Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: Atomic Habits

May 2020

"Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results" by James Clear

If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library. 

"Many people think that they lack motivation, but what they really lack is clarity."


James Clear's Atomic Habits is a guide to eliminating bad habits and effectively replacing them with good ones. In an homage to Charles Duhigg, acclaimed business journalist and author of The Power of Habit, Clear acknowledges and advances his ideas, taking the steps and cues he developed and adding practical strategies to build good habits and break bad ones. 

Four-step habit pattern: (from Duhigg) 

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

Clear's four steps to form habits:

  1. Obvious
  2. Attractive
  3. Easy
  4. Satisfying

Three Takeaways:

  1. Research in habit formation has established that the key to maintaining helpful and life changing habits is cultivating a sense of self awareness. One must identify and deconstruct their bad habits, recognizing how they spend their time, how they fill spaces, and gain pleasure from their actions. Clear also suggests yearly reviews to reflect upon what has gone right, wrong, and what you've learned in the process. 

  2. The book's title confirms that habits can be small but offer cumulative power. Paying attention to small changes can offer a chain reaction of positive improvement. One of his suggestions is "habit stacking," or the act of connecting difficult habits to easy ones.  

  3. Structuring one's life is very important: establishing when habits are re-formed , or using a habit tracker or journal system to hold yourself accountable and keep track of habit control. Using tools to measure and monitor your progress helps monitor growth and consistency to make sure you don't fall off track.

The deeper message of Clear's book is that the smallest changes in one's habits can change who you are. The decisions one makes to better themselves and move in the right direction aligns them with the ideal version of themselves, with whom they believe themselves to be. Referencing Seinfeld's "don't break the chain" methodology, Clear understands that visualizing one's commitment to a simple task on an overall path of growth aligns them with that they want to achieve. 


James Clear is a writer and speaker focused on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits. His work has appeared in Entrepreneur magazine, Time magazine, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and on CBS This Morning.