APDO Book Club: Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear

This was the October book club choice for the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, and I was glad to read it.

It definitely delivered on its promises, and provided lots of advice for people looking to change their habits. I took away lots of soundbyte quotations for my Instagram, and I was really impressed by the links to the research the author provided. I disappeared down quite a few Internet holes looking at some of the articles he referenced.


The biggest takeaway for me is, I think, going to be the paperclip strategy, which he has excerpted on his website – https://jamesclear.com/paper-clips – and about which he previously wrote for Business Insider – https://www.businessinsider.com/the-p…? The reference is also one of the kind I love:

“‘I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar’: Trent Dyrsmid, email to author, April 1, 2015” (Atomic Habits, p. 292).

I can see how this sort of visual aid for really small, repetitive tasks (in Dyrsmid’s case, making sales calls, in the other examples Clear gives, writing a page of a book or doing a push-up) would really help someone struggling to keep going with something they find boring.

There are lots of other really interesting examples and techniques given. The book chimes with a lot of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and includes clear diagrams to simplify the narrative. In particular, his explanation of how habits can be outcome-based or identity-based really synthesizes a lot of research into why people struggle to make changes once they have tied an aspect of their identity into a behaviour pattern. In Clear’s diagrams, identity is in the centre with Outcome on the outside and Process in the middle. Change can happen from Outcomes through Process to Identity or from Identity through Process to Outcomes, but either way, as Clear summarises, “Your habits are how you embody your identity” (Atomic Habits, p. 32).

All in all, this is a book that really explains a lot of good research in terms that make it easy to digest – even for the least scientific person. There can be a tendency towards triteness – which is obviously a danger for any book that adopts this writing style. However, in the main, I found this a helpful book that points readers in the direction of further, deeper articles on topics, so, if someone identifies with an issue Clear raises, they not only have the benefit of making that identification and raised self-awareness, but also can see where to go to find out more

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