In the avalanche of self-help books, Atomic Habits stands out from the pack. James Clear communicates clearly about habits, routines and systems making profound observations about the science of transformation.
If you’re looking for books like Atomic Habits, my top picks specifically about habits are The Power of Habit and Million Dollar Habits. About focus and productivity? Deep Work and The One Thing. And more ground breaking books by thought leaders? The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Four Thousand Weeks.
There’s several reasons why Atomic Habits is such a great book. First of all, is the depth of understanding of how habits work in our lives and how powerful they are for life change.
Another reason is the power of habits to increase focus and productivity in our lives.
The third reason is that it’s a ground breaking book from a thought leader that challenges the status quo.
The good news is, there’s other books out there with those same characteristics.
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Books Like Atomic Habits: Morning Routines and Life Changing Habits
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
“In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporterCharles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.”– from Amazon
Not many books fit in the category of life-changing.
This one does.
The Power of Habit changed my life.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
7 Habits is a classic for a reason.
The seven habits are highly actionable. They permeate everything you do, giving you a framework for your life.
Covey fully explains the seven habits as well as fleshing out practical implementations with some of the best stories in all of self-help literature.
The seven habits:
- Be Proactive.
- Begin with the End in Mind.
- Put First Things First.
- Think Win/Win.
- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
- Sharpen the Saw.
Hal Elrod tells his incredible story about fighting back from the brink, not once, but twice. The first time physically, recovering after a near fatal accident. The second time was financially, after being on the verge of financial collapse.
He also studied the morning habits and systems of successful people and identified the common factors. He distilled them into 7 principles and invented an acronym to aid in memorizing each one.
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
So much of the habits and success literature focuses on morning routines. There’s a good reason. Taking control of your day, starting in the morning, paves the way for a successful life.
Laura Vanderkam has studied many people and the way they use their time. She most often looks at a week at a time: 168 hours.
For me, this has been a paradigm shift. I think it’s easy to think about how busy we are Monday through Friday from 7 to 5, and forget about all the hours during the evening and weekends. It’s also easy to forget that we’re managing our energy as much as our time and that following the rhythms of the week rather than fighting them works to our advantage.
It helps to look at your week as a whole and do some evaluation to find the time leaks. It helps to challenge the thinking that is working against us.
Million Dollar Habits by Brian Tracy
Brian Tracy has written an impressive body of work. But, more importantly, he’s gained a lot of wisdom and has learned how to communicate it clearly and concisely.
He has actively sought out successful people to learn from their success and put into practice what he’s learned.
This book covers habits for business, health, money, relationships and so much more. This is a digest of how successful people live and the principles they live by.
Books Like Atomic Habits: Focus and Productivity
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Now I know what all the rave reviews are about. This is a GREAT book!
It addresses the problem of distracted focus and the importance of lasering in on your most important work in order to achieve excellence.
A huge light bulb moment for me reading The One Thing was the idea of chaos derailing you and distracting you from your one thing.
Chapter 17, The Four Thieves of Productivity hit me hard.
The Four Thieves are:
1. Inability to Say “No”
2. Fear of Chaos
3. Poor Health Habits
4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals.
Wow. These were so good and right on the money.
“The One Thing explains the success habit to overcome the six lies that block our success, beat the seven thieves that steal time, and leverage the laws of purpose, priority, and productivity.” –from Goodreads
Margin by Richard Swenson
“Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Today we use margin just to get by. This book is for anyone who yearns for relief from the pressure of overload. Reevaluate your priorities, determine the value of rest and simplicity in your life, and see where your identity really comes from. The benefits can be good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God’s purpose.”– from Amazon
Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy
Eat That Frog! is a quick read. It is a compilation of wisdom from many gurus of time management, self-management and motivation. The subtitle is “21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”
If I have one beef with the book, it’s that he doesn’t attribute his ideas to the original authors. But, the content is gold.
Simple and profound. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Because it’s hard. At least, it’s hard to start.He does tackle the psychological side of motivating yourself to do difficult things.
It is a book full of action points, laced with a few stories to illustrate the effectiveness of the principles he advocates.
The whole “eat the frog” analogy comes from Mark Twain who said that “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
Talking ourselves into doing difficult things instead of avoiding them gets us ahead.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Newport first builds the case for the importance of deep work, then he expounds on practical steps to accomplish it. Simply put, what is needed is focus and discipline.
I agree with Newport’s main premise: we are doing worse work because we’re distracted. I see it all the time in the low quality of books that are published and the huge vacuums that exist in many genres for high quality work.
Newport is a college professor. Publishing in scholarly journals is the deep work he needs to accomplish. I think the principles apply to all writers, and probably all knowledge workers in general.
I think the most profound books are ones that are simple common sense: ones that people agree with and see the wisdom of, but didn’t take the time to articulate themselves. It seems so simple. So obvious. And, yet, it wasn’t done before.
It is the path of least resistance to fritter away our time. When we are careful about every working minute and rest well away from work, we accomplish so much more.
I was intrigued by the end of the day ritual. For sure, it is the lingering worries of work that sap your peace and relaxation when you’re away from work. Learning to wrap things up at the end of the day and be at peace with where you’re leaving them is critical for resting well.
