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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here:

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Mar 7, 2019


In last week’s episode (48 How to Start a Book Club for Educators) I mentioned my book club’s first title choice, Atomic Habits by James Clear. It was a great read and has inspired this episode.

While I will highlight my main takeaways from the book, I still recommend you read it as there is much more to it than what I will cover in ten minutes.

Before we start though, let’s consider why a teacher or trainer should think about the science of habit formation.

Why Should We Care About Habits?

“A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic” - James Clear

Let’s focus on you first: most forms of self-improvement start with establishing positive habits.

If you’ve read my book, The Productive Teacher, or you have been listening to this podcast for a while, you know I place great importance on self-care for teachers and trainers. Teaching is an exhausting job at the best of times, frequently you are responsible for the welfare of other humans. You cannot possibly give this your best if you are not on top form. So self-care needs to be a priority.

Here are some examples of how you might use habits for self-care:

  • Bringing an exercise routine into your week.
  • Drinking more water.
  • Taking more breaks.

Each of these actions can become positive habits.

Now think about the people you teach. Could they benefit from understanding how to break bad habits and create positive ones? I suspect the answer is a resounding YES!

Book Highlights

My main takeaways from Atomic Habits are:

  • Small changes build up over time and can create big results.
  • Positive habit formation is all about systems. If you have failed to establish a good habit in the past, chances are, you did nothing wrong. You just did not have the right system in place to give yourself the best chance of success.
  • Habit formation has four steps:
    • Cue
    • Craving
    • Response
    • Reward
    • Example: you are walking to work and you smell coffee, you crave coffee, you pop into the nearest coffee shop and grab a coffee, you reward yourself with coffee and perhaps a cake! Walking to work becomes associated with coffee and cake.
  • To establish a good habit, make it:
    • Obvious
    • Easy
    • Attractive
    • Satisfying
  • To break a bad habit, make it:
    • Invisible
    • Difficult
    • Unattractive
    • Unsatisfying
  • Make habit formation about identify - who do you want to be?
    • Example: you are not trying to give up smoking, you are not a smoker).
  • One of the easiest ways to form new, positive habits is to attach them to exiting habits. This is known as habit stacking.
    • Formula: “After CURRENT HABIT, I will NEW HABIT.”
    • Example (taken from the book): Exercise. After I take off my work shoes I will immediately change into my workout clothes.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at