The Four Laws of Creating Good Habits

Books - The Power of Habit & Atomic Habits

A few days ago I finished reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. I definitely recommend it. He gives some solid, practical tips throughout the book that I think most of you reading this can pull something useful from. Also, if you’ve read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I think you’ll really enjoy this one. If you haven’t, I recommenced grabbing a copy of that as well.

As for some of the tips from Clear, when I sat down to really think about what I’d read, I realized that some of the suggestions I was already making use of and others I’ve started just since beginning to read the book. He categorizes the specific suggestions under the headings of the Four Laws of How to Create a Good Habit (to break a bad habit, the laws are inverted):

1 – Make it Obvious

2 – Make it Attractive

3 – Make it Easy

4 – Make it Satisfying

Under Law 1, Make it Obvious there are two particular points that I’m making use of – Make it Obvious, are the tips to “Use implementation intentions (‘I will [Behavior] at [Time] in [Locations])”, “Use habit stacking (After the current habit, I will do the new habit)” and “Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.” Prior to reading the book I was already:

• Scheduling in my planner time to workout and time to write. In the past three weeks I’ve added time to meditate to that. (Use implementation intentions) I don’t always get things done at those times, but I’ve consistently been getting them done the past few weeks.

• Putting my workout clothes and shoes next to the bed, thus making it easy for me to change into them first thing in the morning for my workout. (Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible)

• Setting my planner next to the bed (but not my phone!) so that I have easy access it to plan my day each morning. This includes listing a few of my morning gratitudes, my priorities for the day, and taking care of that scheduling for when I’ll do certain of my key habits throughout the day (Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible)

• While still reading the book I realized that I could use habit stacking to help me be more diligent about thinking about what I’m grateful for in the morning. One of the first things I do after I get out of bed is brush my teeth. I do this right after I wash my hands following, well you know what really needs to happen first thing after you wake up. Brushing my teeth at this time is an established habit and takes no concentration from me so I’ve started using that time to think about what I’m grateful for.

Under Law 3, Make it Easy, are five tips including “Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier”.

• Every morning when I go downstairs to have my protein shake and then my workout, I grab my planner, journal, and the book I’m currently reading, which I keep near each other next to the bed, and take them downstairs with me to go in the small backpack that I carry. This way I have them on me to make use of whenever the time presents itself.

• I think the fact that we made the investment to put a gym in our basement so that had easy access to workout is another example of “priming the environment”.

• Since starting to read the book I began either filling my water bottle at work either before I leave work the night before or filling it before I sit down at my desk in the morning.

Under Law 4, Make it Satisfying, is the tip to “Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and ‘don’t break the chain’. As I noted in my post a couple of weeks ago, I recently switched to using Habitfy, which I am enjoying. I’ve been using various habit tracking apps for more than a year, but this has been my favourite thus far, and it even sends me encouraging messages to start my day. Using some sort of tracking system for your habits, whether an app or a piece of paper can be very effective. I think the drive to ‘not break the chain’ is why I’ve managed to have meditated for at least ten minutes a day for the past 22 days.

Also, under Law 4 is “Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately.” I didn’t work out on Sunday because my body was clearly telling me to please take a day off (a message I need to be more attentive to sooner) so I did, but returned with a light workout on Monday.

You may have noticed that I skilled Law 2, Make it Attractive. There are three tips under there, but I don’t seem to be using any of them right now and my habits are going well. If that changes or when I decide to add a new habit I may turn there for some ideas.

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