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The Atomic Minimalist: My Conversation with James Clear

Last October, my friend James Clear published the breakout hit book, Atomic Habits. As we both discovered in the months that followed, we have many readers in common. James’s habit-building framework, it turns out, is quite useful for those looking to increase the quality of their deep work or succeed in a transition toward digital minimalism.

In recognition of this overlap, and in celebration of Atomic Habit’s one-year anniversary, James and I recently recorded a podcast in which we geek out on the details of our work and how they overlap.

If you’re a fan of James, or are interested in learning more about how his ideas and mine work together, I recommend you give this conversation a listen (you can use the embedded player above, or access it directly here).

17 thoughts on “The Atomic Minimalist: My Conversation with James Clear”

  1. I’m gonna be *that* guy… SoundCloud?!

    I know you know people who could get this into a proper podcast feed, or even on a YouTube channel.

    But anyway I’ll get my deep focus on and manage with this player.

    • agree. posting to soundcloud as an option is fine, but a plain vanilla mp3 or legit podcast that can easily be downloaded would be a bit more consistent with the message. the post contains a valuable conversation regardless.

    • I agree. I can’t download, control replaying something to hear it again, fast forward/backward. smh I use so many legit podcast apps, why can’t this be on one of them.

      Ok, if anyone can help me do these things in soundcloud, do let me know. This is an awesome discussion.

  2. Cal,

    Thanks for this, among your many helpful and impactful conversations.

    There is one remaining podcaster on my wishlist for you that’s (in my opinion) long overdue: Sam Harris.

    I feel like Sam has touched on the deleterious effects of techno-utopian thinking (had Tristan Harris on) and is a long champion for the power of conversation above all forms of communication. I think many would love to hear you two discuss the future of deep work, how productivity impacts a sense of meaning, and other broad topics where you guys might overlap.

    Make it happen!

  3. I find it honestly strange that James Clear, for all his encouragement and strategizing as to building positive habits, he still seemed rather unsure as to why someone would not use twitter. Maybe he was trying to lead people into the conversation softly, but it is not something with much gray area I feel. Anyone who has spent much time on twitter knows that using it is not a very useful habit building strategy. There is the how question, sure, but has he tried a minimalism detox of any sort? Once you stop using these optional services such as news and social media passively, your life opens up to so many other possibilities and twitter of all of them looks to be the worst time-destroying wormhole of all, such so that I now view it as an unethical type of service.

    • That may be short-sighted. Many things are not inherently good or bad, it is how we choose to use them.

      I believe things tend to be bad when we aren’t disciplined in their use and good when we are intentional in how we use them.

      I’ve used Twitter since 2008. I curate who I follow and frequently clean my list to fit my current growth stage. I’ve been fortunate to create many personal and professional relationships by meeting people on Twitter and then taking them offline.

      The key with Twitter is self-discipline and moderation, just like anything else in life (ex. food).

      If Twitter isn’t for you, that’s completely fine. 🙂 I don’t use Instagram for my own reasons, but I don’t persuade clients to not use it.

  4. Just ordered my copy of Atomic Habits. Will read through once I finish Digital Minimalism (just started today, love it so far). I’ll have a listen to the podcast when I have to do my ‘home admin’ chores.

    Micro habits are so critical to a productive life. What I am seeing is that micro habits before major tasks are what are most important. Thanks for the post Cal. : )

  5. Any subtitles/transcripts for this? I’m hearing-impaired. I’d love to check this out. If you could add transcripts for all your podcast, the deaf community would appreciate it very much!


  6. I’ve read Atomic Habits as I love the concept. Sadly, I have a bit of OCD and these habits began taking over my life to the point that it was filled with minutiae – the OPPOSITE of deep work. I’ve carefully targeted the habits that I *thought* would be productive (but weren’t) to de-habituate. So, warning to anyone who has the propensity to have habits take over: It’s not an excuse for living a deliberate, carefully-considered life. Don’t just toss a habit onto the list because it seems cool; think about it – about doing it every day – on TOP of all the rest of your atomic habits. And remember the Pareto Principle (80/20). At my age, the considered objective is to have more time to “waste”, not to fill every living moment with something “productive”.

  7. I used deep work in college, even without knowing. On Sunday, I wrote my English essay, for around ten hours, and I would write and complete it. I received an A for my essays, and that class.


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