The Laws of Atomic Habits

Eesha Ulhaq
6 min readOct 3, 2019


James Clears 4 laws for developing any desired habit. The inversion of these laws can be used to break bad habits. The process focuses on the cue — make it obvious, craving- make it attractive, response-make it easy and reward- make it satisfying.

Make it obvious

1.Track your habits. Create a scorecard; write out your daily habits, then rate them +,-,= based on their effect. This breakdown will help you be more intentional about how you spend your time and allow you to identify areas of improvement.

2. Implementation intentions, clearly plan out where and when you’ll do the habit: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”

3. Stack your habits to integrate them with your current routine. Doing one familiar action will lead to more action like the domino effect. “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

4. Tailor your environment, so that cues become visible. The more you’re around the cue in your environment, the more prompted you’ll be to do the habit.

Make it attractive

1. Use temptation bundling. Associate an action you want to do with an activity you need to do. Conditioning yourself to a reward will manipulate your dopamine levels, making you more inclined to follow through with the habit. Power combo? Use habit stacking paired with temptation bundling:

After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED], after I will [HABIT I WANT]

Check out this man that uses temptation buddling like a pro, engineering his exercise bike so that it only plays Netflix when he pedals. In his words “eliminating obesity one Netflix binge at a time.”

2. Be apart of a culture where their normal behaviour is your desired behaviour. “You are the sum of 5 people you spend the most time with”. It’s human nature to mimic those around us.

If you surround your self with people who like going to the gym, you will be more socially inclined to get fit.

inversion: don’t be apart of cultures where an unwanted habit is the norm

3. Motivation ritual. Do something enjoyable right before tackling a mundane task.

Before you workout listen to a specific song you like

Before you start your presentation do your favourite dance

4. Change your mindset: I have to → I get to. Emphasize the benefits of performing the habit rather than the task it’s self, try doing this verbally.

Exercise- “I get to make my self stronger and faster.”

Finance- “I get to save up and gain financial independence.”

Inversion: Before you make a lousy decision analyze the adverse effects out loud

Make It Easy

1. Reduce as much friction as possible between you and the habit. Decrease the number of steps and obstacles it takes to do the task. Integrate your habit into your current routine *find places in your habit scorecard that can accommodate it.

2. Prepare your environment. Prime immediate controls to make future actions easier.

Want to start cooking? Place the ingredients and tools in the right places the night before.

Want to read more? Place your book under your pillow when you make your bed in the morning.

3. Win the decisive moment. Make small conscious choices that lead you to make better decisions in the future. These act like forks in the road and when added together, will determine the quality of your day.

Want to eat healthily? Don’t turn into the junk food aisle when you go grocery shopping. Then you can’t put junk food into your cart. Then it won’t be in your pantry, and then you can’t grab it when you’re hungry. All these doors are closed off by a small early decision.

4. The Two-Minute Rule: Figure out the first steps to achieving your goal. Do something that gets you closer to your goal that takes <2-minutes. Break it down as much as possible. It’s a gateway once you start, it’s easy to continue.

You can’t optimize something that doesn’t exist. Start small and build up.

Put on shoes→ run for 5 minutes → run a mile →run a marathon

5. Automate your habits: The more you repeat an action, the more automatic it becomes. Repetition > how long you’ve kept the habit. Increase frequency, not duration.

Reading once a month for a year < reading every day for a month

Make it Satisfying

The human brain loves instant gratification, use reinforcement. “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

1.Tie your habits to a reward, try putting a marble in a jar, cross out a goal from a list, create a habit streak etc. Any visual representation reminds you of the progress you’ve made, encouraging you to continue even on bad days, and you become more likely to repeat the habit.


2. Automate Measurements, in the great age of the internet. There are dozens of apps and analytical tools available. Only important habits should be manually tracked.


Envision the best version of your self, and start showing up as them. How does that person act, what would they do in Xyz situation?

Once you start associating your habits with your identity, they seem less like tasks because you’re the type of person that just does those things.

If you make your bed every day, you embody the belief that you are an organized person. If you work out every day, then you build evidence for the idea that you are an athletic person. The more evidence you gather, the easier it is to believe you’re that type of person. You build evidence through repeated behaviours; habits.

Every action you take is casting a vote for the type of person you want to become.

Targeting your core identity rather than the outcomes can have a significant impact:

“No, thank you, I am trying to quit” →“No, thank you, I don’t smoke.”

Systems > Goals

Treat habits as systems, not goals.

“How long does it take to build a habit?”


A habit is a lifestyle, not an end goal.

Goals are great for direction but should not be the basis of habits. Place more emphasis on the game plan “how am I going to get there, what systems will get me there.”

One percent better

Picture an Ice cube at -10 C. We turn up the heat. It’s -9°C, now -8°C, -7°C, with every increase in degree, the ice cube is still solid.

-3°C, -2°C, -1°C but at 0°C… it melts. The same increase 1-degree, but at that threshold, the ice cube completely transforms.

You ever put in work waiting to see your habits pay off but see little results?

That work isn’t wasted, it’s stored and compounds like interest.

People see “overnight” success like the ice cube when it starts melting, but they don’t see warm-up in degrees leading up to it.

Key Take-Aways

  • Make cues obvious
  • Create Craving make it attractive
  • The response, make it easy
  • The reward, make it satisfying
  • Identify based habits
  • System> goals
  • 1% better compounds



Eesha Ulhaq

an archive of blogs from when i was 17 - was very often wrong