BOOK REVIEW, DEVELOPING ROUTINES

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous book.

James Clear’s book is all about how to build productive habits (make them easy, attractive, and enjoyable) and how to stop destructive habits (make them difficult and uncomfortable). He presents his case and breaks it down. I have actually already started developing better habit management due to reading his book!

Most people think that building better habits or changing your actions is all about willpower or motivation. But the more I learn, the more I believe that the number one driver of better habits and behavior change is the choice architecture of your environment.

–Excerpt from Atomic Habits by James

His book helps you understand WHY we end up with counterproductive habits that are difficult to change.  Through his research, he has developed simple structured ways for us to work with ourselves.  I like that it removes some of the self-bashing and turns it into better planning.

But wait… there’s more!

One of my all time favourite business models lately is the “freemium” model from writers and experts. They create content, but they give a lot of it away for free, whether on their website, via videos/webinars or by regular email messages. It’s like the great bands who would play in local pubs and bars. You feel like you get to know them well and you start to like them personally because you can feel them authentically sharing themselves. The author of this book engages with his readers in many ways and you get so much value that you feel GREAT about buying his book.

Valuable and Short Emails

I’m a sucker for subscribing to emails.  The website looks interesting and I hit ‘subscribe’ – and then after a month or so of ignoring and deleting the emails, I unsubscribe. I used to think, Maybe I’m just a loser, I pick bad emails. Or maybe I’m just lazy, I don’t read emails I should read. No, no, I’ve got it, I can’t commit to anything I should do. 

Then I decided to be kind to myself: I have a lot of curiosity and I like to give everyone a chance. So I subscribe and check them out, then I delete when they don’t delight me. And given that I’m still subscribed to his list 2 months later, you can guess what I think of James Clear’s emails–they are the BEST! My favourite is his weekly 3-2-1 newsletter: 3 ideas from him, 2 quotes from others and 1 question for you to ponder.  Easy read, but definitely a positive pick-me-upper.

Informative and Easy to Read Website

His website is also a great resource for information about better habits, better performance, better thinking, and optimal health. It’s simply organized and chock full of science-backed studies written in simple language. It gives you a taste of how his book is written and organized. I love how this is not one of those self-help sites that almost make you feel worse for not being able to do it. He actually explains WHY it’s hard to do the right thing.

Free Bonus Materials!

He even makes you feel really good for buying his book by immediately giving you bonus materials, like a chapter on how to apply it to parenting. It takes the structure that you learn from his book and gives you real life examples of how you can help your kids develop better habits. I’m excitedly starting to use this and fingers crossed the kids will not catch on too quickly. Shhh! Don’t tell them I’m testing his suggestions out on them! 

Summary

I don’t have to feel shame and guilt for having limited willpower and motivation. I can spend the time and headspace to design the architecture of my environment and make little adjustments.

In conclusion, one of the most impactful self-help books I’ve ever read.

DEVELOPING ROUTINES

Starting My Day with Making the Bed

For anyone dealing with any sort of mental health challenge (any health challenge really) ((or just feel like there is too much to do in a day)), we struggle with what some may describe as procrastination or laziness.

For example, over the years, I had slid into a habit of reading the news, work email, and/or social media on my phone while trying to get out of bed after the alarm went off. After a while of that, I would jump out of bed and rush around getting ready to start my day. My husband did the same. Our bed was rarely made. I also had a couch that served as a dumping ground for clothes that got tried on, but didn’t make the cut that day. Every few weeks someone would have to go through the pile and hang everything back up.

Our cluttered bedroom was not a relaxing place. Sheepishly, I feel obliged to let it be known that both my parents and my in-laws taught us to make our beds. They always made theirs and I’m sure would have been extremely appalled at how it was NOT happening in our home. Shame, guilt, shame, guilt.

In January, I thought about all the usual new years resolutions, like losing weight, learning to play an instrument, exercising, learning a new language, going vegan, etc. but decided I didn’t want to set myself up for failure yet again. This year I really wanted to be able to accomplish my new years resolution. 2020 was going to be my year. So, I picked Making the Bed.

Reasons why Making the Bed is a great way to start the day:

  • SIMPLICITY: It’s honestly as simple as you want/need it to be. We just take the comforter and cover the bed. Then we line up the pillows. That’s it.
  • PRODUCTIVITY: A 2019 study surveying 1,000 American adults suggested a correlation between making the bed in the morning and being productive.
  • ACCOMPLISHMENT: It’s also something accomplished, done, out of the way, first thing in the morning. It’s a way to create momentum to start checking things off the To Do List. See Productivity.
  • PREVENTION: As my 11-year old pointed out, after making his bed, it was a lot less inviting to crawl back in as you don’t want to undo what you’ve already accomplished.. It kind of gently FORCES you to start your day. See Accomplishment.

It’s weirdly both an easy and difficult resolution to keep. It’s an easy enough task that takes minimal time. But it has an emotional weight to it and it requires a 365-day commitment.

I definitely feel guilty if I can’t even take 1 minute to get it done. (Working on shifting that shame to a self-talk that asks: So! What is the barrier? How can I make this easier on myself?) Plus, different awake times with a partner can also throw this off. I tended to make my side of the bed when I got up, while my husband would leave it for me if he was up first. This annoyed me to no end until I decided to assume that we were both trying to be thoughtful. I was trying to reduce his work while he was not to disturb my sleep. (Confirmed with husband, yes that was it!)

Once I cleared that up, I was able to feel good about this little routine no matter how it happened. It became a routine that just got done.

This is a daily win for me now!

If you are looking to build a daily routine, I highly recommend making your bed as a foundational one.

If you already have that one down, then add something else that brings you closer to your aspirations, like stretching or meditation for your health.

One step at a time.

One day at a time.