5 minute read

Reading notes of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break from Bad Ones, by James Clear.

Atomic Habits

This book introduces a framework for habit forming. Many approaches/tricks are highly practical and easy to follow.

Core Ideas

A Four-Step Model of Human Behavior

The process of building a habit can be divided into the following four steps: cue, craving, response and reward.

The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the cravings and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit.

Therefore, to form a new good habit or to break an old bad habit, we must work on all four steps:

  Cue Craving Response Reward
Make a good habit obvious attractive easy satisfying
Make a bad habit invisible unattractive difficult unsatisfying

Make It Obvious

  1. Use implementation intentions: “I will [do something] at [some time] in [somewhere]”.
    • Commit to daily writing hours at a specific time and location.
  2. Use habit stacking: “After a current habit, I will do some new habit”.
    • After my morning routine, I’ll spend at least an hour writing.
    • After my noon nap, I’ll do 10 pushups.
  3. Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.
    • Charge my phone at a power outlet far away from my work desk.
    • Tidy-up my working environment so that I can focus solely on the task at hand.

Make It Attractive

  1. Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
    • I’ll watch my favorite TV episodes when walking on the treadmill.
  2. Join/Create a culture where the desired behavior is the norm.
    • (The close:) Make a living schedule together with my partner and stick to it.
    • (The many:) Create a team culture that values efficient collaboration and communications during working hours.
    • (The powerful).
  3. Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.
    • Make a cup of tea/coffee before starting my work for the day.

Make It Easy

  1. Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
    • Create (keyboard) shortcuts on my laptop that directly link to the current project.
    • Remove shortcut links to websites that may negatively impact work efficiency.
  2. Prime your environment to make future actions easier.
    • Put exercise clothing at the entrance of the apartment door. Put them on right after getting back from work.
  3. Harness the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that decides whether your day is productive or not.
    • When having the temptation to do something unproductive, think twice about workday productivity.
  4. Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.
    • Commit to exercise at least 2 minutes per day.
    • Commit to do 30 pushups a day.
  5. Automate your habits. Invest in technology and onetime purchases that lock in future behavior.
    • Design a personal productivity system and using an app to track its progress. Review and adjust the system regularly.
    • Use browser plugins to block distractive websites.
    • Do not hesitate to buy something that can boost productivity.

Make It Satisfying

  1. Use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward (rather than delayed reward) when you complete your habit.
    • After working for a productive day, watch some enjoyable videos/TV episodes/movies.
    • Use an App to-do list. Check the item on the to-do list right after a positive behavior.
  2. Never miss a habit twice in a row.

Notes & Excerpts

Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

  • Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. You get what you repeat.

    That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest.” — Warren Buffett.

  • In order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau—the Plateau of Latent Potential.
  • Forget about setting goals. Focus on the system instead.
  • Three level of changes: outcome, process, and identity. The most effective way to change a behavior is to focus on what you wish to become. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
  • The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.


  • Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing.
  • the process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You must be aware of the habits before you can change them.
  • Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
  • Gradually, your habits become associated with the entire context surrounding the behavior. The context becomes the cue.
  • Spend less time in tempting situations. It is easier to avoid tempations than resist it.


  • It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.
  • Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.


  • Walk slowly, but never backward.
  • Focus on taking action, not being in motion.
  • The amount of time < the number of times you perform a habit.
  • The Law of Least Effort: we will natually gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. Our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient.
  • The idea is to make a habit as easy as possible in the moment to do things that payoff in the long run.
  • Standardize before you optimize. You cannot improve a habit that does not exist.


  • The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
  • One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.
  • Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.

Advanced Tactics

  • Play a game that favors your strengths. Create a game if it does not exist.
  • Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.
  • The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.
  • It is the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
  • Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.
  • Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
  • Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.
  • Shape and update your personal identity regularly.