What I’m Currently Reading

Kristen Rainey

September 16, 2022

What I’m reading now….

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Small tweaks add up.

According to Clear, “A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination.” The British Cycling team found in 2003 that focusing on marginal gains eventually paid off: finding the best pillow and mattress for the riders for optimal sleep, or learning the best way for the riders to wash their hands to avoid getting sick, or doing 100 other minor tweaks made the difference in allowing them five years later to turn the corner from an average team into dominating the sport for the next decade. As it pertains to sleep for all of us, as an example, skipping that 3 pm latte could have enormous impact in promoting more restful sleep that evening, which in turn could make us drag less the following afternoon. Eventually, we might not even think about that afternoon espresso.

Be specific about your intentions with a new habit.

Clear writes that the best way to start a new habit is to declare you’ll do something with a specific time and location. For example, as it pertains to sleep, getting into a regular sleep routine seven day a week — same time to bed, same time awake — is one of the best things you can do. Following Clear’s implementation intention formula, you might say, “I will go to bed at 11 pm and wake up at 7 am for the next 7 days.”

Make it easy to end a bad habit by removing the cue.

Do you bring your cellphone to bed with you and spend an hour before bed checking Facebook and Instagram? Or the news? Or responding to work emails? The good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is the blue light from your phone or tablet or laptop delays the onset of melatonin, which normally signals to your body it’s time for sleep. So your devices are keeping you awake. What’s the solution? Remove the temptation altogether: put your cell phone in airplane mode at 9 pm and plug it into a charger in another room besides your bedroom.

Tie new behaviors to existing ones.

Another trick Clear writes about is called habit stacking. This is a way to tie a new behavior you want to do (like reading a paper book instead of an ipad or other electronic tablet) with an existing behavior that you already do without fail (like eating dinner). As an example, you might say “After I eat dinner (existing habit), I will read a paper book (new behavior).” And following his recommendation to make it easy to start a good habit by making the cue visible, keep your paper book next to your bed.

Context matters.

Keeping your bedroom as a place designated for sleeping — not watching TV or working on our laptop or scrolling on our phones — helps us associate bed with sleeping and makes it easier for us to fall asleep when it’s time. This is particularly important now, in light of how many of us are working from home who might not have otherwise. Keeping a separate workspace and a separate sleeping space is key in avoiding the blurring of boundaries between our work and personal lives.