Atomic Habits: Continuous Improvement and SmartPM

Atomic habits require that instead of focusing on goals, focus on the process of achieving those goals.

It’s hard to believe yet another year is coming to a close. For those who do not know me, my name is Brian Sykes. I am an Account Executive at SmartPM. I am the fifth employee here and have been with my team for almost five years–since before; there was a single SAAS customer. Moving my way up the ladder, I have seen the importance of atomic habits for the growth and prosperity of this business since my first day–not to mention the evolution of our teams and our brand.



Prior to joining SmartPM, though, I was an athlete. I played college football at Yale. To this day, I carry a strong belief in the value of community and teamwork with me everywhere I go. So, when the pandemic hit in 2020, I felt like I had lost the opportunity to continue building my community with everything being closed, the quarantine, and not being able to interact with the people I used to on a daily basis.

Consequently, I founded the SmartPM Bookclub as a way for us to be able to get together more frequently during COVID in a way that is not only fun but also improves the business through self-improvement. And, while I admit, a book club doesn’t sound like the coolest thing on earth but, admittedly, we are a bunch of people who enjoy the “nerdier” side of things.


My Atomic Habits Recap: 


For the past 2+ years, some of us meet bi-weekly after work with a six-pack of whatever IPA has the coolest packaging. Regardless, the main reason I started it is that one of our core values is Continuous Improvement. We believe that the value of continuous education to improve processes is key to continued success in everything we do.

So, when it became time for me to decide on what book we should focus on for the last half of 2022, one, in particular, stood out to me. Some of you may have heard of it, read it, or bought it but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. It’s James Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. 

Atomic habits “refers to a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1% improvement” (Clear 27). So, essentially, the main premise of Clear’s #1 NYT Bestseller is essentially the compound effect of marginal gains. However, as a former athlete, I was always trained to know this.

In college, we used to say focus on the process as opposed to the result. In other words, if you focus on the process, the result will come. Specifically, atomic habits require that instead of focusing on goals, focus on the process of achieving those goals.

This aspect of Atomic Habits has been drilled into my brain since before I had a family of my own and even started working. However, there are some particularly valuable insights that this book has given me to implement into my daily life. So, read on, and maybe you can get some of the same value.


Ways to Form New Habits and Discourage Bad Ones


According to Clear, the best way to create a good habit is to make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. Consequently, the best way to break a bad habit is to make it invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying.

How did I implement good habits into my daily life?

Well, some of the habits you do are the result of you associating them with actions. For example, I used to watch TV every night after putting my son to sleep. Therefore, I associated putting my son to sleep with watching TV.

Don’t get me wrong, I still watch TV. Clearly, it is not a bad habit, but it is not a habit that I believe puts a lot of value into my life. So, I began associating a good habit with my nightly routine. Now, I read the Bible every night after I put my son to sleep. Thus, tucking my son into bed is a cue to begin good habits.

How about removing bad habits?

After growing up alongside social media, I began to realize I was spending way too much time scrolling through apps when I could be doing something else. As mentioned, one of the ways to break bad habits is to make them invisible and difficult.

So, I deleted all of my social media apps so that I can no longer open my phone, open the app, and scroll through my feed. Now, I have to log onto my desktop and scroll through, which, consequently, works wonders. My screen time has gone down significantly, and I have more time to focus on the things that improve my life.


The Problem with Huge Goals


Another part of Atomic Habits that resonates with my life is goals. A lot of times, our goals are so big that the pathway to achieving them is too difficult.

For example, let’s say that you originally decided you were going to read 12 books this year. Instead, a better goal that is very easy to get behind, as opposed to daunting, is to open a book every day and read at least one page. What you find is that you rarely ever open a book and just read one page. Before you know it, you are on pace to break the 12 books a year.

How about at work?

I work in sales. So, instead of saying that I want to close a certain amount of customers this month, I can break that down into simple indicators that lead to my overarching goal. An example of what those leading indicators could be is making sure I get someone to the next step instead of closing deals–giving me less stress and more time to focus on my customer’s needs. Now, I continuously ask myself if I am consistently making my customers happy moving forward as opposed to simply closing deals.

My new and improved habits don’t just stop here, I have actually started to write down some of my goals and objectives for 2023.


My Goals for 2023


  • Get better at golf
  • Cook my own food
  • Continue coaching my son’s sports
  • Double the amount of reading that I did in 2022
  • Get more sleep
  • Be more intentional with personal relationships
  • Continue SmartPM Book Club and work to build a stronger culture with my colleagues and friends

These are just some of the things I want to focus on building throughout 2023. Who knows, maybe I will come up with more. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed these insights. They have developed my life personally and professionally in more ways than I thought were possible. I can never say it often enough, go buy Atomic HabitsYou won’t regret it.

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