I’ve just finished reading James Clear’s 2018 best-selling book entitled Atomic Habits, and I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed it. I consider myself to be a person with pretty decent habits; I go to the gym several days a week; I avoid alcohol; I eat healthily; I stick to a regular work schedule. Nevertheless, this book definitely helped me to consider how I can improve upon my habits in a way that will help me even more.
Instead of trying to summarize the book for you (because I am really hoping that you will read it), I want to share three anecdotes or lessons that really resonated with me and will help me to develop or improve on my existing habits and hopefully be more successful.
How to Develop Good or Better Habits
Use Two Mason Jars and Paper Clips
One of the easiest lessons in the book that I think will really resonate with real estate professionals has to do with telephone habits. Truth be told, there are many real estate pros that hate making calls. Nevertheless, dialing is the lifeblood of our industry. In one chapter, the following method for sticking to good daily dialing is to put two mason jars on your desk. One empty, and the other with the exact number of paperclips for the number of calls you want to make. Say you want to make 20 calls per day; put 20 clips in one jar. After each call, you move one clip from the full jar to the empty jar. Your calls are completed when all the clips have moved to the empty jar.
Visual cues can keep you motivated to complete a task.
Grading Strategies in Photography Class
A professor has a large photography class. He decided that he will do the following experiment with his students: half the class will be graded 100% on one photo that they worked on all semester, and the other half will be graded on the number of photos that they turn in (the higher the number of photos, the better the grade). At the end of the semester, the very best photos actually came from the students being graded by the number of photos they took and turned in. This is because the sheer volume gave them more experience and helped them to be better at this task. With respect to developing good habits, the point here is to just do it—just do something every day.
Don’t obsess about whether you did it perfectly, but show up and do something and incrementally (like compound interest) your habit will develop.
The Failure of the British Cycling Team
Clear also tells a great story about a British cycling team that was apparently so terrible that nobody wanted to sponsor them. Can you imagine being so bad that brand name products don’t want to be associated with your team? At some point, the team hired a new coach. This coach tried to make small improvements across the board: new bike seats, modified uniforms, and different diet for the team among many other things. And, lo and behold, in a very short period of time, some of the team members were winners in the Tour de France. Making small and minor changes that make a difference of even one percent if they are successful in multiple areas will help improve things overall. This is what is known as the aggregation of marginal gains.
If a real estate agent, for example, makes just one more call each day or sends one more email newsletter each month, over time the results will be evident.
Developing good or better habits starts with you. And, if you are not much of a reader and are thinking about incorporating reading into your 2020 routine, why not start with Atomic Habits by James Clear? You’ll be glad you did!
What else am I reading? I don’t always read business books; I read all sorts. In case you are looking for book recommendations, here are the last 5 books I’ve read: Smart People Should Build Things (Andrew Yang), The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult), Inheritance (Dani Shapiro), The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead), Talking to Strangers (Malcolm Gladwell).