Book notes: Atomic Habits

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Tiny good things accumulate into great things. Tiny bad things accumulate into horrible things. This book tells you how to do more of those good things and less of those bad things.

Table of contents

About the book

People do things out of habit all the time.

Atomic Habits tells you how to make good habits easy and effortless, and how to make bad habits difficult and unattractive.

Read more about Atomic Habits on James Clear's website


I read this book in January 2023. This was the first book I read in a very long time (a few years maybe).

The book was great:

  • Interesting topic
  • Well written; not boring at all
  • Many examples and anecdotes
  • A good balance between theory and practical tips & tricks

I found the book to be a nice general overview of human behavior: why people do certain things (good or bad) and why people don't do certain things (good or bad). So the book isn't just about productivity.


These are the things that resonated with me the most.

I wrote these originally on post-it notes in January 2023. Now, almost 3 months later, I'm having difficulties understanding some of the post-its, so the notes below are partly confusing. 🙈

How to do a habit more

Make it:

  1. Obvious
  2. Attractive
  3. Easy
  4. Satisfying

(Note to self: examples would be nice...)

How to ditch a bad habit

Make it:

  1. Invisible (out of sight, out of mind)
  2. Unattractive
  3. Difficult
  4. Unsatisfying

The 1% rule

  • Getting 1% better at something (or improving something by 1%) every day for one year yields great dividends in the long run
    • 1.01³⁶⁵ ≈ 37.78
    • Progress is slow but exponential/compounding
  • Conversely: regressing 1% at something every day for one year destroys the original value
    • 0.99³⁶⁵ ≈ 0.0255
    • So bad habits, stress and negative thoughts compound too!

Focus on processes, not goals

  • Focusing on a process is living in the moment; focusing on a goal is living in the future
  • Enjoy what you are doing; treat goals as a bonus
  • Achieving a goal is a momentary change
    • Focusing on a goal can feel discouraging and like nothing is happening
    • Missing a goal can feel like failure even if you have made good progress
    • Example: Melting an ice cube
      • Rising the temperature from −30 °C to −1 °C looks like it doesn't do anything to an ice cube
      • Finally rising the temperature one or two degrees more melts the ice cube
      • The "trick" wasn't to rise the temperature only one or two degrees – it was to rise it all those 30+ degrees
    • Example: Stonemasonry
      • A stonemason might hit the same spot 99 times, and it might look the hitting doesn't do anything
      • Finally the 100th hit makes the rock to chip off
      • All 100 hits were required even though 99% of them looked like they did nothing

1 task per day

  • Do one task per day, and you have done 365 tasks at the end of the year.
  • Otherwise you'll have 365+ pending tasks at the end of the year!

(I don't remember if the book had this kind of example or whether this was my own though based on something else. 🤔)

Become your ideal person

  1. Decide who you want to be(come).
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

→ It's not about the goals but the system/process and identities.

  • Habits shape identities.
  • Identities cause habits.
  • Family & friends, tribe (neighborhood, nationality etc.) and the powerful

(I'm not sure what the notes in this chapter mean. 🫣 Shitty notes.)

Habits free up mental juice

  • Build habits to free up mental space (conscious brain juice) for other things.
  • For example: it's great to not have to always think about what to eat or when to exercise etc.


  • Pointing at things makes your thoughts more conscious.
  • Saying things aloud makes your thoughts more conscious.
  • Combine pointing and saying aloud for the best effect ("Pointing-and-Calling").

Aside: baseball bats

In the intro chapter, James Clear tells how he was once hit in the face by a flying baseball bat.

His skull fractured and brains swelled etc., causing him to almost die.

That's completely different what some movies and TV series portray. Sometimes a guy is hit dozens of times with a (metallic!) baseball bat, even to the head, and all it does is make the guy groan a little. Ridiculous. (I had been shaking my head at this stupidity before reading the book; James's anecdote just confirmed my hunch that even a single hit could be fatal.)


Atomic Habits is a great book, go read it!