All those points you asked to hear my thoughts on are covered in Tiny Habits.
I had no idea the book had some off-putting marketing; sorry to hear that. Having consumed quite a few related books and hundreds of blog posts, I believe Fogg’s book and models are the most sophisticated of all of them, despite their simplicity.
Probably the biggest issue around habits is something almost nobody else even covers, and when they do cover it, they do so too superficially to be helpful: emotions create habits. Indeed, a lot of people in this space still repeat the same recycled ideas, like that it takes ‘21 days’ to create a habit. Or, if they don’t suck that bad, they still present a simplistic model of a habit as cue -> routine -> reward. Great, but what do I do with that?
Sure–if we’re smart we realize that altering any of cue, routine, and reward might help make a habit; but this model is so simplistic. What is a reward, exactly? Is it telling yourself you’ll get X later as a treat? Is it an in-the-moment feeling of success? What kind of feeling is it exactly? Promising yourself to get X treat later is better than nothing, but it’s not very effective at creating habits. What’s a cue? What’s a routine–what even is a habit, really? Is “meditation” a habit? (Hint: not even close.) No model of habits other than Fogg’s that I’ve seen is (a) sufficiently detailed, (b) accurate, © complete, and (d) easy to remember. Here’s one example of why I describe Fogg’s book as “sophisticated”: teaching is one good way to learn better, particularly if it incorporates active recall. So what does Fogg do? He asks you to teach one of his basic fundamental models of behavior almost right off the bat. If you really don’t read his book, Atomic Habits is okay but a distant second.
Fogg’s models are made to work for humans, not rational homunculi.
Something in the “field” of habits and behavior change baffles me: it all implicitly pretends we’re a rational homunculi. We’re not–we’re a rational homunculi layer on top of a mostly-unintrospectable, embodied and subconscious system.
How did your bad habits come about? They’re actually rewarding, in a way that your designed behavior changes might not be. And “you” didn’t plan them–the affordances of your environment created them, in concert with your whole self–including the homeostasis-seeking / self-regulating, unintrospectable subconscious part of you.
Our analytical self is the part doing the reading and planning, but it’s just a thin veneer on an evolved creature. Have you heard of the rider and the elephant metaphor? (Google it if you haven’t.)
Well, even other writers who tell you about that metaphor don’t really take it to heart. Because if you take it to heart, you realize that behavior change is really, really hard, but it can be easy. You can’t force the elephant; you have to nudge it very gently.
It can be easy if you do the things I said: accept a long-term mindset i.e. be patient, clarify your aspiration, generate behavior options (real behavior options, not just sub-aspirations), rank them by estimated impact and how well you think you could do it, pick the ones that match you best, only do 2 or 3 at a time, make them as enjoyable, ridiculously tiny, and otherwise easy-to-do as possible, feel good–celebrate–after doing them, and don’t raise the bar (only do more when you genuinely want to, not when you feel you should).
If you do this correctly, you will form habits in just a few days, and you will like yourself more (not less) the whole time.
It can seem crazy to start really tiny, but if it leads you to real change, it will quickly accumulate.
You can either do this, or you can continue the cycle of reaching too high, beating yourself up, and (very probably) ending up in the same place you started, expect that now you have lower expectancy for future goals/change, which will then make future change even harder. (“expectancy”–in case you want to Google it, this is part of Steele’s procrastination model, which synthesizes hundreds of studies).
Whew, I got a little carried away.
Also, I think you’ve identified your main issue: sleep is huge.
I don’t think I can impart the right words that will help you. That task is too large for any of us to do, because it’s easy to just read words, and hard to take the right action. That’s why I recommend finding a resource that you personally feel you can trust to teach you how to form habits. If you can’t trust Fogg’s book, I urge you to find something you can trust.
Why should any of us expect behavior change to be quick? It’s true that on rare occasion we manage to ‘just change’–but we need something consistent, not a reliance on miracles. It baffles my mind that the idea one might have to learn some new life skill over dozens of hours (or more!) through deliberate, sequenced practice isn’t seen as obvious. After all, we each spend thousands of years and over a decade just getting better at math, reading, writing, and so on. tl;dr Things take time, and that’s okay.
Like me, you’re committed to bettering yourself. I just hope you can redirect your commitment to improving at the process of behavior change itself.