At the moment this book is facing you at every bookstore & almost every influencer is showing it online. Atomic Habits by James Clear. & what can I say...? I know why! Check out how I implemented the principles mentioned in the book in my dailylife for achieving my goals for my partial self-employment and as a computer scientist, because I really liked this book! It wasn't only helpful, but also really on point and easy to implement into the daily life.
This blog post is the first one of a small series in which I would like to discuss all 4 laws of the book. So be curious for more, if you liked this post & if it helped you as much as it helped me reading this book!
The basics: Habit-Loop
James Clear starts from a simple principle on which habits are based. He calls it the habit loop.
Short Disclamer: I have listened to the English audio book version and James Clear's blog is also written in English. So there is quite a mix of German and English in the German version of this blogpost (not in this one - obviously).
The habit is triggered by a CUE and results in CRAVING. This craving then manifests itself in a RESPONSE, which is positively associated with a REWARD in the brain, so that the behavior will repeat at the next CUE.
Simple example: You come home from university (cue). Already in the hallway you're feeling the desire to instantly eat something (craving). You give in to the craving by walking to the snack cabinet (response). With a snack in your hand you walk into your room satisfied & eat the whole chocolate bar at once (reward).
Using this model, James Clear presents four laws in his book that ensure that you gain control over your habits. This allows you to create positive habits or fight bad ones.
But before we get to the laws, I would like to briefly explain what I wanted to achieve with the help of these laws despite a >40h working week:
- Set up an Instagram account for 404InformatikerinNotFound
- Put content on this Instagram account to build a small reach
- Build the website https://minacoding.com from scratch without a CMS modular system, such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, ...
- Take care of formalities for the partial self-employment → Founding my own business
- All the nice extras, such as business cards, your own mail domain, ... , which make a "real" company for me
- Besides, also having 'air to breathe' for reading, travel planning, sports, healthy eating, friends & family.
Law 1: Make it obvious.
To do more sports, the point "Make it obvious" is simple - you put the sports bag in the middle of the aisle, or put on your sports gear directly after work or university. How do you implement this on the points mentioned above? Stake out the PC every day & put it in the middle of the corridor? Place the laptop in the middle of the room so that you stumble over it? - Probably not very reasonable. Fortunately James Clear gives other suggestions to orientate oneself on:
„I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].“James Clear – Atomic Habits
In my case, for example, it looked like this:
- I will [listen to non-fiction audio books as inspiration] [on the train] [on my way to work]. (Bonus: reading input done for the day!)
- I will check the [performance of Instagram posts and blog posts] [outside] [in the lunch break] . (Bonus: Sun!)
- I will do the [research on matching hashtags for Instagram] [outside] [in the lunch break] . (Bonus: Sunshine despite an office job!)
- I will write down [thoughts about blogpost ideas and note key points] [on the train] [on my way home] . (Bonus: dead time used)
To strengthen the intention, the following construct can also be used:
“If ____, then ____.”James Clear – Atomic Habits
With this strategy I wanted to make it easier for myself to build up reach among friends and family. If you feel addressed here: Hey du! 😀
- If I meet with somebody in person, then, I tell her/ him about the blog & the self-employment, no matter how much I'm insecure about it at the beginning.
- If I message people, it's the same thing.
- (In addition, I ask you to support the cause by telling others about it & send the link to the blog or Instagram profile.)
- If I go to sunbathe in the park, then, I'll take the Surface with me to either take photos of it or to polish a blog post. (Luckily Word has enough contrast, so you can even read in the sun & runs without WLAN)
In order to think regularly about its new goals, it helps to link the new processes to already existing ones.
James Clear gives the following sentence structure for this:
„After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].“James Clear – Atomic Habits
He calls this habit-stacking because one behavior is 'stacked' on top of the other.
- After [dinner & doint the dishes], I will [do programming for the new website].
- Before I [start with dinner], I will [have asked a buddy if he has already done what I am planning to do on the website today & if he has some tips (or would like to help me if necessary)].
The whole thing is of course not set in stone! I didn't program the website every night, writing blog posts, taking pictures, or being active on Instagram. After coming back from Switzerland just a few weeks ago, I started my next adventure almost immediately and met many friends and family. So the air to breathe was there - although not as much as if I was 'just' studying. It was clear to me, however, that this was a labour-intensive phase until the foundation was laid & that this was the absolute priority at the moment. In the long run such a system (at least for me) is not sustainable. & it doesn't have to be. Of course it's about establishing habits. But even habits do not have to be carried through for life. & this has nothing to do with a lack of self-discipline due to the initial intention. It is about becoming aware of one's behaviour & managing it to one's own advantage.
Vorteilhaft ist zudem eine passende Umgebung für das gewünschte Verhalten einzurichten. Das ist mitunter ein Grund, weswegen ich den Laptop (analog zur Sporttasche) NIE aufs Bett legen würde, um mich daran zu erinnern zu programmieren. Es wäre zu verlockend im Bett zu arbeiten! & auch wenn ich es mir früher gerne eingeredet habe: das ist bei Weitem nicht so produktiv, wie ich es gerne hätte. Außerdem nimmt man wortwörtlich die Arbeit mit ins Bett, wodurch man schlechter schläft. Jeder Ort sollte mit einer Aufgabe verknüpft sein, soweit es möglich ist.
Personally, I got a lot of use out of the first law - simply by becoming aware of one's behaviour & by being able to act against it with appropriate triggers, or by being able to achieve desired behaviour through triggers. I think the Habit-Loop is a great model to question the own everyday life & to crystallize out one's own habits.
The next blog posts will deal with the second law "make it attractive", the third law "make it easy" & finally with the fourth law "make it satisfying", which sustainably support the success of the first law "make it obvious".
Let me know how you liked the start of this series! Which goals do you want to tackle with it?