Money at 30: “Atomic Habits” Audiobook Review
Oftentimes, when I’m looking for a new book to review, I’ll turn to the Amazon/Audible best sellers list to look for finance-related titles. Each time I’ve done this, near the top of the Business & Money is a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. While I’d resisted this book previously since it didn’t seem to really be that much about personal finance, with the new year upon us, I figured it was a fine time to see what all the fuss was about. So, I downloaded the audiobook and spent my New Year’s weekend pouring through the book’s lessons.
First, to my surprise, there was a fair amount of personal finance material to be found in the book. This includes some specific budgeting ideas — but mostly some more general mentions of money-related goals that many individuals might have. While I still wouldn’t say that this is a financial book at its core, it is far more relevant than I may have initially anticipated.
While the term “atomic” might lead some to believe that this book will teach them to explode with good habits, the use here refers to the idea of making small changes — like those as tiny as an atom. As Clear points out, while a 1% improvement might not seem like much, this pace puts you on course to be 37 times better in a year. Returning to the financial connection, it’s essentially like compound interest.
That realization itself is pretty powerful, but luckily Clear doesn’t stop there. Instead, he proceeds to go through the four steps of the habit process: cue, craving, response, and reward. In each case, he points out how targeting the steps in the process individually can have a major effect. For example, since a small cue can trigger a new habit, Clear offers some suggestions for making positive habit cues more obvious. On that note, one of the most interesting concepts I learned in the book was creating habit stacks/chains where you insert the start of a new habit you want to create after a habit you already have. I imagine that these types of ideas have been floating in the ether for some time now but they’re new to me — and I found them fascinating.
Like with many audiobooks, Atomic Habits is supplemented by some visual materials that can be found on Clear’s site along with some other bonuses. Personally, I found these PDF extras to be a sufficient replacement for the physical book. Thus, I’d say that those who (like me) consume the book in its audio form are unlikely to miss much versus picking up a paper copy.
If there’s anything negative to say about this book, I’d say that the last couple of chapters were my least favorite. While there were still takeaways to be gained, they didn’t seem to be quite as actionable to me as the preceding chapters. Nevertheless, unlike some books I’ve read that seem to venture off-topic in a bid to fill out the material, I felt as though Clear stayed fairly focused even if those late chapters are a bit less prescriptive in nature.
As for how I’m applying some of the book’s lessons so far, seeing as there were a couple of goals I set for myself this year, I found ways to tie the required steps to some existing habits in my daily routine. Furthermore, I’ve taken to making off the days only on my calendar to catalog my streaks. Admittedly, even with Clear’s tips, it did take some time to figure out exactly how to turn my end goals into a format that would fit the atomic mold. Still, I feel as though what I came up with will prove beneficial.
After reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, I can now see why the book has been so perpetually popular and omnipresent these past few years. Filled with easy-to-understand concepts, examples, and anecdotes, this quick read (or listen, in my case) packs a ton of valuable insights. That said, if you just wanted to sample the book’s ideas and try them on for size, it strikes me that this is the type of book that might translate well to the Blinkist model. But if you want to dive deeper then see how these concepts could help you reach your goals this new year and beyond.