The Book Talk #6 – Essential Zen Habits

5 min read…

If you are new here, this is the 6th episode of our book series – The Book Talk. Check our other blogs here. In this episode, we’ll discuss Essential Zen Habits by Leo Babauta.

I learned about Leo Babauta while reading Essential Essays by The Minimalists. They had mentioned him more than a few times. Leo is known for his blog “zen habits” where he writes about living frugally, happiness, saving, eating healthily, and successfully implementing good habits.


So, immediately after reading the Essential Essays, I got hold of this book and it was like reading Atomic Habits (by James Clear) all over again. Similar concepts, principles, and approaches.

Combining the concepts from both books, I drafted a habit-formation strategy. This 5-step strategy – complemented with other factors like mindfulness and process-oriented approach that Leo discusses in this book – will help you form any new habit.


1. Pick only one actionable habit. It is often tempting to change multiple habits at once, but it is a recipe for failure. Each habit we create requires a huge amount of mental energy and focus. So, create space for one change at a time.


2. Define time and space. This method is similar to the Implementation Intention technique. The 2 most common cues that trigger a habit are time and location. So, an implementation intention is a plan we make in advance about when and where to act. The format is: “When situation X arises, I will perform Y.”

Give your habits time and space. This way, when you make these factors very obvious you are prone to fewer distractions.

implementation intention

For example, I will [meditate for 5 minutes] at [6 am] in [my living room].


3. Set Reminders. To create a habit the right way, you need to create your environment. Willpower is overrated. So, set reminders. Physical reminders like a big sticky note on your laptop, running shoes next to your bed, or a meditation cushion next to the coffee maker are often best. Digital reminders (alarms) would also suffice.


4. Make a commitment. Public commitment is a huge motivator. When I wanted to create this book series, I immediately went online and made a public announcement. This large commitment didn’t let me off my hook, because I knew I have made a promise and there’ll be questions if I didn’t keep my word.

Also, find an accountability partner. Tell one of your trusted friends about your plan and ask him to keep you on track. Report to him, share your journey daily and set consequences or make a big pledge to do something embarrassing if you fail.



5. Journal your progress. Maintain a daily journal of the habit. You could simply start by writing a few points – what you did, what went right, what could be improved, how you felt, etc. Here’s a simple guide to journaling.

A sample of the journal I maintain after every cricket training session




1. Never miss twice in a row. We aim to do our habits daily, and when we miss a day, we feel miserable. This downward spiral would actually make us more likely to miss a second day, and so on.

One way to come out of it is: It is OK to miss one day, but never miss twice in a row.

2. Create a Minimum Viable Habit (MVH). A common problem with most of us is, we go in with an “all or none” approach. I am guilty of this. If I’ve promised to run 30 minutes daily and then I feel tired one fine morning, I’d decide not to run at all.

To overcome this, create a fallback plan, a mini-version of your habit. So, an MVH for “jogging 30 minutes”, would be, “tie your shoelaces and step out of the house.” Find your minimum viable habit – the smallest increment of the activity – and the resistance is overcome.

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3. Habit sprint. Sprint is a pattern of planning or mapping out your next week, then executing it. At the end of each week, you review how the sprint went and if there was anything you could improve.

Once a week, review your mistakes and adjust course. By reviewing your daily journal you’ll get better each week.

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If you like this book, purchase it on Amazon now! US: | UK:

We hope you liked this blog. What is your ONE takeaway from Essential Zen Habits?

Please leave your comments or send us a private message with any feedback. Your suggestions would help us write better. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates.

– Kavi & Ninja

Design credits: Canva

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