How to Make Small Life Changes That Develop Into Atomic Habits

Unlock the power of micro-adjustments to reap the benefits of lasting transformation.

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By Brad Klune • Jan 1, 2023

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Have you heard the phrase "process determines progress?" What it boils down to is that focusing on small, incremental changes is what matters most to achieving big results. That goes for habits, as well, says James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. Tiny changes to your daily routines can lead to significant improvements in your life.

Here are some of the key concepts from that book that you can put into practice to help achieve your goals.

Looking for one-on-one help to build better habits? Book a video session with a coach or successful founder.

The 1% rule

"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement." — James Clear

Small habits can lead to big results. Aim to get 1% better every day. So let's say you want to lose weight. Don't obsess over losing 15 pounds, but commit to jogging for 10 minutes every day. If you consistently lace up your shoes for jogs, that bigger goal will come. As James Clear says, "Time magnifies the margin between success and failure… Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy."

In short: 1% daily improvements compound to 37 times better annually.

Forget about goals, focus on systems

"Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal." — James Clear

Focus on the processes to achieve results. If you are setting OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for your business, this means focusing on inputs vs. outputs. Spencer Rascoff, the founder of Zillow, committed to OKRs every quarter. The process determined the progress.

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What do Elon Musk and Bill Gates have in common?

They are billionaires. And they timebox.

Timeboxing is just what it sounds like, allocating a certain amount of time to a task. You need to shift away from a to-do list and add your tasks to calendars. There is a reason the Harvard Business Review consistently ranks Time-Boxing as the no. 1 productivity hack. People with specific plans for when and where they will perform a habit are more likely to follow through.

The power of identity

By shifting your identity and aligning your actions with your values, you can make lasting changes to your habits. Decide the person you want to become and take steps towards it with small wins.

Habit stacking

Double up on your current habits that exist and add new habits. It's most effective to make a firm commitment in writing with the following format: "After I [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]."

Some examples include:

1) Meditation - "While my Nespresso machine is producing delicious God-given coffee, I will meditate for one minute."

2) Exercise - "After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes."

The role of motivation

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems." - James Clear

Motivation is not a reliable source of energy for making changes to your habits. Instead, focus on making the desired behavior easy and enjoyable, so that it becomes automatic.

  • Want to start journaling? Place your journal on top of your TV remote or coffee machine.
  • Want to start working out? Lay your workout clothes on your dresser before bed.

Good enough is better than perfect

Don't get bogged down on the optimal plan.

Just get moving.

If you are an entrepreneur and need help with your plan, seek mentorship from successful founders.
Brad Klune

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Head of Business Operations

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor. Head of Business Operations at Intro. Former leadership at Uber and Instawork.

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