Atomic Habits: Make It Easy

This is the discussion thread for the fourth section of Atomic Habits: “Make It Easy”!

Book club index here.

Guilty as charged, page 143:

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing. If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it. This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in.

I’m glad I’ve gotten better about this. Past me used to often think things like “Hmm. I should exercise more. What is the optimal exercise for me? Time to research indefinitely!” Now I’m more likely to follow the good intention with some ideas about how to start being accountable for the thing I want to do (or not do).

The habit won’t pay off unless you eventually do the research to figure out the right intensity. I don’t think I’d stick with something unless I saw progress towards my intended result… but I suppose in most domains, anything will probably pay off some for beginners. So James Clear’s advice here probably tilts the right way.

I like the “two-minute rule” for strating new habits:

When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.

You can do more, but Clear says you should hold yourself accountable just for the getting started part. That way, you reduce the scariness of starting but can usually pick up momentum and end up feeling like continuing past two minutes.

I would worry about falling into a rut where I only do the two-minute version, so I would want to also track quantity/intensity/what have you for the new habit. Focusing on frequency first makes sense, but it just won’t get results on its own. I think I might use the two minute rule to reframe how I use Complice with Beeminder. For example, I have a “meditate” goal, with a target around five minutes per day. I also have a “meditate” task in my Complice days. I’m going to try letting myself mark the Complice task done whenever I can hit at least two minutes. I’ll have to sit for longer some days to catch up, but I’d have to do that anyway if I’m skipping days entirely.

Other things I picked up in this section:

  • Resetting the room to be “proactively lazy” and make the next task easier. If I make sure all the dishes are done tonight, I can be pretty lazy tomorrow morning and still make eggs for breakfast without extra hassle. I like that and it’s getting me to think about what the “reset” state looks like at my desk and other workspaces.

  • Decisive moments, when you make a choice that constrains later decisions in your day. There are definitely some of my goals that get ten times harder to complete if I don’t get them done in the morning. Maybe the decisive moment that stopped me from meditating was when I opened Twitter and set myself down a browsing rabbit hole.


“A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It is a way to lock in future behavior, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones.”

What an interesting concept! Maybe someone can write some software based on this! :slight_smile:


After months of trying to battle with too much phone use and spending time on social media, I decided (post reading again on the book about adding friction) to up the dose. So I now have enabled parental controls with a 4-digit passcode :smiley: Only a few sites are allowed (Beeminder included of course) and the Facebook/instagram/Twitter apps are deleted. Use has been decreased by about two hours per day, we’ll see how long it lasts :slight_smile:


For future reference, a version of the “Make it difficult” rule to break a bad habit. The ultimate way to kill distractions on my desktop. Opening Facebook takes quite a few more seconds now. :slight_smile:


I can’t find year of the post, so I hope I won’t win golden shovel award :stuck_out_tongue:

So how is it going @apolyton?
How have managed to keep your password for PC usage “secret”? I tend to procrastinate on that.

Trick with phone works well for me. Additionally, you can use Google Family Links to make this method even better.

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This is pretty darn ingenious. I think you can make it even cooler by having a cron job that automatically resets your host file every 15 minutes, so you don’t have to manually uncomment the entries when you’re done, and it stays difficult, without having to also add the friction of uncommenting the entry which is itself as difficult as commenting them in the first place :slight_smile:

I think literally cat /etc/hosts_friction > /etc/hosts in a cron job should be enough?

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Pretty good in general!
Lately due to quarantine and needing to stay more connected with friends and family I’ve found myself keeping allowed for longer hours, but it’s a balance one needs to keep.

Yes that should be enough. Although there is point to be made about learning to turn things off on oneself as well.

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