Atomic Habits vs Tiny Habits: Which is Better?

People often compare Atomic Habits with Tiny Habits. Which one is better? Which one should you read?

Hopefully this post will help. I read Atomic Habits straight after reading Tiny Habits, finishing both in the same month. Below I set out their similarities and differences before making my recommendation.

You can find summaries of both Atomic Habits by James Clear and Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg on this site.

Atomic Habits vs Tiny Habits - Which is Better?


Obviously, both are books about habits. As such, both talk about the importance of small changes. They even use the same metaphor about how habits are like small seeds that grow into strong trees. Atomic Habits claims that small changes “compound” (I disagree), while Tiny Habits says they can grow or multiply.

While both books give some of the same advice, they differ in terms of emphasis. For example, both books discuss the importance of environment design and making habits easier so that you don’t have to rely on motivation. However, Tiny Habits places much greater emphasis on this. Both also talk about how identity helps sustain behavioural change, though Atomic Habits focuses on this more. Atomic Habits even includes Fogg’s “Tiny Habits method” as one of its suggestions, though Clear calls it “habit stacking” and describes it slightly differently.

Both books are also quite short. In fact, the print editions of both books are exactly 320 pages! I suspect Tiny Habits‘ word count is shorter, as it includes more “bonus” resources, pictures, etc, so makes for a slightly easier read.

The two books were also published around the same time. Atomic Habits was published in October 2018 while Tiny Habits was published a year later in December 2019.


For two books about habits, they’re surprisingly different. They differ in their evidence base, intended audience, structure, specific advice and writing style.

Atomic Habits is more like a smorgasbord … while Tiny Habits is more like a set menu.

Evidence base

Atomic Habits summarises prior research. Clear gives proper credit to people he has learnt from, including BJ Fogg. He’s basically a blogger who’s read about behaviour and motivation over the years, and found some things that work for him. He admits he “had never considered [himself] a master of the topic, but rather someone who was experimenting alongside his readers”. Clear does not appear to have much practical experience working with others to build habits. He mentions his experience with the Habits Academy, but that only started the year before Atomic Habits was published, and appears to be an online-only, pre-recorded course.

In contrast, Fogg is a behaviour scientist. Unlike most behaviour scientists, however, he’s done hands-on coaching with real people since 2011. He claims to have personally coached over 40,000 people for free (which seems like a lot—that’s about 100 people per week, though I suppose he may have just spent an or two hour each week per cohort). Many of the stories in Tiny Habits look to be drawn from Fogg’s coaching.

Intended Audience

Atomic Habits seems to be aimed at people who want to build good habits in order to become “top performers”. The following quote sums this up nicely:

Over the course of this book, we’ve looked at dozens of stories about top performers. We’ve heard about Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, lifesaving physicians, and star comedians who have all used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.
– James Clear, Atomic Habits

Tiny Habits is more for “ordinary” people, or people struggling with something in their lives. Fogg’s stories often involve people who have used the Tiny Habits method to recover from some setback or improve relationships with their loved ones. In some cases, those people have gone on to excel further—but that’s almost an afterthought, a side effect, rather than the point of starting the habit.

That’s not to say Tiny Habits can’t help you excel. There’s a section in the book about clarifying your aspiration and then finding behaviours that will match that aspiration so, if your aspiration is to become a top performer, you can still do that. The difference is that Atomic Habits assumes your aspiration is to become a top performer, while Tiny Habits leaves it up to you.


The structure of each book is quite different, likely as a result of their different evidence bases. In short, Atomic Habits is more like a smorgasbord, with a variety of separate tactics, while Tiny Habits is more like a set menu, setting out a unified method.

Atomic Habits is about habits in general. It does not provide a single “method”. Clear describes various tactics that may work, but do not form a cohesive whole. In fact, the advice sometimes contradicts itself. In my opinion, Atomic Habits is useful for generating ideas, only some of which may work in your life. For example, the strategy of temptation bundling is quite limited. Every time I’ve heard someone describe it, they give the example of watching TV or listening to an audiobook while exercising. That just doesn’t work for me and the types of exercises I prefer.

Tiny Habits sets out a specific, unified “Tiny Habits method”. This is both good and bad. The good thing is it gives you lots of guidance. The bad thing is there may be other methods more suitable for your life, that the book doesn’t really discuss. For example, I like context prompts (notifications, reminders, etc), but Fogg quickly dismisses them in favour of action prompts (tacking a new habit onto an existing one). That said, the Tiny Habits method is flexible. The book explains the reasoning behind its suggestions, and you’re always free to tweak things to suit you. Fogg actually encourages this, as he says behaviour change is a skill. Like Atomic Habits, you can use the book to generate ideas, and the Tiny Habits Toolkit makes this easier.


