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What I Learned at Optima 2022 from James Clear, Author of the Best-Selling Book Atomic Habits

Optima 2022 was such an exciting conference for me to attend for several reasons. First, I was thrilled to attend an event about management as I had recently stepped into my new role as Online Optimism’s New Orleans Managing Director. But even more exciting for me was that one of the keynote speakers was James Clear, the author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits. Out of pure luck, I had just finished Clear’s book, and I was eager to see him explain his tips for building habits while speaking from the main stage. 

on stage performance during the optima 2022 conference
Image from https://optimaconference.com/photos/

In his address, Clear mirrored many of the principles he wrote in his book, and he outlined an approach to achieving long-term success through developing small, consistent habits. Clear explained that the key to achieving big goals is not to focus on making a one-time, drastic change but rather to develop a system of small habits that, over time, will compound and lead to significant progress.

As a manager at Online Optimism, I can use the principles from Clear to improve my performance and help my team achieve its goals. Here are a few key takeaways from his talk and how I can apply them in my role:

Start Small

Clear emphasized the importance of starting with small habits that are easy to implement and maintain. For example, rather than setting a goal to overhaul your entire marketing strategy, start by committing to spending 30 minutes each day on a specific task, such as analyzing data or brainstorming new ideas. Over time, these small habits will add up and make a big impact on your overall performance.

I’ve found this to be true in my personal life as well. What started as a 5-minute stretch each morning has turned into a full-on yoga routine that I feel like I can’t live without. By starting small at work, I know tasks and routines won’t be too daunting. 

Make It Easy

Another key principle from Clear is to make it as easy as possible to develop and maintain new habits. This means removing obstacles and making it as convenient as possible to follow through on your habits. For example, if you want to develop a habit of regularly meeting with your team to discuss progress and challenges, make sure to schedule these meetings at the same time each week and in a location that is convenient for everyone.

No one likes surprise meetings on their calendars. But, by creating a consistent routine that everyone can get behind, I can create habits not just for me but for the whole company. 

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

One of the biggest obstacles to developing new habits is the tendency to become discouraged when we don’t see immediate results. From his talk, Clear recommended focusing on progress, not perfection, and celebrating small victories along the way. For example, rather than beating yourself up for not completing a task on time, focus on what you did accomplish and how you can continue to make progress in the future.

We often get bogged down by KPIs and qualitative goals for ourselves. Did we hit them, or did we miss them? But, by focusing on progress, we don’t diminish our work or the knowledge we acquired along the way. 

Make It a Part of Your Identity

According to Clear, habits are most likely to stick when they become a part of who we are. This means incorporating the new practices into your identity and making them a part of your daily routine. For example, if you want to develop a habit of regularly reviewing your team’s work, make it a part of your daily routine and prioritize it as a critical part of your job as a manager.

I’ve found this true with my personal life and hobbies. For example, I like to draw each morning. I’ve done it almost every day for over five years. Yet, I don’t think of it as a chore; I think of myself as an artist. 

Conclusion

Clear provided the roadmap and a powerful tool for achieving long-term success. As a manager at Online Optimism, I can use these principles to improve my performance and help my team achieve its goals. By starting small, focusing on progress, and incorporating new habits into my identity, I can develop a system of habits that will lead to lasting success. Then, I can pass these habits on to everyone else in the company! 

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