His chapter, “Quit Social Media” is a little misleading, because he doesn’t really advocate that you quit social media. Some would argue that if you want to write, you have to leverage social media. But, the irony is that social media is keeping you from doing your best work, because you become a consumer instead of a producer.
The instant gratification is a problem, as well. The instant distraction, the problem of never being bored. If you’re never bored, then you never think. You don’t create to fill the hole of that boredom. You don’t wonder, daydream, imagine. That vacuum is filled.
Books Like Atomic Habits: Paradigm Shifts from Thought Leaders
Atomic Habits challenges the thinking that goal setting and goal achievement is the way to make your life what you want it to be. He proposes that habits and systems are the way to make your life what you want it to be. He also proposes that environment is more important than willpower.
What does it take to be a thought leader? Well, you have to have some original thoughts. Actually, to start out with, you just have to think. That becomes harder and harder to do in our noisy world.
Clear thinkers are rare.
Thought leaders often challenge the status quo. They will be swimming upstream. The amazing thing is that if they remain firm and consistently preach the same message, they can turn the tide, change the trends of people’s thinking and lead the charge of the new accepted belief.
The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
The Lazy Genius Way is the best book on life management since The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
It’s a different way of looking at life management.
The principles are universal.
Front and center is the idea that you need to name what matters. You can’t organize your life until you’ve established your unique priorities.
The Lazy Genius Way is in a class by itself, but there are other books that challenge popular myths and give unusual insight into life management.
High on practical application and low on guilt, The Lazy Genius Way feels like a giant exhale, because Kendra Adachi gives us all permission to stop doing all the things. We don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. She likes to say, “Just do you”.
I’m a big fan.
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
Oliver Burkeman challenges us to think differently about our lifespan and our view of time.
Ponder the brevity of life. If you live to be 80, that’s a little over four thousand weeks.
It’s similar to Laura Vanderkam talking about 168 hours in a week. We are more familiar with 24 hours and 7 days. We normally measure a lifespan in years rather than weeks. That alone gives us a different viewpoint.
He challenges status quo thinking in several ways.
First of all, we don’t own time to spend how we please. It doesn’t actually belong to us, but it is who we are.
He challenges the philosophy of time management that says make every minute count, hyper schedule your time to achieve your goals and have a successful life.
He advocates the importance of doing nothing and NOT being productive every minute.
His discussion about distractions is worth reading. There’s no doubt we are easily distracted. How do we deal with it?
Embrace the truth that you can’t do it all. If you choose one career you say no to others. If you accept one life partner, you are closing the door to all others.
The old adage says life is like a coin. You can spend it anyway you want, but you can only spend it once.
Most of the book is philosophical with ten proposed action steps coming at the end.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Have you ever wondered why some teams can accomplish incredible feats and others can’t accomplish anything? What if there were a way to diagnose the problems and solve them? Now there is.
Five Dysfunctions is a leadership fable. It is a page-turning quick read fiction, for the very reason a good movie is: it’s full of conflict.
“The characters in this book ring true, are completely recognizable, and fully-realized. The book itself is well-written, and, I believe, ranks with the best of the genre.” –Jack Covert, co-author with Todd Sattersten of 100 Best Business Books of All Time
Five Dysfunctions identifies the major obstacles that keep a group from functioning as a team. There are repeatable patterns that keep a team from reaching it’s goals. By identifying these patterns and working to change them, the team can move forward and accomplish it’s goals.
What are the Five Dysfunctions?
- Absence of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results.
Lencioni is spot on in his analysis and his resolution. This book is life-changing.
Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Out of all the financial gurus out there, why listen to Dave Ramsey? What sets Dave apart is his understanding of human nature and the emotional roadblocks that keep people from make good financial decisions.
Part of his signature advice is the “debt snowball”. Arranging your debts from smallest to largest doesn’t necessarily make sense, except, you need the encouragement of seeing progress, of seeing a debt paid off . . . “sometimes motivation is more important than math”. This encouragement keeps you on track to meet your financial goals.
Another thing that sabotages a good plan is an emergency expense. Planning for emergencies is a bedrock principle for success financially, according to Dave.
He suggests two ways to do this. First is a small emergency fund. Later, a larger fund is created in preparation for a financial tidal wave.
It takes an intensity and focus to succeed financially. Dave calls it “gazelle intensity”.
The book oozes with stories of people who have overcome significant obstacles to achieve financial freedom. These serve as an inspiration and encouragement to those in the trenches.
Dave advocates each step as the way to financial peace. He also testifies that the Prince of Peace is the only way to true peace.
The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
It’s hard to say who was the first, but Tim Ferriss was among the first to say that you can make a living without the 9 to 5 corporate job. The internet has opened up new types of commerce and information jobs that weren’t possible three decades ago.
Many people will tell you that a literal four hours a week is a misnomer and that you can’t skip over the 90 hour weeks it takes leading up to the point where you can make passive income.
But, there are others who will give testimony to their own 10 to 15 hour a week journeys to earn a full-time income based on repeatable principles of building an online business.
The point is that Tim Ferriss was a front runner in proclaiming to the world that there was a new way to to make money and finance your life.