Create Better Habits in 2020 with “Atomic Habits”

A few months ago I ran across the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear (you can find it HERE).  I know it’s not quite 2020 yet, but I thought I would read it and see if I could gain some insight as to how to create better habits as we head into the new year.  And I am so glad I did!


In this book, Clear explains much of the science and research behind creating good habits (and breaking bad ones).  Thankfully, he explains this in a clear, concise manner, so that you don’t get bogged down with lots of scientific jargon.  But after reading about his research and years of studying habits, it becomes clear that this guy knows what he’s talking about!

In today’s post I’m sharing with you ten of my major takeaways from the book.  These are ideas/concepts that directly relate to both our personal and professional lives as teachers.  I know I learned a lot from this book; hopefully these ideas get you brainstorming about what new habits you want to create in 2020 🙂


1–He boils the creation of building better habits into 4 simple steps:

-Make It Obvious

-Make It Attractive

-Make It Easy

-Make It Satisfying


I won’t go through these in length, but Clear goes through each one of these steps, giving the reasoning behind each step, and practical ways of how you can apply them to your everyday life.


2–Write down the good habits you want to create, and be specific–what, when, and how.

Clear says that actually writing out the goals you want to create is one of the first steps in holding yourself accountable.  Clearly defining the habit you want to create is going to make it much more likely that you will be successful.


3–“Create an environment where doing the right this is as easy as possible.”

Environment plays a HUGE part in whether we are creating positive habits.  By skipping over the step of creating a positive environment, we are shooting ourselves in the foot right from the very beginning!


4–While we might have big goals, making your habits as simple and easy as possible in the beginning will lead to greater success.  Automate your habits whenever possible.

I admit, I struggle with this one.  It seems that every year my goal is to exercise more.  I don’t exercise much in the months of November and December because work is so busy.  So then I try to start up again in January, and I try to do too much.

While making your habit super easy might seem silly, Clear promotes the idea that the length of time we do something (such as exercising) is not as important as how often we do it.  We will be more successful at creating a habit if we start small, and then slowly increase the length of time as we establish the habit.


5–“Focus on taking action, not being in motion.”

I really liked this quote–there’s a big difference between “staying busy” and “being productive”.  Are we just working on things to be busy, or is what we are working on directly related to our goals?


6–If you find yourself needing help to stay motivated, use a habit tracker, or even a habit contract.

I recently downloaded the iOS app Done on my iPhone.  It’s an easy to use habit tracker, where you can see how many days/weeks in a row you were successful at performing the habit.  We can easily make a game out of it–you’ll be motivated to perform the habit, just so you don’t “break the chain”!


7–Stop procrastinating by using the “Two-Minute Rule–When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

Clear states that most people can do almost anything for two minutes.  Have that certain something that you dread doing? Start off by just doing it for two minutes each day.  Build your confidence by being successful with that two minutes, and then you can start to increase the length of the habit.  I tend to procrastinate on certain things, so it really helps if I tell myself–”It’s only two minutes. You can do anything for two minutes!”  


8–“The Goldilocks Rule: humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.”

When I read this, I immediately thought of my choirs.  If I give my singers repertoire that is too hard, they will give up more quickly.  If I give singers repertoire that is too easy, they’ll get bored and stop trying to improve.  This is a great rule, applicable to so many different aspects of our lives, including trying to form positive habits! 


9–“Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.”

This is important not only for us as teachers, but also for our singers.  We regularly record portions of our rehearsal, and then I have my singers listen and evaluate themselves.  They really get a lot out of this process of review and reflection–it’s such an important part of growing as a musician, and I don’t think we do it enough.


10–Progress comes “through a commitment to tiny, sustainable, unrelenting improvements.”

Clear tells the story of a friend that was successful losing weight through exercise.  When this person started his exercise regimen, his habit was to go to the gym and exercise for 5 minutes.  Easy, right? It almost seems silly to do if for only 5 minutes. But by limiting his stay to 5 minutes, he was making the habit as simple as possible, which helped to be consistent in visiting the gym.  After successfully establishing this habit, he would go to the gym and think, “Well, I’m already here, so I might as well stay a bit longer.” And a couple of years later, he had lost over 100 pounds.

While we may have big goals, it’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Small, sustainable habits, done consistently, can turn into big results.


I hope that you find these ideas and concepts helpful!  I would highly recommend the book–I know I always have family members asking me what I want for Christmas, so put it on your Christmas list!  The book is also available in digital and audio versions.

Have a great week!




What habits are you looking to create in 2020?  Email me at:, I would love to hear about it!


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