This is a book review of the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I read it in the context of a personal literature review project on the topic of productivity and well being. If you are more interested by advice on productivity and wellbeing than by this specific book I advise you to read the project report first, which condenses the advice from multiple sources (including this book).

How I read

I read this book entirely from start to finish while taking notes. This was done in a relatively short time span (3 days). I have since let a little time pass and have gathered my notes to produce a synthesis, which served as my main resource to write this post.

Description and opinion.

The first part of the book introduces a view on habits and their use for shaping oneself. To say it in a few words, the idea is that our identity shapes our behavior which determines the outcome we get. Habits are seen as a way to shape our identity, the way we view ourselves.

The rest of the book is mostly a list of techniques to shape one's habits. The last chapters give some extra advice on productivity.

Apart from that, the book is well written and intelligently structured to be easy to read without wasting too much of the reader's time. The author presents a theory of four "pillars" of habit shaping which serves to give a structure to the advice and techniques. I do not care much for the model of four mains axis for habits, but I like how it helped structure the book and the "cheat sheet", which is built progressively throughout the book.

Main takes

  • The notion of identity, roughly equivalent to "what we consider normal for us to do" and its importance.
  • The idea of using and shaping habits, notably as a way to shape said identity. I am tempted to speak of "auto manipulation" or "self taming".
  • The idea that it is important and useful to do weekly reviews of our habits.
  • Independently of the book, the cheat sheet is probably a good resource to skim. It is certainly relatively easy to find even if you do not own the book.

Recommendation

I think this is a good book well worth reading. However, it mostly consists in a central idea and a collection of techniques. If you already got the central idea above and have your own efficient collection of techniques to shape your own habits it is perfectly possibly that you already have all the book can give you.

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