If you’re unfamiliar with the Atomic Habits book now is the time to review it. A New York Times bestseller, with over one million copies sold, this book has influenced countless readers. Clear’s nonfiction work largely contributes to the success of those dedicated to becoming one percent better every day. Creatives, entrepreneurs, and authors can use his principles to accomplish better work in less time.
This article is an in-depth review of Atomic Habits, James Clear’s phenomenal book on the power of habits to transform your life. Let's dive into Atomic Habits, An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.
Atomic Habits book: article breakdown
Atomic Habits summary
Whether you will listen to the Atomic Habits audiobook on your commute or read the physical copy, here's a sneak peek of the Atomic Habits book. I’ve found it is helpful to read a summary of a book before I delve into the topic itself.
James Clear begins his Atomic Habits book with an in-your-face (quite literally) first sentence that compels you to continue reading: “On the final day of my sophomore year of high school, I was hit in the face with a baseball bat.”
This vulnerable introduction preps the reader with background for what plunged Clear into developing his own healthy habits. After setting the scene and sharing what you, the reader, will learn from his own life lessons, the Atomic Habits book begins with chapter one.
Before committing to read books like Atomic Habits, it’s helpful to understand the fundamental reasons you should. In fact, Clear spends the first three chapters of the Atomic Habits book doing just that: he shares the power of these types of habits, how they shape you, and overviews the four steps he discusses throughout the book.
The 1st law
The first step, or law, of what Clear calls atomic habits is to make your habit obvious. For instance, if you want to establish a habit of practicing gratitude, you may want to set a gratitude journal in a location you will see every single day.
The 2nd law
James Clear’s second law is to make your habit attractive, even irresistible. He briefly overviews how friends and family influence our habits as well as pinpoints the root of bad habits and how to fix them.
The 3rd law
Third, make your habit easy. If you want to accomplish big goals, this habit may sound counterintuitive. You may ask, “How can easy habits help me reach big goals? You’ll want to spend some focused time on this law (chapters 11-14) to familiarize yourself with how small steps can create big results.
The 4th law
The Atomic Habits book finishes its laws by encouraging you to make your habit satisfying. I expand on this below, but essentially, you want your habits to satisfy you so you actually stick with them.
For the overachiever, the one who truly wants to max out on their potential, you will love these final three chapters. Subtitled, How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great, James Clear covers exactly that.
What are the 4 principles of Atomic Habits?
The four principles of the Atomic Habits book are: make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. Sound familiar? You just read them above, but repetition is the mother of learning, so let’s discuss these laws, or principles, in greater detail.
1. Make it obvious
The starting point for the Atomic Habits book lies in James Clear’s simple statement: “Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing.”
To establish great habits, habits that create lasting change in your life, it’s crucial to make your habits obvious. Clear states that the process of behavior starts with awareness, so good habits begin with awareness of current habits.
Once you know your current habits and the habits you want to make, make your new habit obvious.
If you want to write more regularly, make this habit obvious. Let’s say every morning you make loose leaf tea. Consider choosing from a list of daily journals for writers and then journaling a few sentences while your tea steeps.
2. Make it attractive
Next up, make your habit attractive. Again, if you want to build a healthy habit of working out five days a week, you can make your habit obvious by laying out your gym clothes the night before. But how do you make physical exertion attractive?
In 1954, neuroscientists discovered the actual process behind what people crave and what they desire. They discovered that without dopamine there is zero desire, and without desire there is zero action.
When making a habit attractive, choose to pair the habit you want to form with an aspect of life you desire.
I find it helpful to reserve specific TV shows for my workouts. I allow myself to watch the show (something I desire) while I workout (a habit I want to continue forming).
3. Make it easy
This law is not equivalent to only taking action if the task is easy, but making the task easy to act on. For instance, if you want to live in a more organzied environment, how can you make this goal easy to achieve?
Years ago I watched a YouTuber explain that when she comes home after a long day, she refused throw her coat on the couch. If she did, she’d have to pick it up a second time to put it away.
Effectively, by not putting the coat away immediately, she would have to put twice the effort into the same goal.
This idea stuck with me. I simply apply the rule to the various objects I engage with. When I’m done working, I reorganize my desk. When I come home, I hang my coat up. When I'm doing cooking, I do the dishes.
The Atomic Habits book creates easy answers to sometimes complicated obstacles. What’s one choice you can make easier to execute?
4. Make it satisfying
If you want to persevere with your goal, you need to create results that satisfies you. For example, let’s say you want to invest in some book writing help. Your thought process goes something like this, “I wrote a book! Now what? I don’t have extra finances to invest in publishing.”
Your goal is to save up to publish your book. For many people, saving isn’t satisfying in the short term. Let’s say you love buying new books though. Instead of purchasing a new book, borrow one from your local library.
Every time you borrow a book instead of purchasing one, put the money you saved into a savings account you call “Book Fund” or something similar. Over time, this perseverance creates a sum of money you can put toward publishing your book and achieving your goal.
In the long run, you will even qualify yourself in how to write about perseverance in a way that impacts your readers.
Is Atomic Habits about ADHD?
While the Atomic Habits book is not specifically about ADHD, it does cover methods that can help if you struggle coping in this area. ADHD can make it difficult to maintain a healthy routine. Daily tasks become a challenge to overcome.
