Lessons from ‘Atomic Habits’ on Motivation and Action


By Josh Baez, Client Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing

To start things off with my conclusion: You’ve gotta’ read Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Like nearly everyone else in the world, one of my 2020 resolutions is to read more. Generic, I know. But it’s something I’ve always found myself wanting to do more of. The problem is that when I read, I find myself constantly getting distracted— there’s always something else I could be doing. Hell, I’m even finding that temptation to browse Reddit and Twitter at the moment of writing this blog.

What’s even more frustrating is that I like books. Or rather, I like having books. I enjoy seeing their covers displayed on my bookshelf. I enjoy the occasional flip through the pages. I like the idea of reading. But I rarely ever sit down and actually commit myself to read.

Habits are something I’ve always struggled with. I either go too far down the rabbit hole or simply skim the surface. And reading has always seemed to fall in the latter.

2020 is a new year and the start of a new decade. And as cliche as it is to say, I want to use this time to thoughtfully, deliberately build better habits. Which is why I’m writing this blog– Not only to share what I’ve learned from the books I read, but also to hold myself accountable to actually read something. So, with the best intentions, hopefully this is just the first of many. And with all this talk about habit-building, what better way to start this journey than with Atomic Habits by James Clear?

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits is about “creating good habits, breaking bad ones, and getting 1% better every day.” But it’s not as simple as just doing something repeatedly for 30 days and hoping it sticks. Rather, this book dissects habit-building systems into more digestible, more achievable milestones—breaking down the behaviors, environments, and perspectives that shape the way we perceive and act-on habits.

Atomic Habits is designed to help the reader define the goals of their habits, identify roadblocks that hinder success, and develop tiny, more realistic changes in their life that can eventually lead to bigger results over time.

Perhaps the best way to describe this book is what’s written on the back cover,

“People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions—doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes earlier, or reading just one more page.

He calls them atomic habits.”

Essential Reading

Chapter 6: Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More
Pgs. 81-84  |  Key Theme: Productivity

Why I Like It

When it comes to productivity, whether at home or in the office, the truth is some days are just harder than others. While some of these hindrances are out of our control—things we cannot change—what about those we can? How can we drive towards more favorable outcomes? How can we make more intentional, focused decisions in our daily lives?

Key Reading

  • Environment is the invisible hand that guides human behavior.
  • Every habit is context dependent and your habits may change depending on the room you’re in or the cues presented to you.
  • Many of the actions we take each day are shaped not by purposeful drive and choice, but by the most obvious option in front of us.
    • For example, customers will occasionally buy products not because they want them, but because of how they are presented to them
      • Also known as Suggestion Impulse Buying
  • Visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior. Therefore, it’s important to live and work in environments that are filled with productive cues and devoid of unproductive ones.
  • Be the architect of your environment.


Chapter 11: Walk Slowly, but Never Backward
Pgs. 141-143  | Key Theme: Taking Action

Why I Like It

I firmly believe “perfect is the enemy of good.” And as a marketing leader, your decisions have tremendous impact throughout your organization. But talking and planning can only get you so far. And while it’s easy to talk about everything you’re going to do, it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. Just remember: steady progress is better than no progress at all.

Key Reading

  • Perfect is the enemy of good.
  • Unless you try and try and try again, you’ll never really know what works best.
  • Planning, strategizing, and learning are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.
  • Motion is different from action.
    • While motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself
    • Yet motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure.
  • To avoid action is to delay failure
  • You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.


Chapter 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule
Pgs. 162-167 | Key Theme: Showing Up

Why I Like It

It’s all too easy to get swept up in a big idea. But sometimes, starting small is the better solution. Whether it be a new hobby or a full-fledged marketing campaign, while it’s good to know where you want to end up, ensure you’re thinking about the right steps that will enable you to get there as well.

Key Reading

  • Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big.
    • Excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon.
  • Make your habits as easy as possible to start.
    • When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.
    • Nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version.
  • Once you start doing the right thing, it becomes easier to continue doing it.
    • A new habit shouldn’t feel like a challenge.
  • The point is to not do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up.
  • A habit must be established before it can be improved.
    • You have to standardize before you can optimize.


Chapter 14: How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible & Chapter 16: How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day
Pgs. 171-173  | Key Theme: Breaking Bad Habits
Pgs. 195-200  | Key Theme: Locking in Good Habits

Why I Like It

Once you’ve established a habit, it can be a challenge in and of itself to simply continue doing it. And breaking bad habits is even harder! While we all have the best intentions to make better choices for ourselves, making those choices again and again can be quite the challenge. So what can you do to make this process easier?

Key Reading

  • The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do.
  • Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act.
  • A single good choice can deliver returns again and again.
  • The Paper Clip Strategy
    • Making progress is satisfying and visual measures—like moving paper clips from a full jar to an empty jar every time you make progress—provides clear evidence of your progress.
    • As a result, they reinforce your behavior and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity.
  • The benefits of habit tracking:
    • Progress is obvious
    • Tracking progress is motivating
    • Tracking can be satisfying in and of itself

What books have you read lately that you’ve found to be especially intriguing or helpful? I’d love some recommendations, so please leave some in the comments below!