tl:dr Although this book is much better than The Power of Habit, it is ultimately still an imperfect book. Definitely worth giving a read, maybe not worth purchasing unless you have a specific easy-to-define-and-implement habit you want to focus on.
Unlike The Power of Habit, most of the book (until the last section) is made up of examples that make sense and are not taken out of context. It also goes much more into depth with more nuance than the previous book (which it does cite extensively).
Each chapter ends with bullets and potentially actionable items. There are habits cheat sheets with “laws” explaining how to create a good habit and how to break a bad habit. These laws are broken into easy to remember subheaders: Make it obvious, Make it attractive, Make it easy, Make it satisfying. Make it invisible, Make it unattractive, Make it difficult, Make it unsatisfying. This is helpful– I hope that the podcasters at By the Book pick this one up sometime.
The “Advanced Tactics” section that the book ends with is problematic, relying almost entirely on anecdote and contradicting most of the rest of the book, leaving the reader with a particularly confusing “it’s complicated” message, along with additional bizarre messages like you should only try to do what you do well (I should really be a grocery bagger, I thought to myself, though that is not where my comparative advantage lies) but you should also only chase your passion (because people do more when they enjoy the work) but you should also do the boring bits (because the most successful people do the parts they don’t enjoy). Examples from this section are very correlation is causation. After reading it, I felt a sense of hopelessness, like maybe I should just early retire and forget my career, which I hope was not intentional.
For me– most of the stuff discussed in the book I already do or have done. But I also have been struggling with bad work habits for the past couple of years. I used to have very good work habits, but somehow they’ve been broken. I need to fix that, but I’m not sure how. It seems to be more complicated than say, getting into the habit of taking a walk every day or calling about politics. (And… when I start focusing on one area of life, something starts slipping in another, which is not what any of the online lifestyle bloggers ever mention… it’s always exercise more and everything else will get better too.)
I’m not sure if this book will help with that, but I’m going to think really hard about the systematic problems I’ve been having with my work and give these checklists a spin. I also want to get a book on habits by an actual academic to see if that has any useful advice.
And, of course, I will blog about all of this in a future post.