James Clear

James Clear quotes on work

Author of the #1 NYT bestseller Atomic Habits. I write about building better habits.

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The 3 Levels of Employees: Level 1 — You do what you are asked to do. Level 2 — Level 1 + You think ahead and solve problems before they happen. Level 3 — Level 2 + You proactively look for areas of opportunity and growth in the business, and figure out how to tap into them.


In life: (1) Some things are not your fault, but they are your responsibility. (2) Other things are not your responsibility, but they are your problem. (3) Many things are neither your responsibility nor your problem, but they make the world better. Take action on all three.


Many people work hard, but few people work on the highest and best thing. Usually, it takes no more effort to work on high leverage tasks than it does to work on low leverage ones. It's just a matter of directing your energy.


Without hard work, a great strategy remains a dream. Without a great strategy, hard work becomes a nightmare.


The Paradox of Freedom—the way to expand your freedom is to narrow your focus. Stay focused on saving to achieve financial freedom. Stay focused on training to achieve physical freedom. Stay focused on learning to achieve intellectual freedom. The disciplined become the free.


A paradox of life is that the greatest returns come in the long-term, but the opportunity cost of moving slowly is huge. Long-term thinking is not slow acting. Act fast on things that compound. Never let a day pass without doing something that will benefit you in a decade.


The most overlooked and underappreciated growth strategy is patience. (More specifically, consistently producing great work over a long time horizon.)


Comparing yourself to others... ...is positive when it motivates you to get back to work, upgrade your skills, and remain dedicated to a meaningful pursuit. ...is negative when it causes rumination, negative self-talk, and lower self-esteem. It’s a thin line between the two.


Success is never due to one thing, but failure can be. Sleeping well won’t make you successful, but not sleeping enough will hold you back. Hard work is rarely enough without good strategy, but even the best strategy is useless without hard work. Necessary, but not sufficient.


If you haven’t started, then taking action is more important than finding the best strategy. If you’re already taking action, then ensuring you’re working on the right thing is more important than working harder. Your effort sets your floor. Your strategy sets your ceiling.


The best way to get the attention and respect of exceptional people is to do exceptional work. Like attracts like.


What you do on your ordinary days determines what you can achieve on your extraordinary days.


Hard work is the engine. Strategy is the GPS. It’s difficult to get anywhere without hard work. If the engine stops running, progress stalls. But you’ll waste a lot of gas without a good strategy. It’s easier to make progress when you’re following the optimal path.


In many cases, the bottleneck to achieving results is simply making the time to do the work.


Overrated goals: -Get a high-status job -Build a big social media following -Hit the bestseller list one week -Raise lots of money from investors Underrated goals: -Get a flexible job -Build a big email list -Write a book that sells every week -Earn lots of profit from customers


The best work resists compression. The best explanations are short, but potent. The best software delivers the same outcome in fewer clicks. The best manufacturing processes create products in less time and with less waste. The shape of genius is simplicity.


Work hard. If results depend on effort, then you will carry yourself far. If results depend on effort and luck, then you will be focused on the area you can influence. If results depend on luck alone, then the outcome is random, but you will have won the battle with yourself.


Giving your best effort does not mean simply working harder at what you were already doing. It can mean that, but it often means searching harder for a better way to do things. Giving your best effort involves execution and strategy.


Slow and steady often wins because it keeps you motivated. Take on manageable challenges and you'll get frequent signals of progress. Bite off more than you can chew and progress stalls. When you make progress, you want to keep going. When you break progress, you want to stop.


Showing up and working hard will always be the cost of entry. But when everyone else also works hard, your strategy is what makes the difference.


A practical definition of opportunity cost: If you spend too much time working on good things, then you don’t have much time left to work on great things. Understanding opportunity cost means eliminating good uses of time. And that's what makes it hard.


A thought on strategy for work and life: Look for opportunities where you don’t have to be an outlier to succeed. (Then work as hard as you can to be the outlier.)


One of the most underrated career skills that isn’t really taught anywhere is editing your own writing. Great writing is actually re-writing. Simplifying paragraphs. Clarifying key points. Double-checking for typos. Good writing will impress in any job.


The danger of collaboration: The more people involved in a project the less any single person takes responsibility for the work.


Work on things that you care about getting right. It is nearly impossible to become exceptional in any field if you do not genuinely care about "getting it right."


Win the day and the decade falls into place.


What are you passionate about? What is your purpose? What is your one true calling? Questions like these are popular, but can be hard to answer. Inversion provides clarity: You can discover what you want to do simply by eliminating everything you don't want to do.


Until you try your best, you’ll never know if it was actually genes/misfortune/bad luck holding you back.


It costs nothing to ask a successful person how they succeeded, but it may deliver more value than 1,000 hours of hard work. Others are under no obligation to tell you their secrets, but it is surprising how much you can learn from sincere, direct, and thoughtful questions.


The biggest risk is working on the wrong thing. The second biggest is being unreliable when working on the right thing.


Sometimes the cheapest option is to pay for someone else to do it.


A life well-lived is a life well-edited. Prune away the inessential. Pour yourself into what remains.


Truly great work ages well. Hype erodes with time. Quality persists.


Simple question to find work you love: What do you enjoy refining? Many people get excited to do something once, but ultimately get bored. It’s the areas you can’t help yourself from rethinking, revising, reorganizing, and optimizing where you have a long-term advantage.


The longer I am an entrepreneur (8+ years) and the more I become friends with other entrepreneurs, the more I believe: It is never as sexy on the inside as it appears on the outside. Never. Whoever your entrepreneurial idols are, they have plenty of headaches behind the scenes.


One lesson after doing 200+ interviews over the past year: The quality of the interview is directly related to how much the interviewer prepares for it. You might think “his talking points will be the same either way”, but being prepared changes the entire conversation.


High performance often hides behind boring solutions and underused insights. The fundamentals aren't sexy. They just work.


As gatekeepers decline, status signals shift from approval-based to performance-based.


Observation: The people who do valuable work often have a remarkable willingness to say no to distractions and focus on one thing.


Even people of considerable talent rarely produce incredible work without decades of practice.


The ideal form of work feels like play, but still accomplishes something useful and valuable. Joyful for you. Helpful to others.


Busy doesn't equal important and urgent isn't the same as necessary. Filter out the fluff and focus on what matters.

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