Book Review: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Updated: Mar 8
For as long as I can remember I have loved to read books. I can still remember coming home as a kid and reading “Baby-sitters Club” and “Sweet Valley Twins.” Reading books as a child was a lifeline for me. It was a way to forget my parents arguing daily and eventual divorce. It was a way to escape from bullying at school. As I grew up and became an adult, and a parent, my reading slowed down for many years. It is hard to read a book a week when you are raising two children under the age of 3. However, now that my children are adults, I have begun my reading habit again. It is still a lifeline for me and a chance to escape and relax.
Ok, let me share with you my secret, and please do not judge me. I listen to most of my books. I know, what you are thinking “Well that doesn’t count” “Listening is simply different from actually reading.” I agree with you on the second point. Listening is different than reading, and I love both equally. Textbooks that I read for class or are assigned to me at school I do read, I like to mark up the pages, and take notes as I go. However, when I am reading for enjoyment, I find that listening to books is simply more convenient. I can listen to books in the car, when I get ready when I am relaxing, any time. I carry a book with me in my bag that I can physically read when listening is not an option, and I also have my Kindle that always has a book ready to go. While some may not consider listening to books as “counting” I do and will continue to do so if I am meeting my goal of 70 books per year. Your next question may be “How are you listening to so many books?” I do not subscribe to Audible, because I found a much cheaper, even free alternative. I listen to books right from my local library. I connected my card to the library and started browsing. Most books I listen to are popular books, so they are not available right away. I can put a hold on them, and the library notifies me when they are ready. I always have 30 books on hold, so I always have something ready to go.
I started using Goodreads a few years ago, and love to track my books and count on Goodreads to provide me with the best books of the year to start down my yearly goal of reading 70 books. As of today, I have read 9 books this year with 4 of them being non-fiction. I aim to have at least 4 books at a time that I can cycle through. I will usually have a textbook that I am reading for class, a non—fiction book that I am listening to, a “fun” book to listen to as well as something on my Kindle and/or a book in my bag that I bring with me when I am out. Reading is my lifeline, it provides me with an escape, it educates me, and it solves boredom by allowing me to dive into someone else's life.
Now that I have hopefully established some credibility, it is time to discuss my current non-fiction book that I am listening to. “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” written by James Clear. I chose this book because I took a professional learning class a few months back which stated that whatever it is that you want to get better at, then there is probably a book out there for it. I knew a couple of months ago that one of my long-term goals was to gain control over some of my bad habits. I had read good reviews about “Atomic Habits” and when it finally came up at my library, I jumped at the chance to listen to it. This book has been so inspiring to me that I purchased the Kindle version as well, so I can go back through and take notes and re-read as I go. I have found that this book has helped me in not only my personal life but my professional life as well.
Atomic Habits is broken up into four different “Laws” as well as advanced tactics. To date, I am through the second law and have already seen my new habits are beginning to take shape. Atomic Habits are habits that are small but make big changes. The first two baby habits I started with were making my bed every single day and eating a bowl of oatmeal every day. According to the text, a way to start your new habit is to fill out the sentence below:
I will ____BEHAVIOR____ at ___TIME____ in LOCATION. When I started this by making my bed and eating oatmeal, my sentences looked like these:
I will make my bed after I do my hair and makeup (I left off the location because obviously, my bed is in my bedroom).
I will eat a bowl of oatmeal at 6:00 am at the kitchen table.
How does this equate to a virtual classroom? This is how I started by making atomic habits for my work schedule as well. Small changes have allowed big differences. For my virtual classroom, one new behavior sentence I have made is; I will lesson plan at 2:00 pm every weekday for 2 hours at my home office. Between changing that sentence, to changing my environment (see below) my work schedule has transformed, and I now have more time to do other things and am no longer working 60+ hours a week.
One of the chapters under the first law discusses that often, it is not motivation that is preventing us from making a change, but the environment that is keeping us from that change. When we create a visual cue, it can draw our attention to the habit we are working on. That right there is how I began to make changes to my daily work environment to help with my virtual classroom. The chapter discusses that every activity you have throughout the day should have its own space. I am working from home, so I need to have a dedicated space (or at least a dedicated chair) for my virtual classroom. That means I do not do any other activity from that location (if you are desperate for space, then switch out your chair for a different chair depending on your activity). When it comes time to work, I turn on my desktop computer and sit down to work. I do not blog or take surveys (my other form of passive income). from my desktop computer. When I am done working for the day, I do something I have never done, I turn the computer off! This has made such a difference in my day. I can now focus more on other things because I am not sitting at my desk and watching tv while I work, I’m not focused on blogging or other things I need to take care of, I simply work. My lesson planning time has been cut down because I am now focused on what I need to do.
Our cell phones are a form of our environment. We need to decide which activities we are willing to do with them. I decided that I am no longer going to do work on my cell phone. Before I decided this I would mindlessly scroll through my phone and check on Teams (our LMS) to make sure my students weren't asking me questions. I would check emails and messages from my parents. Now, my phone is dedicated to just my personal life. I still text for work, but other than that, nothing else work-related goes on with my phone. Again, this has caused my productivity to increase because now when it is time to work, I work, and not half-mindlessly work from my phone.
As I have mentioned before, I am also taking professional learning classes to increase my pay grade as well as gain the knowledge needed to be the best teacher I can be. I used to do all my studying in my virtual classroom environment. I would sit cramped at my desk, read, take notes and write papers. Once I read that a habit is based on our environment and not all motivation, I moved where my study zone is located. I now sit at a dedicated location at my kitchen table. It is not the same location I sit at during dinnertime, so I know that this is my study zone and the only thing I allow myself to do when I am sitting there is study. What happened next? You guessed it; my productivity increased! Finally, I now blog and take surveys on my laptop at a different location at my kitchen table, and once again the only thing I allow myself to do at this location is to work on my side business.
Oh, I forgot to mention it! I now have a designated space to relax! This means when my day is over, and I have eaten dinner and finished lesson planning I go into my living room and watch tv, with no food in front of me (because food is now only eaten at my designated location at my dining room table). How nice it is to sit down and enjoy a tv show or a movie with my family and not be distracted by work! To sum it all up, in order to make large changes in your life, you need to start with small changes first. If you want to work less, then make a small environmental change to make that happen. Good habits come from setting up your environment and are not all necessarily about your motivation. I can be very motivated to lose weight, but if my environment isn’t set up correctly, then chances are slim that I will be successful with my weight loss.
As a virtual teacher, and even as a face-to-face teacher, I will continue to build upon my atomic habits so I can become more productive and spend more time with my family, and less time working. Prior to building on my atomic habits, I was working 50+ hours a week. Now that I have started with my little changes, I am working less and doing more! I am still working on finishing the book, but can't wait to post even more strategies on how to build upon my habits and be even more productive.