Atomic Habits & The Science Classroom: An Amicable Pair

Atomic Habits: What Are They?!

In his brilliant novel Atomic Habits, James Clear built upon the idea of small routines and how we can manipulate them to make massive changes in our lives. These small routines in our daily lives can be referred to as ‘Atomic Habits.’ From the novel, I believe some of the most important aspects of atomic habits are as follows:

  • small aspects of a normal routine
  • can be built upon and changed
  • when built upon, can be very powerful in a person’s success and growth
  • can be compounded with other aspects of a person’s daily routines
  • can produce an overall productive routine and set of habit when compounded

Atomic Habits in the Science Classroom

Taking these skills that we learned from Clear’s novel and applying them in our classrooms is essential if we want our classrooms to be elevated to the next level, or even pushed into the “Margins” (reference last week’s post!). There are several techniques that I think would be so helpful when used in the classroom; the two that I feel are the most important and will outline in this post are:

  • focusing on SYSTEMS rather than GOALS
  • Habit Stacking

How to Focus on SYSTEMS Rather than HABITS

In Atomic Habits, Clear gives us a great explanation as to what the difference is between systems and goals. He states that “goals are results that we want to achieve, while systems are the processes we follow to reach these goals” (pg. 23). Here are several ways that we can adopt this in the classroom:

  • Identify goals that the students wish to achieve in the BEGINNING of the school year
  • After the goals have been Identified, DON’T CHANGE THEM!
  • Have students create processes (or systems) they plan on employing to help them reach their goals.
  • If they find themselves not reaching the goal they set, they should adjust the PROCESS not the goal!

In a science classroom, this could entail students adjusting their studying/preparation process before Lab days if they find themselves feeling lost or behind when participating in lab activities.

Habit Stacking

Clear also gives us the powerful technique of “Habit Stacking”. Habit Stacking entails taking a current habit you already have and stacking a new behavior on top of it (pg. 74). Habit Stacking in the classroom is a necessary technique to ensure success for every student! Some ways that students can incorporate habit stacking in their academic routines are:

  • students can incrementally build on their study habits by starting with organizing their schedule
  • Once their schedule is organized they can begin figuring out a PROCESS to their studying, like breaking it up into different days/weeks!
  • Once they have a defined studying process, they can then develop testing plan and testing techniques they want to use!
  • The possibilities are endless!

Ultimately Atomic Habits are an integral and essential aspect to consider in education. James Clear’s novel is a great resource for both teachers and students to use in their academic routines/habits!


  1. Hi Lauren,

    I really liked how well you summarized “Atomic Habits” and enjoyed reading about how we can adopt these concepts in the classroom. In your opinion, which of these concepts listed in your blog would be the most difficult to implement in the classroom, if any? Which would be the easiest?

    • Hi Jay! Thanks so much for replying to my post. I think the hardest way to implement Atomic Habits into the science classroom is definitely beginning to change your study habits. Once a student begins to change their study habits, though, and sticks to these changes, it will be so beneficial for their organization and overall confidence during class! It is not always easy to make these changes, so going off of Clear’s idea, they can incrementally make changes in their study habits to make it easier!

  2. Hi Lauren V.,
    Great post about atomic habits! I agree that systems rather than goals and habit stacking can be useful tools in the science classroom to help students improve their learning habits. Students may not realize it at first, but the small habits (good or bad) they do each day really add up over time. One question I have is how you might apply systems to achieve goals and habit stacking in your own career as a teacher?

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