Atomic Habits — Book Review

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Cross-posted from Goodreads.

As a productivity enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for experiments to try and optimize my routine and workflows. Having read a bunch of productivity books and watched scores of YouTube videos, I wasn’t expecting to find groundbreaking stuff in this book. I was pleasantly proved wrong.

The central idea of the book is that to follow through on a good habit one only needs to be 1% better every time. Initially, this small improvement seems trivial. Given enough time, it compounds into big gains. Furthermore, 1% is small enough to keep you motivated to keep going but significant enough to keep you challenged and growing.

From the outset, the author presents very relatable examples and transforms those stories into easy-to-remember techniques. Clear’s what-why-how formula worked quite well for me. I found each chapter short, focused, and easy to digest. It didn’t take me long to discover a pattern among chapters in each part/unit – about the law, how to use it to build better habits, and how to use its inverse doppelganger to break bad habits.

James Clear builds upon the works of existing habit experts, most notably Charles Duhigg’s cue-craving-reward framework. In his own words, “Duhigg wrote a great book and my intention is to pick up where he left off by integrating these stages into four simple laws you can apply to build better habits in life and work.” Since I had listened to the Audible edition of Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, I could instantly relate to the science behind the laws. At the same time, I could clearly see the author’s originality in building upon the previous work.

Atomic Habits is easily one of the best self-improvement books I’ve read. It’s so good I read it at a savory-slow pace of 20 pages per hour! But most people will find it’s a quick and short read. For me, this is one of the rare books with a substantial re-read value. I am, no doubt, soon going to re-read it through my annotations and notes.

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