Atomic Habits: Make It Easy (Part 4)

Whew. We are now onto the next part of the book, Atomic Habits.

In the first part, the book focuses on why habits form, break, and significantly impact your life. In the second part, we get to work by becoming aware of habits and cues. Then, we must find a way to make habits attractive. Now, how do we make habits easier? The book offers what it means by easier and how to do it. I will share some notes and some of my strategies.

The “Make It Easy” law is about reducing friction to make good habits easier to adopt and bad habits harder to follow. This law is based on the principle that human behavior tends to follow the path of least resistance. The easier it is to do something, the more likely it is to become a habit.

‘Easy’ could mean…

  • Low Effort: Actions that require minimal physical or mental effort to initiate and complete. The easier a task is to start, the more likely it is to be done. For example, reading one page of a book each night before bed is considered an easy task that can lead to the habit of reading regularly.
  • Simplicity: A straightforward and uncomplicated habit is more likely to be adopted and sustained. Complex routines requiring multiple steps or conditions to be met can be discouraging and more challenging.
  • Reduced Friction: Minimizing the obstacles or barriers to performing a habit. This could involve physical setup (like having your gym clothes ready if you plan to work out) or removing distractions that might deter you from a productive habit (like turning off notifications on your phone to focus on work).
  • Convenience: The habit should fit seamlessly into your life or routine. The more convenient a habit is, the less resistance you’ll feel towards doing it. Placing a water bottle at your desk to stay hydrated or having a fruit bowl visible in the kitchen to encourage healthy snacking are examples of making habits convenient.
  • Accessibility: Making the tools or elements you need to perform the habit readily available. For instance, if your goal is to play guitar daily, keeping the guitar in a stand in the living room rather than tucked away in its case makes it more accessible and thus easier to pick up and play.

“Easy” (in this context) means designing habits so that starting and continuing them requires the least resistance.

So, how do you make it easy?

  1. Reduce Friction: Identify the steps involved in your habit and find ways to simplify them. The goal is to reduce the number of obstacles between you and your desired behavior. For example, if you want to exercise in the morning, prepare your workout clothes and gear the night before.
  2. Environment Design: Optimize your environment to make good habits easier and bad habits harder. This could mean placing a water pitcher on your desk if you’re trying to drink more water or removing junk food from your home if you’re trying to eat healthier.
  3. The Two-Minute Rule: To make a habit easy to start, focus on the first two minutes of the behavior. Break down your habits into actions that can be done in two minutes or less. The idea is not to complete the entire task in two minutes but to make the starting point as simple as possible.
  4. Automation: Use technology or services to automate your habits where possible. Automation can take the effort out of good habits by making the desired action the default option. For instance, setting up automatic transfers to your savings account can help with financial goals.
  5. Habit Shaping: This involves gradually increasing the complexity and duration of your habit as it becomes more ingrained. Start with an incredibly easy version of the habit and slowly build upon it. This approach can help you maintain momentum and avoid burnout.
  6. Use Commitment Devices: Commitment devices can help you stick to your habits by adding a layer of external accountability. For example, signing up for a class with a friend can increase your commitment to exercising.

The Two-Minute Rule

My biggest takeaway is the Two-Minute Rule. Of course, I looked for a two-minute video to help me with the two-minute rule. The video, however, was 2 minutes and 37 seconds. I guess the trick worked and got me to focus for a little more time 😉

Two 2-minute Rules to Beat Procrastination (in 2 minutes)

The Two-Minute Rule from “Getting Things Done” by David Allen

In David Allen’s productivity system, the two-minute rule is a practical guideline for managing tasks efficiently. The essence is simple: if you encounter a task that can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.

  • Immediate Action: It reduces procrastination by encouraging instant action on small tasks.
  • Clears Mental Clutter: Completing the task immediately helps clear your mind, reducing the cognitive load of remembering to do it later.
  • Efficiency: Often, the effort to record, track, and revisit a minor task exceeds the effort of just completing it. This rule keeps your to-do list more manageable and focused on larger, more time-consuming tasks.

The Two-Minute Rule from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear

James Clear’s adaptation of the two-minute rule in “Atomic Habits” focuses on habit formation rather than task management. Here, the rule is designed to lower the barrier to entry for starting new habits by committing to just two minutes of the desired activity.

  • Overcoming Initial Resistance: The most challenging part of any task is often just starting. Committing to only two minutes significantly reduces the mental barrier to the beginning.
  • Building Consistency: It emphasizes the importance of consistency over intensity at the beginning of forming a new habit. It’s easier to increase the duration of an activity once the habit is established than to start with a high level of intensity.
  • Catalyzing Longer Sessions: Often, you’ll find it easier to continue beyond the initial two minutes, leading to more meaningful engagement with the task or habit.

My Trick: Take Care of ‘Future You’

‘Future You’ is the you that exists moments from now, tomorrow, or years from now. Future You will forget about the book your reading now. Future You will not remember what lightbulb type is in your dining room. Future You might be disappointed that it didn’t run a 5k. So, do things for Future You. Take care of Future You. This is why I take notes. I am leaving clues for the future version of me. I get my outfit ready at night for tomorrow’s me. That me that’s tired and has a big day. Today me has a little energy left. Today me can anticipate what tomorrow’s me might need.

Checking In

What are you doing to take care of Future You?

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