Building Better Habits With James Clear, Lessons 5–7
How To Make Good Habits Automatic, Prime Your Environment To Make Future Habits Easy And Two Strategies To Combat Fading Motivation
One of the most exciting moments of my day as someone who still holds down a day job [taking care of really sick and sometimes “annoying” people] is when I am in front of my computer, writing or reading.
It's a habit I have built into my life over the years.
And it's helping me grow unhurriedly into what I should be.
Why am I starting this lesson with this fact about my own life? Well, it's simple, so you can relate to what we are learning on a more practical level.
Your habits make or mar you. It's that simple. Please don't make it complex; this is just the raw truth. It aches, but it's true.
This piece will look at three lessons [I have not had enough time over the week to put the lessons together].
"If you never question things, your life ends up being limited by other people's imaginations. Take the time to think and dream, to question and reconsider. It is better to be limited by what you can dream for yourself than by where you fit in someone else's dream."
How to Make Good Habits Automatic, Lesson 5
In the last lesson, we talked about designing our environment in such a way that it aids us in performing that desired habit.
Today's lesson will talk about "reducing friction" in our pursuit of building better habits.
"Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life." - James Clear.
Naturally, things in our daily lives will subtly stand in our way without us even noticing them.
It takes focused efforts to detect these small things and re-design our environment to totally eliminate them, or “reduce the friction”.
In re-designing our environment, we simply remove things in our environment that will make us put in the extra effort. That extra effort creates friction; it creates more work and makes us put in more energy. Not good.
Let's say you want to develop the habit of daily reading or writing. Apart from designing your environment to support your habit, you also want to eliminate friction: making it easy for you to read or write by installing reading apps on your phone or devices, placing your books or writing tools as close to you as possible, creating a separate space far away as possible from distractions [family and friends], and getting pieces of equipment, like noise-cancelling headsets, that will make it easy for you to read and write.
That's just one example among thousands. Look critically at that habit you want to develop.
What things can you put in place to make it easier—to reduce or eliminate friction along the way?
The Role of Technology
Technology [if used properly] can also play a key role in helping you eliminate friction and make it easy to develop desired habits.
You can use technology to 'automate' certain aspects of habit formation [there are areas you will have to do yourself].
Technology has eliminated a lot of friction in society. Look around you. Most modern businesses you see around you are designed to make things easy for you—Netflix, Amazon, Google, OpenAI, IBM, Apple, you name it, and those who do it well make more money.
Humans just want things to be easy for them.
These businesses simply look for ways to eliminate the friction from our lives.
"The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. You want to make your good habits the path of least resistance." - James Clear.
To the next lesson:
Prime Your Environment to Make Future Habits Easy. Lesson 6.
"When you're building one habit, you're often building multiple habits." - James Clear.
This is the last lesson in the "environment design strategy," I call it that because the last three lessons have focused on how to use our environment to help us develop better habits.
In priming our environment, we make it easy to perform a particular habit by preparing it for that habit.
Design a book-reading or writing environment. Let everything in that place remind you of reading or writing [I use reading and writing because these are two of the most important habits in my life.]
My reading and writing desk is positioned somewhere I can see it all the time, and it's always clean and clear, with a little library right above my head.
So, suppose I don't even feel like reading or writing, but once my eyes fall upon my reading and writing table, I feel compelled to just sit down, and before you know it, I am either reading something or opening my computer to write something or edit an old work.
Week Two Summary
Make habit cues a big part of your environment.
Make your good habits the path of least resistance—eliminate friction.
Make a space for your habit—prime the environment.
Two Strategies to Combat Fading Motivation. Lesson 7
"The edge is in the inputs. The person who consumes from better sources, gets better thoughts. The person who asks better questions, gets better answers. The person who builds better habits, gets better results. It's not the outcomes. It's the inputs."
James Clear [from the 3-2-1 newsletter].
This is week three of our journey to building better habits with James Clear.