Reading the Atomic Habits book could help you because it:
- Identifies healthy habits
- Shows small (atomic) ways to achieve the habits
- Creates a reward system for the one making the habit
Additionally, once you build strong, healthy, atomic habits, you can achieve far-reaching results. Atomic habits, linked together, can help you:
- Write that job application in much less time than it would previously take
- Listen to a podcast episode (such as Using Atomic Habits to write and publish a book) with focus
- Keep your car organized and clean
Whether you want to apply for your dream job or learn how to write a motivational book, the Atomic Habits book provides actionable steps, even if you struggle with ADHD.
How to apply the concept of atomic habits to the book writing process
As a writer, chances are you want to read the Atomic Habits book and apply it to your own writing goals. From coming up with your main theme, to book launch ideas, to author book signings and appearances, your early habits matter.
In his interview with Chandler Bolt, James Clear discusses the positive results of using Atomic Habits to write and publish a book.
Clear states that it took him five years to ideate and then finally complete the Atomic Habits book. Throughout the process, Clear and his team chose to take action on the very ideas people know work.
However, instead of just going through the motions, they chose to upscale these ideas in a big way.
Upon signing his book deal for the Atomic Habits book, James Clear had roughly 200,000 subscribers. He grew this list to about 440,000 by the time the book officially released. At the time of his podcast recording with Chandler Bolt, Clear’s list was over one million. His small efforts created tremendous results.
About ten weeks before his book came out, James Clear announced its pending release. This announcement drove pre-orders, but he didn’t linger too long on his announcement. Instead of over-promoting his book, he went back to writing his standard articles. One small change aided the success of his launch.
Just two weeks before the Atomic Habits book was released, Clear made another announcement: a suite of bonus packages. Looking back, Clear says he likely wouldn’t repeat this step. While it boosted sales by about 700 copies, the investment didn’t have the payoff he had hoped for.
Emails during launch week
Launch week is busy for writers, and this fact applied to James Clear just like it does the rest of us. During launch week he sent four emails to his newsletter list:
- Monday (day before release): an excerpt of the Atomic Habits book
- Tuesday (day of release): Layered his CBS This Morning interview into his email
- Wednesday: break
- Thursday: Another excerpt
- Friday: Last call, bonuses ending, etc.
Tip: Refuse the urge to stop promoting your book once your release week ends. Instead, put focused effort into continually marketing your new title.
James Clear recorded 75 podcasts and asked the hosts to release them around the time the Atomic Habits book came out. Podcast hosts released all 75 recordings in the ten days surrounding the Atomic Habits book release, making for a compelling launch with podcasts alone. Not stopping here, over the following six months, Clear engaged in 200 interviews.
Before he published his book, Clear reached out to the various influencers he hoped would support him. He sent them a primer on his book and offered to send them a copy if they were interested. This way, he secured influencer support and only sent copies to those truly interested.
It’s important to note that while James Clear sent the Atomic Habits book to influencers who opted in, he never asked them to promote his book. Instead, he chose influencers he believed would benefit, whose audiences would benefit, and hoped the quality of his book would do the rest of the work.
What is the main point of Atomic Habits?
The main point of the Atomic Habits book is the power that small changes have on large goals. James Clear focuses on two primary points throughout his book: the importance of small habits as well as how crucial it is to choose where you put your focus (hint: it’s not on goal-setting).
Clear titled his Atomic Habits book appropriately. The smallest of habits can yield massive results. Throughout his book, James Clear stresses how vital small, daily habits are.
For example, if you want to become physically healthy, you can start with:
- Saying no to the small things (like the extra cookie)
- Saying yes to the small things (like walking instead of taking the elevator)
One of the reasons the Atomic Habits book seems to impact so many readers is because of its accessible message. You don’t need to completely overhaul your life to create change. You can start with small, atomic habits that point you in the right direction.
Systems over goals
My favorite quote from the Atomic Habits book is a simple statement: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
James Clear encourages readers to create atomic habits that focus on the system of how you do a task rather than the end goal you hope to accomplish.
Let’s say your goal is to turn your book into a speech for further promotion. Let’s also imagine you are a morning person. If you choose to work on creating a speech from your book every night when you can barely keep your eyes open, you will fall to the level of your system. Instead, rise to the level of your goals by creating atomic habits that aid you.
Is the Atomic Habits book worth reading?
For anyone hoping to develop or maintain healthy habits, the Atomic Habits book is worth the time investment to read. While you could choose to spend your time trying to make your current system work, I encourage you to dedicate specific time every day to reading this book.
Implementing these small habits will likely save you time in the long run.
Even if you feel you are a master at healthy habits, the Atomic Habits book is a great example of how to write about serious topics. At times, everyone struggles to live the life they want to live.
James Clear calls this difficulty out by sharing his own story, creating small, actionable steps to help, and encouraging readers on every page. While the topic is more serious than, say, a children’s story or cookbook, Clear makes a difficult message available to the average reader.
Change can feel difficult, but with the proper guidance and habits, anyone can take steps to lead the life they want to.
Do you want to know how to use Atomic Habits to write a book?
Your first action step
Now it's time for you to move forward with what you just learned from the Atomic Habits book. Use the free resource below and implement one small habit to help you succeed. You can use the Atomic Habits book to change your life. But life change starts with one small step, or dare I say, one small atomic habit. You've got this!