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Atomic Habits part 2: Routine > Motivation

  • This is part 2 of a four part series where I share my reflections on the book, atomic habits. If you are interested in reading from the beginning, here is part one

For this section I’m going to be talking about the reflections I learned from the first section of the book: “making it obvious”. I really recommend you pick up a copy if you’d like to know more information behind it, I’m just sharing 3 tips that stood out to me:

1. Habit stacking

This was such an interesting suggestion that stuck out to me. He basically says one effective way to start building a habit is to piggy back it onto your normal everyday routine, or “stack your habits”. For example, if this is my current morning routine:

wake up — brush my teeth— eat

If I’d like to write more, I should say to myself, “as soon as I finish eating I’m going to write for 20 minutes.” Or, it is a personal goal, like increasing gratitude, I would say, “while I’m brushing my teeth I’ll say 3 things I’m grateful for.” My morning routine will then look like:

wake up — brush my teeth— *say 3 things I’m grateful for* — eat — *write for 20 minutes*

Instantly, this makes my morning much more productive.

I really liked this concept because it’s really realistic and doesn’t require much thought. For me, I’ve always struggled with disciplining myself (which is why I even gravitated towards this book) and that’s because I always undermined routine, I relied on motivation. The problem with that is motivation maybe will get you through a week or two, but there is no way you can be motivated 365 days of the year.

Routine is crucial part of personal improvement. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m trying to improve it and manipulate it to my advantage.

2. What you see is what you get

Very straightforward concept that I’m pretty sure we all know, but I think I, personally, needed to be reminded of. If you want to start a habit, one of the best ways to do it is to place it somewhere you can see. If you want to stop a habit, place it far where it can’t catch your eye.

I want to work out more, for example, I should place my gym bag somewhere by the door. Want to study more? Have your notes laid out on the table.

This also works for the opposite: If I want to stop being on my phone so much, for example, I should put it in my drawer when I’m not using it. You’re less likely to gravitate towards it if you can’t see it. I liked this specific point a lot:

“When scientists analyze people who appear to have a tremendous amount of self control, it turns out that those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations”

Atomic Habits, page 82

Honestly, I applied this to my social life as well. If all you and all your friends have a habit you do not want to do anymore, the only way to truly improve, is to separate yourself from them. There’s no way I can hang around people who aren’t doing good for themselves and think that won’t effect my personal progress. Like the quote says, it’s less about willpower, and more about spending less time in tempting situations.

3. Every habit should have a home 

This was my favourite statement from the entire book. The author basically talked about how when he was working from home, he found it extremely hard to relax when it was time to sleep, and work when it was time to…work. He says he realized it was because he didn’t have a set place to do any of those things. Sometimes he would work on his bed, sometimes he would relax on his desk table. The solution is to set designated areas for designated tasks, and do not mix them.

If you are limited on space, the book says it’s best to divide your room into “activity zones” : A chair for reading, a desk for writing, a table for eating. Doing this, the book says, will cause each context to become associated with a mode of thought. It would be easier to study when you sit on your desk, your body knows what time it is. In other words, “Every habit should have a home”

All in all

What I took from the “first law” of building habits is that you need to develop some sort of attachment to a new habit, whether it is through association (a certain part of your house dedicated to it), or physically (placing it somewhere you can see), or through routine (habit stacking). These are all really feasible and realistic ideas, I hope they benefitted you as much as they did for me.

part 3

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