Atomic Habits

I’ve been reading (albeit rather slowly) the book Atomic Habits, a guide on how to build good habits and break bad ones through tips and stories. It starts with an anecdote about the British cycling team that couldn’t win a race to save their lives. A new performance director came in and started making tiny changes with a strategy that he called “the aggregation of marginal gains” aka implementing tiny margins of improvement in everything the team did.

A few examples of the changes he made were…

  • They tested different types of massage gels to see which one led to the fastest muscle recovery.
  • They hired a surgeon to teach the riders who to best wash their hands to reduce the chances of getting sick.
  • They figured out the best mattress and pillow for each of the team members to lead to the best night’s sleep.
  • The team switched to indoor racing suits that were lighter and more aerodynamic.

These along with hundreds of other micro-changes led the once-flailing team to win five Tour de France victories in six years.

The author, James Clear, then goes on to explain his theory that the most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. 

Your identity comes out of your habits and every habit you make is one step towards the type of person you want to become. I found this theory to be interesting and helpful in forming my own habits.

He argues that the real reason that your habits matter isn’t (only) because they get you better results in whatever your goals are, but because they can change your beliefs about yourself. I found that point particularly interesting.

As I’ve been reading the book, I’ve been applying his theories to my own life to test them out and have had positive results so far.

I’ve kept my own personal goals around healthy eating and my relationship with work/social media in mind, but no matter what your goals are or what habits you’re trying to break, this book will help give you strategies to change your tiny (atomic) behaviors that lead to real results.

Here are a few examples from my own experience that I thought might be interesting to share.

Atomic Habits for Healthy Eating

Who I want to be: a person who makes healthy decisions for myself and my family.

The habits that will help me get there: Carolyn, my friend who I’ve been working with as a nutritionist, is the one who actually recommended this book in the first place. Her whole take on nutrition and weight loss is that you don’t need to overhaul your entire lifestyle, it’s about all the small habits that add up. Here are a few that I’ve incorporated into my life over the last few months.

  • Drink more water: I bought a giant water bottle and try to drink 80-100 oz of water/day. She also had me start drinking a full 8 oz as soon as I wake up, before I have my morning tea to jump-start my water intake each day and re-hydrate after sleep.
  • Eat more greens: I commit to eating greens 2x every day. That can mean spinach blended into a smoothie, a side salad, kale mixed into a soup, lettuce on a sandwich or taco, or pretty much any way I want.
  • Skip the kid snacks: This was one of my biggest downfalls. I would mindlessly snack on whatever Amalia was eating like goldfish or peanut butter cracker sandwiches even when I didn’t really want them. They were just there. My new rule is that I can only eat kid snacks if I really want it and make that decision to sit down and have one.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand: I wrote a post about my favorite on-the-go snack options and I always make sure to have one in my bag wherever I go.
  • Take vitamins daily: I’ve always been really on top of my vitamins but want to include it here in case it reminds you to do the same. Right now I take a multi-vitamin, a probiotic, and fish oil.
  • Drink less alcohol: When I drink more than a glass of wine or a cocktail at night, I feel it the next day (#thisisyour30s) so I’ve made a rule to only have one drink unless I’m out for a fun night with friends or a special date night. For me, it’s just never worth it!
  • Eat more protein: Carolyn made me realize that I wasn’t eating enough protein at my three main meals of the day. I now make sure to always add an egg, hummus/beans, nuts/nut butter, fish, or meat to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Don’t skimp on breakfast: I was finding myself eating Amalia’s crusts as we ran out the door for school every morning but now I make sure to prepare for breakfast ahead of time by making overnight oats or setting out what I need to make eggs or avocado toast in the mornings. I’ll share the overnight oats recipe I’ve been loving soon!

Atomic Habits for Work

Who I want to be: someone who loves her job and isn’t consumed by it 24/7.

The habits that will help me get there: all of them involve setting boundaries. This is what I’ve started with and I’ll implement more as I think of them and become more confident in this new lease on work/life balance.

  • Turn off blog comments: You may have noticed that I turned comments off on my blog posts. I was feeling pressure to get a certain number of comments on each post and finding myself obsessing over that for no good reason. It was also a place where people could anonymously spew nasty words at me so shutting it off was a double win. (You can always DM or email me if you have questions or comments on a post!)
  • Check DMs 2x/day: I was driving myself bananas trying to keep my DMs down to zero at all times. I found myself checking them constantly and getting distracted by them when I should have been focusing on my family. Now I check them and respond to people once in the morning and once in the afternoon and it feels so freeing!
  • Share less: It seems obvious, but I was putting pressure on myself to share many different parts of my life that I didn’t even always want to be sharing. I realized that it’s ok to keep large chunks of my life private.
  • Take weekends offline: After taking two full weeks off, I realized how much I need that regularly. I have been taking Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon off and it’s been a great little weekly recharge. Last weekend was an exception because I was on a press trip that I needed to document.

Photo by Julia Dags.

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