What does the word dial mean in this sentence? It doesn't make sense to me with definitions I found in dictionaries.

“Conversely, when you have your habits dialed in and the basics of life are handled and done, your mind is free to focus on new challenges and master the next set of problems. ”

From: James Clear. “Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.”

2 Answers 2


‘Dialed in’ (also spelt ‘dialled in’, ‘dialled-in’ and ‘dialed-in’) is an idiomatic expression meaning having done something so often that it is automatic.

So the phrase ‘when your habits are dialed in’ means ‘when your habits are automatic to you’.

There’s lots of debate over the origins of the phrase. Some believe — and I think it’s most probable — that it comes from when you had to move the dial on an old phone to put in a phone number, and if you called your friends enough, the sequence of movements you had to do to get the number would be automatic after long enough.

Hope that helps!

  • Hence the 1 button presets to 'speed-dial'
    – user19179
    Apr 13, 2020 at 0:10

It means to have tightened your focus, and perfected (made perfect). TO dial in something is to become very good at (proficient).


It is a reference to a bygone time when radios had dials to tune in stations and one had to get that dial exactly right for the best reception.

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