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Atomic Habits, by James Clear | (3.75/5)



I'm not fond of the self-help genre. It tends to be filled with terribly-written books by terrible people prescribing terrible advice. And while I'm aware that's a lot of preconceived notions to bring to the table, it isn't an opinion that I have arrived on lightly and it certainly isn't an argument without merit. All that said, this was pretty good.

James Clear immediately stands out from the peddlers of bad self-help because he isn't some rando off the street. He has been running a pretty successful productivity-adjacent newsletter for a couple of years, and I've heard only good things about his work from friends and influencers whose opinion usually aligns with mine. And fair enough; he chooses to start the book with a narration of how he picked up his credentials, and it is probably believable enough for me to not dismiss it right away.

The rest of the book is pretty straightforward and easy to read. The central premise is that we fixate too much on outcomes to get things done, and by looking into our systems- the way we approach things- we would be able to build a more sustainable route to progress. Clear suggests building good habits is the best way to get good results, and this book is essentially a manifesto and a cookbook towards building these habits.

There's quite a bit to take away from this book. It suggests the four pillars of any habit are cue, craving, response, reward, so the way to get yourself hooked on a habit is to:

Each concept brought up in the book is supported by research or anecdotes that are relevant and quite believable, in my opinion. They also make what would have been a dull and prescriptive book flow pretty well and keep it interesting. While I'm not inspired to change everything about my life and become suddenly productive, I will say that quite a few of its concepts will stay with me for a while, and I intend to think more about building better habits.

Productivity guru Ali Abdaal has a great summary of this book up on his site if you're interested in just the concepts. Otherwise, I'm quite happy to recommend this one alongside Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky's "Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Everyday" as books worth reading in this genre.

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