How to Build Productive Habits: A Starter Kit

“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.” – James Clear Atomic Habits

In this post we’re going to cover some resources, techniques, and tools that form a starter kit to building productive habits. Emphasis on starter kit, we’ll cover just enough to get you going in the right direction today while you get some more in depth resources in the mail for tomorrow. 

For Today


Here are the techniques from Atomic Habits I’ll be using to reestablish a morning routine:

Habit Stacking – Credited to author and Stanford Professor BJ Fogg, James Clear describes habit stacking as:

“One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.” James Clear Atomic Habits

Pretty simple right? Why start from scratch when you can use your existing framework to your advantage.

Temptation bundling – “temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle. Named after the work of professor David Premack, the principle states that “more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.” In other words, even if you don’t really want to process overdue work emails, you’ll become conditioned to do it if it means you get to do something you really want to do along the way.” James Clear Atomic Habits

Don’t Break the Chain – This is a popular habit tracking method where you place an X on the current day every time you complete your habit. The goal is to link as many Xs together as possible.

(Note: At the bottom of this post will be a link to instructions for a Don’t Break the Chain calendar printout. Or, if you don’t have a printer, that post has a link at the bottom of it on how to make one yourself.)



-printable calendar


For Tomorrow


Read these two books in this order:

Atomic Habits – In short Atomic Habits is a 320 page book that is a powerhouse on all things habits.

EssentialismEssentialism is, as the name suggests, a book about finding out and focusing on what’s essential in life. It sounds simple because, in theory, it is. Unfortunately life has a way of bogging us down in the unessential. This book will help you focus on what’s important.

These books are for readers of every make and model. Buy them, read them, highlight them, start incorporating their lessons into your life, and then reference them as needed. Anytime life has you down, return to your highlights for a shot of awesome and then start getting your house back in order. 

And, if that fails, then hurl those books at the problem and tell life to suck a lemon.

The Application

Alright, here’s an example using the above techniques.

When I wake up I will (habit stacking):

  1. Write down my weight.
  2. Make the bed.
  3. Brush and floss.
  4. Check the days to do list.
  5. Read through all current projects and next actions (from Getting Things Done by David Allen)
  6. Check the calendar.
  7. Put an X on the A.M. Routine calendar (Don’t Break the Chain).


That’s it. After that’s complete I make a hot beverage (temptation bundling) and get the day started. Usually I read for a little bit, but sometimes I run an errand or get straight to work. It depends on the day.

Waking up and going to sleep are two easy entry points into habit building, Darren Hardy (Author of The Compound Effect) calls it “bookending your day”. I’ve written about this before and refer to them individually as the AMR (A.M. Routine) and PMR (P.M. Routine). If you’re building your first habit or knocking the rust off after an extended lapse, start with one habit at one of those two entry points. Slow and steady wins the race.

The Dismount

Alright, that’s it for today. 

Use this starter kit to build some productive habits and generate some momentum while you’re waiting on the books in the mail. Build up your arsenal of techniques, books, and experiences slowly and over time. Do your best to make progress, no matter how small, every day. But if the ish hits the fan then don’t sweat bowing out for a couple rounds, get back in the game when you’re ready.

Until next time,


Related Posts:

Don’t Break the Chain Habit Tracker Printable

10 Quotes From Atomic Habits by James Clear

Being in Motion vs Taking Action

The 4 Characteristics of Deliberate Practice

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