Week 9/2023: Atomic habits part 5

Week of 27 February 2023

Atomic Habits Part 5

As I wrote last time, I’m carrying on with James Clear’s 30-day habit challenge to try and get myself back into a writing habit.

Since then, I’ve started the daily habit of sitting at my desk, opening my notebook and writing one sentence, though not always at exactly the time I said I’d do it.

Last time, I wrote about lesson 7, so continuing from there, lessons 8 and 9 are also on the theme of staying motivated.


Lesson 8 looks at rewarding yourself for completing your desired activity so that you make doing it more attractive.

For many of the habits we desire, the reward is a long time coming. If we want to run a marathon, we need months, if not years, of a regular exercise habit. But we can reward ourselves with something that gives us immediate gratification while we’re waiting to see the long-term benefit. Ideally, this would be something that reinforces our identity as someone who exercises regularly or someone who takes care of their body, so the reward for going for a run wouldn’t be a pizza or a bowl of ice cream.

I looked at my shoulder exercises and realised I already do this. For the morning set, where I’ve set the weights up next to the coffee machine and do the exercises while the machine is warming up, coffee could be the reward as well as the trigger. And for the night time set, my reward is lying down and doing my relaxing deep breathing exercises and getting into bed.

I guess it’s not really a reward because I’d still have coffee and I’d still go to bed, but it kind of fits and who’s arguing?! I’m not going to change something that’s working just to fit this program!

For morning writing, I’m not sure what my immediate reward would be. I need to think about that a bit more, if it turns out I actually need a reward. So far (five days in) I’m doing it. And I can’t think of a reward that would be proportional to writing one sentence. Eating one chocolate chip maybe?


The final lesson in this section is about creating motivation by tracking your habits with an obvious record of your progress. That is, a habit tracker.

Filling out a habit tracking chart can be a reward, as you see the Xs marked off or the boxes coloured in. And as James says, it creates “immediate visual proof that you are showing up and living out the habits that are important” to you.

Apparently, this works for many people because once they get a few days checked off they don’t want to break the chain.

For many of my habits I use an app on my phone but I often forget, sometimes for several days, which means I come back to the app and can’t remember which days to check off. So it can be unreliable.

A good old paper tracker is in a way more effective because I can put it where I can see it and see a whole month at a glance rather than just five days that the app shows me. I feel like that’s more of a motivation to keep going because the gaps are more obvious.

James suggests going further and creating an implementation intention for tracking so that completing the habit then becomes the trigger to record that you’ve done it.

For me, this looks something like “After I’ve written my one sentence, I will fill in today’s box on my habit tracker.” Which I will keep on the front of my notebook so I always see it and I can always keep track of my progress.

Here’s one I got from Daniel at Spacemakers.

A circular daily habit tracker for the month of March, with habits filled in for morning writing (7 days) and massage ball (5 days)
So far, so good

There’s a bit more to this lesson but I’ll leave that for next time.

Week 9 summary

What was the best thing about this week?

Kramstable and I stayed with Lil Sis and Mr Tall on Saturday night so we could take part in Run the Bridge on Sunday morning.

Long view of the Tasman Bridge from the Tasman Highway
The bridge. We walked it.

Run being what Kramstable did. Lil Sis and I clocked what might have been a personal worst in the 5 km walk. Not to worry, we had a nice Sunday morning walk, then Kramstable and I had brunch on the way home.

What did I learn this week?

How to make coffee with a stovetop coffee maker. I did not learn how to do this without burning the coffee.

What I’m reading this week

  • A Question of Age by Jacinta Parsons
  • How To Train Your Political Animal by Melinda Maddock
  • Breath by James Nestor

Habit tracker

  • Morning ritual (Goal = 7): 5
  • Move (preferably before 3 pm) (Goal = 7): 6
  • Morning writing (Goal = 5): 5
  • The Little Red Writing Book exercises (Goal = 5): (0)
  • Listened to writing podcasts (Goal = 2): 0
  • All five physiotherapy exercises (Goal = 7): 5
  • Four exercises (Goal = 7): 5
  • Mental health break outside during my work days in the office (2 days): 2
  • Finish work by 5.30 (Goal = 5): 5
  • Shut my computer down before 9.15 (Goal = 6): 6
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