By now, you should have:
Known your desired identity.
Developed an implementation intention.
Designed your environment to support your habit.
James Clear quips that all we have learned so far is enough for us.
We have discovered our desired identities, developed implementation intentions, and designed our environment to support our desired habits.
Motivation is like having a bath. We need it every day.
You may have started this journey with mountain-moving, earth-shattering, valley-filling motivation.
You said to yourself that this year would be the year of building better habits.
But along the way, you have discovered that your motivation is waning.
You don't feel it anymore like you used to at the beginning when you were boiling hot with motivation.
This is normal. As human beings, we love to see the results of our actions pop up as soon as possible.
When you start going to the gym, you stand in front of the mirror after the first few days and hope to see triceps as big as Arnold Shwaezerager's or packs as hard as Simon Pandas'.
Hold on there, little fella. Developing great habits takes a lot of time. And that means you must be patient, disciplined, and consistent before seeing the fruits of your labour.
Herein lies the problem. Most human beings are not patient, disciplined, or consistent.
They want to get it fast and now.
In this lesson, James Clear shares with us two strategies we can employ to help us stick with a habit when our motivation begins to die.
And I will make it brief and short; you will need to read the course to get rich details—Clear talked about the "plateau of latent potential," but I didn't talk about it.
You should go check it out yourself.
Strategies to help you stick with a habit when your motivation is getting low:
"Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do. You're more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time." - James Clear.
Temptation bundling combines two activities; one is what you must do while the other is something you just want to indulge in; it doesn't in any way contribute to your building a better habit.
When you combine what you must do with your favourite activity, you make the habit more attractive, like combining reading with listening to your favorite music.
The "Temptation Bundling" formula:
"I will only [HABIT I WANT TO DO] when I [HABIT I NEED TO DO]."
Most of us already do this. We didn't know it was called temptation bundling. Now that you know what it's called, you will be more intentional about it.
The other technique is called…
The "Commitment Device" Technique
"A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in your actions in the future." - James Clear.
The commitment device is simply about choices and decisions—honouring your choices and decisions.
When you make a decision today, you are compelled to fulfil it tomorrow. This is the principle of the commitment device.
You can implement the commitment device technique in your life by using schedules on your calendar, reminder applications and notifications, automated processes and decisions, and dedicating days in a month to certain activities that will help strengthen desired habits—schedule days ahead to go to the gym, visit your parents and loved ones, attend a class, etc.
These two techniques, if used appropriately, will always place the habits you want to develop right in front of your mind so that you don't just forget them or get tired of them.
This brings us to the end of the seventh lesson.
At the end of my brief summary of these lessons, I always encourage readers to take the course themselves.
My summaries may not capture the whole essence of the course.
There are a lot of things you can learn from directly taking the course.
It's also essential you study the original material yourself.
At the end of each lesson, James Clear places links to extra resources to help you on this journey—templates, examples, databases, and workbooks.
Check it out here. It's free.
Here are links to some articles [and newsletters] I enjoyed reading this week, and some I enjoyed writing:
How, When, and Why Top Marketers Use AI Writing | Writer's Room.
Creators Should Learn To Give Themselves Enough Time To Grow—They Shouldn’t Force It and Ten Neil Gaiman’s Rules For Creativity| Unbounded.
This newsletter issue is from "SatPost" by TrungPhan: He talks about Lex Friedman's reading list, the most valuable unicorns, some interesting tech predictions, and memes [what's it about memes these days?]
I have always recommended Tim Denning. Here's an article I enjoyed from "Unfiltered" by Tim Denning—Rewire Your Mind To Be Wealthy In A 6-minute Read.
Finally, about the recent scam played on J.P Morgan by a young lady, the founder of Frank. I am also writing an article on this issue. There's a lot we need to talk about. The tech founder hype may drive some young folks to do outrageous things to remain at the top. Even if it means scams and forgery, and lies.
Enjoy your weekend.