Atomic Habits (YT)

Habit Loop

A habit loop consists of 4 stages.

  1. Cue/Trigger: An external input activates the habit loop. E.g. phone buzzes

  2. Craving: Want to handle input. E.g. want to know who sent a message

  3. Response: Handle input. E.g. check phone

  4. Reward: Problem is marked as solved. E.g. know who messaged

There is danger when several "bad" or unproductive habits are chained together. E.g. reading the news leads to reading social media which leads to watching videos on TikTok. And all of the sudden a lot of time has passed.

The premise of the book "Atomic Habits" is that these loops can be changed to become productive habits by changing the response to cravings.

How to improve habits

Law 1: Make it obvious

  • Identify habits: Categorise them into good, bad or neutral.

    • Common cues for habits are: time & location. When creating new habits it's a good idea to tie them to a time and location.

  • Habit stacking: Place a new habit in a chain after an existing habit. E.g. after I brush my teeth I will floss.

  • When establishing new habits it is best to choose a trigger that already exists in your routine.

  • When you want to remove a bad habit one option is to make it invisible and thereby removing the cues. E.g. put sweets in the cupboard instead of having them in the open.

Law 2: Make it attractive

  • Dopamine makes you form habits. Dopamine can be released in anticipation of a thing. E.g. dopamine spike before eating junk food, not after eating it.

  • Temptation bundling: Connect something you want to do with something you need to do. E.g. watch Netflix during workout. More probable behaviour will reinforce less probable behaviour. (Premack's principle)

  • Group influence: Find a group where the habit you desire is the norm.

  • Reprogramming your brain: Hard habits can be made more attractive if you associate them with a positive experience.

Law 3: Make it easy

  • Habits are not formed by total time spent but rather by repetition. So it's the number of repetitions that's important to form a habit.

  • Reducing friction / The law of least effort: E.g. reading one page vs. reading 3 chapters. The first habit is easy and can be done all the time, whereas the second habit may seem insurmountable at times. Make it easy to do a "good" habit.

  • Priming the environment: Make things needed for a habit, e.g. workout clothes easy to reach and place them in the environment ahead of time.

  • 2-Minute rule: Find a simplified version of the good habit you want to acquire, e.g. put on shoes and stretch instead of running marathon. Or read 1 page instead of a few chapters. The difficulty can then be increased over time. The main goal of this is to stop procrastination

Law 4: Make it satisfying

  • The mismatch between immediate vs. long term results: Immediate results feel good but often patience is needed for the results of a habit to pay off. Therefor an artificial reward can be introduced that makes good habits immediately satisfying.

  • Measure progress / habit tracking: It can feel rewarding to see that you've completed your habit several times. This reinforces the habit even further.

  • Bad days: Just show up. Breaking the chain can be the start of a bad habit. Just reduce the difficulty of the habit for that day so that it can still count as completed.

  • Habit contract: It can be useful to create a contract with yourself to do or not do a certain habit. E.g. if I fail to do x I will donate x $ to charity.

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