Step up Your Productivity With Atomic Habits
Step up Your Productivity With Atomic Habits
Goals are fantastic! You have probably read articles and books about them, made lists for yourself and even posted them somewhere that you can see them every day.
But have you ever felt that the steps for achieving your goals fall short? Do your goals overwhelm you? Are you down on yourself when they feel beyond your reach?
The problem is likely not the goals themselves, but the manner in which you are going about them…
Baby Steps to Making Your Goals More Achievable
Even if you have lined up what you think are achievable steps to obtain them, you may need to break the process down even further.
Author James Clear wrote a remarkable book that is helping people break their habits down to a micro level and master them: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.
The problem might be the result of your habits, even the smallest ones. Poor habits will quickly undermine you.
Think of good habits as the rate of interest earned on a savings account or an investment. Even if it is a modest rate of interest, it will add up over time. The more good habits you have, the greater that interest dividend will be.
It turns out that the details do matter, from what time you go to bed to what kind of work habits you cultivate. You are a product of the habits you cultivate in every area of your life.
The author writes, “Each habit is like a suggestion: ‘Hey, maybe this is who I am’… Every action you take is a vote for who you wish to become.”
The author’s own motivation to master his habits is rooted in a serious accident he had in high school. His recovery process forced him to rethink and reengineer his habits in order to get his life back in order.
He wrote of this pivotal time in his life, “We all deal with setbacks, but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you will end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.”
So what kind of changes did Clear make that were so effective that he was inspired to write a book about them? What did he learn that will work for you?
- Make Small Changes
First, think back to the idea of earning a modest interest on a savings account or investment and how that interest compounds over time. What if your interest rate grew by 1% per day? That may not sound like much, but you would really notice a difference in 10 days!
Apply that to a habit — what if you make a 1% change per day? One percent is small and achievable, yet it adds up quickly and compounds over time. Instead of kicking yourself because you struggle to make an instant change, take the approach of ramping up gradually, building in microsteps and cementing a new habit by breaking it down into easily achievable small changes that become beneficial habits over time.
- Perception Is Reality
Your habits can also be changed over time by changing how you perceive yourself. Think of someone who has achievements you admire and examine your assumptions about that person. You probably would frame these assumptions something like this: He/she is the kind of person who [insert good habit here]…
Now reframe that statement and make it about yourself: I am the kind of person who… Use these statements frequently to reframe how you see yourself and focus on what you plan to become.
The 4 Laws of Behavior Change
Clear also articulates what he refers to as “The Four Laws of Behavior Change.” They are cue, craving, response and reward.
He explains that “the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.” This habit loop helps to make changes automatic.
A cue can be as simple as putting your workout clothes by your bed at night so that they are the first thing you see in the morning and serve as an ongoing cue to the workout habit you are trying to establish toward your fitness goal. Cues can also include steps like color-coding items on your agenda by the level of priority or setting a daily reminder on your phone to reinforce an important step toward a new habit.
Successful businesses make use of the concept of cues in their advertising and marketing efforts, in which they are essentially cueing consumers to desire — and feel rewarded by choosing — their products and services.
Cues can be more effective when thought is given to time and location. Make a specific plan about when and where each step will take place. This helps build the habit and assure consistent follow-through.
In the business world, this translates to strategies like ad placement, store layout, shelf placement and reminder notifications. When done properly, these cues affect buying patterns and consumer engagement with a company.
While adding incrementally to the cues that prompt positive changes, we should be mindful of the negative habits that we are trying to change and the cues we have unwittingly set up to trigger those habits. Change is most successful when the negative cues are systematically eliminated and replaced with ones that point us to a desired new behavior.
Tracking each change helps us to stick with it and often serves as its own reward — after all, you don’t want to break your streak! It is this philosophy that is behind the step goal on your smartwatch. Having a consistent streak of achieved step goals is very rewarding and serves as an effective way to track a positive habit that helps you to reach your fitness goal.
Clear’s book digs deeper, offering numerous examples and helpful, practical steps. Taking your goals and breaking them down to the underlying habits and systems that you use to achieve them pays off over the long run.
“Decide the type of person you want to be,” Clear challenges each of us. “Prove it to yourself with small wins.”
Dr. Patrick Gentempo