Sometimes a book or a movie makes the whole nation rethink the basic concepts, and I believe James Clear managed to do that with his book Atomic Habits. If you haven’t read the book, stop what you’re doing and go read it. Many people I know have read it, and they love it. Habits are a known concept, but the book shines a light on how to easily build good habits, break the bad ones, and make them work to your advantage.

Good habits are a wonderful thing if you can make them work for you, and I’ll try to explain how I started applying some of the concepts from the book in my personal life.

Good habits benefit yourself and the people around you

Imagine something as simple as washing your dishes when you finish eating. It’s a wonderful habit, especially if you have roommates. Unfortunately, I was never able to form that habit, and I would either completely forget about it and leave the dishes in the sink or find an excuse not to do it. People who do it, though, do it without much thinking or effort on their end, making everyone’s lives in the household easier in the process.

Plenty of other habits are beneficial in a similar way - drinking healthier drinks, eating healthier food, or more rigorous variants such as counting calories or making sure your diet has appropriate nutrients. It seems like so much effort, but if you observe people who do it, they don’t struggle with it at all. And that’s the best part of habits - they are free, and they happen on autopilot.

Imagine being able to recognize useful habits and make it easy to form them so that you start doing them with ease. I started applying some of these ideas in my life.

Habits tricks that helped me

Ever since I read the book, I started thinking about ways to apply the ideas in my personal life.

There are two ideas the book mentions that I found useful:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it. This one is super easy to apply, and it is very efficient. I managed to find it useful for many things. This blog itself is a product of the schedule idea: I wanted to get better and more comfortable at writing, so I dedicate two hours every week to it. Every Sunday I wake up earlier and I make sure I have two hours to think about the ideas for my blog and work on a post. This helped tremendously - I am much more comfortable starting a blog topic from scratch. I use it for my goal settings and sports activities. There’s something magically efficient about creating a schedule and sticking to it!

  • Stack the habits. This essentially means connecting a new habit to a well-established one. It’s an “if-then” of habits. For example, now I pick up the trash from the car when I park and throw it out on my way to the front doors - my car has never been this clean. Or I take the keys and my wallet from a drawer when I am about to leave the house. I have used it so far for simple things not related to work, but that might change soon!

Benefits of habits accumulate

One of the points the book is trying to make is that habit building can be potentially very powerful if applied many times over, even on little things, since the benefits accumulate. In the book, James talks about the French cycling team getting better by a tiny bit in many ways, which accumulated over time and helped them dominate the sport.

In theory, once the habits are formed, they would stay, and we can move on to a different habit while reaping the benefits from the previously formed ones.

I personally think the upper limit of the accumulated benefits is not as high or easy to reach as the book suggests - it takes a long time to form a habit, and it takes mental effort to continue forcing it while it’s built, meaning you can only work on so many habits at a time. And I also noticed that newly formed habits are fragile, and it’s easy to slip. Arguably that means they aren’t formed, but then it just means it takes even longer to form them. If it takes six or more months to form a habit, how long would it take to start reaping accumulated benefits?

Is building habits still worth doing? Without a doubt! I’m definitely doing it and will report on its effectiveness soon.