The actual advice also differs in a few ways. Although Atomic Habits recognises that willpower is limited, it still suggests techniques to increase motivation, such as motivation rituals and temptation bundling. Tiny Habits does not, and says motivation is the last resort. Atomic Habits also emphasises the importance of getting your reps in, while Tiny Habits stresses that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for slipping up, that behaviour change is a skill, and that you may just need to tweak your Tiny Habits “recipe” for next time.

For bad habits, Atomic Habits encourages more of a cold-turkey approach. Advice includes deleting social media and games, and voluntarily asking gambling sites and casinos to ban you. Tiny Habits advocates a gradual approach—it likens bad habits to a giant knot, which you can only untangle one bit at a time.

Writing style

Atomic Habits is a very typical non-fiction book. Each chapter starts off with some inspirational or interesting story, which Clear then links back to habits (occasionally dubiously). Examples include Japanese trains, Guns, Germs and Steel‘s point about east-west vs north-south axes, and business production systems. It’s more like “entertainment” in that you might enjoy it even if you have no interest in changing your habits.

Tiny Habits, on the other hand, is a practical book. Reading it felt like attending a workshop on habits—along with the twee labels like “Magic Wanding” and “Swarm of Behaviours” that people who run workshops seem to love. The writing style is super-accessible, to the point that may trigger a few eye-rolls. But if you can look past that, I found the underlying advice far more useful than Atomic Habits.

Alright, so which one is better?

Tiny Habits is my personal pick. If you’re after a book about how to become a successful blogger, athlete, or businessperson, you may prefer Atomic Habits. But I favoured Tiny Habits‘ nicer, modest tone, which aligned better with my goals and general approach to life. I’m more interested in an enjoyable “normal” life than in “vaulting to the top of my field”. Atomic Habits made behaviour change seem demanding, and I found myself instinctively recoiling and questioning what the point of it all was. Tiny Habits made behaviour change seem approachable and easy.

You could certainly read both, as they’re pretty short. If you’re really serious about changing your habits, it’s probably worth the investment. One author may resonate with you in a way that the other simply doesn’t.

If you do plan to read both, I suggest reading Atomic Habits first to get some general principles and ideas. Tiny Habits will then tell you exactly how to put it all into practice.

Get Atomic Habits here: Amazon | Kobo or Tiny Habits here: Amazon | Kobo

These are affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you buy through these links. I’d be grateful if you considered supporting the site in this way! 🙂

You may also want to check out my summaries and analyses of each book here:

Have you read these two books? Which one did you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

7 thoughts on “Atomic Habits vs Tiny Habits: Which is Better?

    1. I got Tiny Habits as an audio book. BJ Fogg narrates it and it feels very friendly and gentle to me . His self disclosures are disarming. I am a Motivational Interviewing and Imagerery( hypnosis) coach , and I think tiny habits with imagery would be even bettet.

  1. You hit the nail in the head when you said….

    – “Atomic Habits is about habits in general. It does not provide a single “method”.

    – “Tiny Habits, on the other hand, is a practical book. Reading it felt like attending a workshop on habits…”.

    I found for making actual changes, the Tiny Habits material helps keep me focused. It is a totally unified approach and methodology. Plus one can join the free Tiny Habits 1 week program and get free coaching via email. It was a great way for me to focus and just do it! It took just 5 minutes per day for a week.

    Atomic Habits provides good advice in many areas, but it isn’t as focused as Tiny Habits on one methodology. Atomic Habits does offer 30 day guide via 11 free lessons by email. But Atomic Habits does not offer free coaching unfortunately.

    Thanks for your great summaries!

  2. This review was so helpful. I listened to then read Atomic Habits, making so many notes, determined that THIS time I’d be successful. Well that didn’t happen after 1-1/2 weeks.

    I’m now doing the 5 free days of Tiny Habits and my coach said I can do it again which I will. Something felt different with these 3 tinyhabits. I was able to play around with during the week which was different and very helpful. I like how there was no “do it at this time” as that’s just not me. I liked saying the congratulatory phrases before, during, and after each habit. That did make a difference. I’m not that far into the 5 days, but I’ve done 3 and still feel kind of excited for the next 2 days. I didn’t feel that with Atomic Habits. I’m definitely going to read the book now though as so far I’ve felt this program is geared to people more like me, a retired 61 yr old woman who wants to create a healthy lifestyle.

    Great review! Thanks.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m glad to hear you’re having more success with the Tiny Habits program so far. I too enjoy the little celebrations in Tiny Habits. Good luck with the changes and hope that you find the book useful 🙂

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