That is very interesting…

Instead of blocking off an hour of your precious time, just do 10 minutes. 10 minutes in the gym, 10 minutes meditation, 10 minutes writing, 10 minutes stretching…

Whenever possible, I leave my phone in a different room until lunch. When it’s right next to me, I’ll check it all morning for no reason at all. But when it is in another room, I rarely think about it.

I keep it in the loading dock as much as possible.

People often think it’s weird to get hyped about reading one page or meditating for one minute or making one sales call. But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up.

I wonder if I would have mastered the piano back in my teens if I just had practised 5 minutes running scales instead of 30 minutes trying to play from the sheet.

The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

The one habit I fail at is “Cook for the kids”. I cook for the wife and me because Hellofresh makes it so easy to start.

But for the kids, I would have to find a recipe and buy the ingredients first. The result: Even though I get reminded every day for 9 months now, I actually did it only 30 out of 180 times.

Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.

There is an app for that ;-)

The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

But there is a trick. We are not looking for just any type of satisfaction. We are looking for immediate satisfaction.

Dopamine, dopamine, dopamine.

It is only recently — during the last five hundred years or so — that society has shifted to a predominantly delayed-return environment.

I never thought of that.

But occasionally, our bias toward instant gratification causes problems.

I would argue that instant gratification is the root of all of our large problems.

You can reward yourself. i.e. a chocolate bar after a workout, coffee after the sales call, reading after meditation

“Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra. Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.

Oh, this is very good. There are some things, that I cannot do 100% every time. But when I miss, I beat myself up over it and reinforce bad thoughts.

By telling yourself: “One time can happen. But tomorrow, you nail this sucker!”, you do not lose the positive image, that you are a steely-eyed performer. 💪

Thomas Frank, an entrepreneur in Boulder, Colorado, wakes up at 5: 55 each morning. 7 And if he doesn’t, he has a tweet automatically scheduled that says, “It’s 6: 10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this for $ 5 via PayPal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.”

That is awesome.

The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying. We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying. An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us. A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behavior. It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful. Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.

Sounds like having bets.

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

As you explore different options, there are a series of questions you can ask yourself to continually narrow in on the habits and areas that will be most satisfying to you: What feels like fun to me, but work to others? What makes me lose track of time? Where do I get greater returns than the average person? What comes naturally to me?

The first one is interesting. I have not lost the track of time in years. It seems I have outsourced all the fun activities of my occupation and are left with the uncomfortable and boring ones.

A flow state is the experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in an activity. Scientists have tried to quantify this feeling. They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.

Now, this is interesting.

For the real hard habits, like doing sales calls, you need to set everything up (i.e. process, scripts, documents) to minimize the challenge to 4%.

*“At some point it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over.”

That’s from Arnold Schwarzenegger I think.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us.

I think I know where this is headed: Mindfulness practise.

If you can focus on the experience of the mundane (like breathing) and lose yourself in it, you will never be bored ever again.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

Sure. That’s what I tell myself every morning at 5 am. But there must be more than just telling yourself to be a pro.

In fact, some research has shown that once a skill has been mastered there is usually a slight decline in performance over time.

Interesting. Probably because you go full Maschine and stop deliberately practising.

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

I knew it!

Each December, I perform an Annual Review, in which I reflect on the previous year.

He basically looks at his stats.

My yearly Integrity Report answers three questions: What are the core values that drive my life and work? How am I living and working with integrity right now? How can I set a higher standard in the future?

Conclusion: The Secret to Results That Last

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.

That is a brilliant way to look at it.

Instead of “hacking” your way through life, search for small daily or weekly rituals to improve just a tiny bit every time.

A 1% improvement every day leads to an annual improvement of x37. That’s 3700%.

Even a weekly improvement of 1% get’s you 166% better in a year.


Happiness is not about the achievement of pleasure, but about the lack of desire.

Oh, this is beautifully put.

It’s a matter of continued framing.

Ask yourself when you are feeling down: What am I missing right now? What would make this moment perfect? If the answer is “one million euros in the bank”, “that promotion”, “that deal”, “the iPhone 13”, future cast yourself.

Have you ever felt different because of achievement or stuff you got? Do you feel better today with your iPhone 12 than with your iPhone 11? Do you feel happier today being a manager than when you were the day before that promotion?

I found that most moments are already perfect. The wind on my skin, the laughter of my kids, the taste of a tomato, the softness of the mattress.

I miss nothing, I am free.

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Hannes Kleist
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