Margie Zable Fisher

Freelance Writer | Freelance Content Writer | Journalist | B2B, Health, HealthTech, Lifestyle, Fitness. Reader and Triathlete.

Mar 9, 2022
Published on: Business Insider
2 min read
Freelancer Using Computer At Home Office
Entrepreneurs, leaders, and employees alike can learn a lot about building better habits from the 2018 book "Atomic Habits."

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  • The 2018 book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear is an Amazon and NYT bestseller.
  • Several entrepreneurs who read it shared their favorite lessons and tips from it.
  • They said to use the two-minute rule, habit stacking, and systems over goals to be more effective.

Mark Pierce, CEO of Wyoming-based Cloud Peak Law Group, gives all new team members a copy of James Clear's "Atomic Habits" when they join his company.

Mark Pierce.

His reasoning is simple: The book's lessons "had the most profound impact on my life, both professionally and personally," Pierce said.

Along with Pierce, Arianna Huffington, Brené Brown, and Adam Grant are also fans of the book, which, as of November 2021, has sold more than 5 million copies and has been ranked No. 1 or in the top five on the New York Times' business and nonfiction best-sellers lists almost every month since its release in 2018. It's also a fan favorite on Amazon, ranked No. 1 for 2021 for all categories.

The book, which focuses on the concept of continuous improvement, is chock-full of useful tips for employees, leaders, and entrepreneurs alike.

"Atomic Habits" by James Clear.

After reading it, Pierce told Insider he decided to reduce his overtime by at least 1% each day, starting with shaving seven minutes off the first day. In three months, he said, he was working at least 20 minutes less each day, and by the end of one year he had managed to save an average of 34 minutes every day.

"Having a better work-life balance helped to reduce stress, which in turn helped me to be a more effective leader, since I had more patience when dealing with challenges and more time to spend overseeing my team," he said.

Here's what other business owners like Pierce had to say about the lessons they gleaned from "Atomic Habits," and how they helped improve their work.

Focus on systems rather than goals

One of the core themes in "Atomic Habits" is to focus "on the overall system, rather than a single goal," Clear writes. "Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress."

Autumn Grant told Insider this concept completely changed her outlook on business. The owner and founder of The Kind Poppy, which sells vegan and cruelty-free bath and beauty products, said that she still has goals for her business. However, she's focusing on creating systems around her marketing campaigns, expanding her product ideas, and educating herself on e-commerce growth.

Autumn Grant.

"Previously, I cast a very broad net for my social-media marketing, with the occasional boosted ad and targeted SEO campaigns," Grant said.

By using a more efficient marketing system, she said she was able to increase her e-commerce traffic and collect more customer data, which increased sales. She also revamped her website and integrated an email platform with SMS software that would allow her to keep customers engaged in the future.

And it's working: "The Kind Poppy's customer engagement rate has increased 40% through our revamped marketing system," Grant said.

Stack your habits

When you want to make a change, one way to do that is to link a new habit to an old one. It's easier to add a new habit to an existing one, and the new habit can be an improvement of some kind. Clear gives credit for this concept to BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits program and calls it "habit stacking."

Phil McParlane, the founder of 4 Day Week, which lists software jobs offering work-life balance, told Insider he implemented habit stacking into his workflow after reading "Atomic Habits."

Phil McParlane.

"I'm a software developer at heart and hate doing sales," McParlane said. "So in order to increase my cold outreach, I decided that I was only allowed to begin coding once I had messaged at least three people on LinkedIn. It's been a tremendous help, and my cold outreach has increased tenfold. This has significantly increased my revenue."

Use the two-minute rule

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you set big intentions. One way to get past that is by implementing Clear's two-minute rule: "When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do," he writes in "Atomic Habits."

Travel and lifestyle blogger Helene Sula of Helene in Between said this tip helped her business dramatically.

Helene Sula.

As social media became more popular, Sula lost some of her focus for blog writing. "'Atomic Habits' was just the kick in the pants I needed to start focusing on why I started in the first place and how I could get back to writing," she said.

"Clear says that the best way to make a habit stick is to make it easy and make it last two minutes," she added. "So I did. Every day I write for just two minutes. If I wanted to write more, I did. I found that as I got in the habit of writing for a short period of time, my passion seemed to grow and I got back in the groove. So far I have been producing more and more written content and was just featured as No. 8 in FeedSpot's list of top 100 lifestyle blogs."

Get in the habit of journaling

After reading "Atomic Habits," Cornelius Fichtner, the president of Silverado, CA-based OSP International, a project management training company, said he had an "aha" moment.

Cornelius Fichtner.

"I may be a project management expert, but managing myself was different. I had a difficult time stopping myself from multitasking and trying to run my different businesses and websites simultaneously," he said.

He decided to track his habits and make adjustments through the book's idea of habit journaling.

"I started catching myself every time I jumped from task to task," he said.

Based on the learnings from journaling about his habits, Fichtner scaled his business from 18 people to 25 and delegated tasks to other team members. This also freed up four hours of productive time for him each week, he said.

The best part? "The expense of having a few more people was offset by increased revenue," he added.

Take advantage of the Goldilocks rule

"The Goldilocks rule," according to Clear, is that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities, along with measuring their immediate progress.

"Reading about this rule led to a light-bulb moment for me," Naomi Hudetz, the founder of outdoor-gear review site Treeline Review, told Insider.

Naomi Hudetz.

She decided to challenge herself every Monday morning to learn something new in the search-engine-optimization world, apply it to her business, and track the results.

"I left my career as an actuary to build Treeline Review, and I had no experience whatsoever with SEO — and neither did my business partner," she said. "In addition, I had no mentors or friends to answer SEO-related questions. So I had to learn SEO on my own, sift through the enormous quantity of good and bad material available, and hope I was doing the right thing. This was an extremely daunting task for me, and the only way I made it through was by taking small but regular incremental steps and implementing that Goldilocks principle."

The technique works, Hudetz said, adding that she's seen a significant increase in organic search to her website. "Tracking the number of keywords and seeing the results also helps keep me motivated," she said.

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