Learning Something New

Chapter Four, Atomic Habits

The First Law, Make it Obvious

If this is your first time here… I am working my way through James Clear’s book about creating good lifelong habits called Atomic Habits. Please click the blog button to your right to read past posts. If you like the post, please hit the Like button at the bottom of the page and please consider following my blog. You can sign up at the bottom of the page.

Please Note: I do not receive anything for endorsing James Clear’s book. I am just a fan of good ideas and I am using this book to help me make positive changes in my life.

The fourth chapter of Atomic Habits focuses on cues and making things obvious enough that your brain recognizes what is happening in the moment.

What I learned:

Most of my current habits are operating in the background, in my automatic or nonconscious mind. If I want to create a new habit, I need to give myself a cue that starts the action for the habit to take place. For instance, I have a hard time brushing my teeth with my electric toothbrush. The dentist says it is really important that I use it, but the noise and vibration really bother me.

I had my electric toothbrush in a place where I did not notice it, so I moved the toothbrush to the front of my medicine cabinet. That way I immediately see my toothbrush when I open the mirrored door. I take a couple of deep breaths while I prepare the brush. Then, I brush my teeth in the office or the guest bedroom while I look out the window to keep my mind busy. I count cars on the road or people as they run in the park. The brush runs for two minutes and as long as I am not overwhelmed when I start, I can brush for the full two minutes with few issues.

The critical takeaway:

Learning how to use the habit scorecard- The habit scorecard is a paper and pencil system that Clear uses to track habits throughout the day. Because the process of behavioral change always starts with awareness, meaning you need to be aware of your habits before you can change them. Clear suggests using a habit scorecard to track what you do throughout your day. I downloaded a template for the card from his website and filled it in over the course of a few days. What I learned was that I have some very good habits that really add value to my life. I discovered a few that I want to get rid of and a few that I need to adopt to add more value to myself.

For instance, I added using my electric toothbrush at least once a day to my daily habits. I made a cue to remind myself to use it in the morning. Another behavior I added to my scorecard was that I wanted to weigh myself each day to track my progress in losing some weight. The scale is tucked underneath a drawer where I cannot see it, so I forget to weigh myself. I am going to add a que to my nighttime routine to remember to pull the scale out from under the drawer. That way I see it in the morning and can remember to check my weight. After using the scorecard, I also found that I was drinking too much caffeine, so I replace the caffeinated Nespresso’s capsules with decaffeinated ones.

A few other things I noticed from filling out the scorecard was that I wanted to vacuum the house more, I want to read more, and I want to wash my hair more regularly. I also want to find a good exercise routine that I can keep to and I learned that I need to eat smaller portions of food. I have to put in the extra effort to stay in my organized daily routine. I want to limit the amount of time that I am online and when I set a timer to work, I need to keep to that time limit. I also noticed that I could be nicer to myself when I make a mistake and I could be gentler with myself when I am trying to make a decision. So, the new habit would be to take a pause and see how I am really feeling about a situation and ask myself what is really going on for me right now, that way I can be gentler on myself.

I have many good habits that I would like to keep. For instance, I fold my clothes and put them back in the drawers right away. I put things I use back where they belong after using them and I keep my closet neat and organized. I keep the kitchen and bathrooms clean and I dust when needed.

A huge change in habit that I made two weeks ago was changing my diet. I went from being a serious meat eater to eating a plant-based diet. I cut back on sugar and I stopped drinking alcohol. I did this for my health and to lower the inflammation in my body. The new eating habits are going well. I also found that eating dinner earlier helps me to have a better evening and I can go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Basically, the scorecard helped me to track my habits and see which were effective for my life and which were not.

Clear makes a point in saying, “The labels “good habit” and “bad habit” are slightly inaccurate. There are no good habits or bad habits. There are only effective habits. That is, effective at solving problems. All habits serve you in some way—even the bad ones—which is why you repeat them.”