In Atomic Habits James Clear writes about Keystone Habits - small choices that lead to a cascade of other actions.

For example, when he and his wife get home from work, they either (a) immediately change into their gym kit, or (b) sit on the sofa. Their evening changes based on this decision.

If they change into their gym kit, they’ll inevitably end up going to the gym that evening then cooking something healthy for dinner. If they sit on the sofa instead, they’ll inevitably end up watching Netflix and ordering Indian takeaway. The healthier habit just requires making one small decision (gym kit vs sofa) and the rest takes care of itself.

I’ve noticed a few keystone habits in my own life, and I’m working on identifying more. For one, these days I wake up at 6:15am and make myself a Nespresso. Then I either sit on the dining table with my iPad Pro, or I sit at my proper desk with my laptop + big screen setup in front of me. If I go down the iPad Pro route (as I’ve done this morning), I open up Ulysses and start writing something, or open up Day One and do a quick journal entry while drinking the coffee. If however, I sit at my desk, I inevitably end up opening YouTube, realising there’s a new Peter McKinnon or Becki & Chris or Matt D'Avella video and the rest of the morning is gone.

Another example - I try to think about getting to bed between 10:30-11, and the keystone habit that makes this possible is brushing my teeth. As soon as I brush my teeth, the rest of my night-time routine automatically follows and I end up in bed reading on my Kindle until I feel tired enough to fall asleep. But the longer I delay brushing my teeth, whether I’m sitting chatting to my housemate, or working on a video edit, or just wasting time on YouTube / Instagram, the later I’ll end up going to sleep.

Before reading Atomic Habits I guess I knew about this stuff somewhat intuitively, but as is often the case, giving something a name (Keystone Habits) helps draw our attention to it when we see it happening in our lives.


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