'Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.' - WH Auden
I consider The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg to be one of the books which changed my life.
Before reading it, my life was always chaos. I relied on motivation, spent my days in a reactive state and procrastinated far too much. I thought of routines as boring and habits as always harmful. Only when I read that habits are how our brains save energy by taking shortcuts did it click that, yes, they are powerful. I regarded the book as a manual and used it to change everything.
Good habits are an investment in the future. A bit of time and effort each day now leads to huge returns in the long run. Hence, I take them seriously. When I am building a new one, I go all out to make it stick. I put reminders everywhere, decide on an exact time, reward myself and do research. Regular exposure to all the reasons why said habit is beneficial always works. The same goes for dropping harmful habits.
I'm a sucker for productivity porn style articles about routines and habits. My own life is somewhat variable, though I manage to maintain many consistent elements. They are all chosen to benefit my mental and physical health and keep my life organised. Of course, I don't complete all of them every single day. It is a fact that life will interfere. What matters is that I always do my best and pick myself back up when I miss one. If I do manage to tick all 15 off, I am guaranteed a good day.
Here's a full breakdown of what they are, in rough categories:
1. Get up at 6 am. This is the sweet spot for me - early, though tolerable. Waking up any later makes my whole day feel messy and unproductive.
2. Make my bed. I live in small spaces most of the time, meaning tidiness is vital. Making my bed primes me for keeping a consistent level of organisation during the day. As a professional napper, it helps to prevent me from returning to bed too often. Learning to make your bed is also part of Navy Seal training
3. Meditate. No other habit is as hard for me to do and I can't explain why that is the case. Though the benefits are noticeable, if I don't meditate in the morning then it won't happen. I favour Headspace. Otherwise, Sam Harris guided meditations or this one from the 10% Happier podcast.
4. Move for an hour. I usually split this into 30-minutes of cardio and 30-minutes of strength/flexibility. The former consists of cross-training or cycling. The latter is a mixture of stretches, TRX, weights and callisthenics. I try to keep this as open as possible, so I can do it anywhere. During an ideal week, exercise happens on six days- otherwise I am cranky and unfocused. Casey Neistat claims that sleep can be supplemented with exercise and I have found that to be true for me. When I am sleep deprived or in a bad mood, more time at the gym does wonders. I don't have gym access at the moment, so hiking up hills for an hour has to suffice.
5. Air my anxieties. I explained my exact technique here. Doing this is vital for silencing my inner doubts and remaining calm. Chapman and I also talk over our anxieties before bed, if we are together. I view this as a form of emotional hygiene, the mental equivalent of taking a shower.
6. Speak to readers. I always aim to reply to all your emails and comments. They mean so much to me and often make my day. Nothing feels better than hearing I have inspired or motivated someone. It keeps me, in turn, inspired and motivated.
7. Declutter. Minimalism requires constant maintenance. I reassess what I own at least once a week and almost invariably find something to discard.
8. Select 3 main objectives for the day in my journal. Everyone should do this, every single day. It's one of the most powerful productivity techniques I have encountered. Even for downtime, I use this to ensure I complete everything I want to get done.
9. Fill in an Eisenhower matrix. This is an ideal way to order tasks and sort priorities. Dwight Eisenhower invented into during his presidency, stating that 'what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.' For those who haven't tried it, I send a free template to everyone on my email list.
10. Write something. My current aim is at least 1000 new words per day. During busier times, 750 is a good minimum to aim for. I love doing this very early, or even getting up during the night to hammer out my word goal for the day. Afterwards, I take the necessary time to edit and refine. Writing is my main focus at the moment, so the afternoons are spent adding to existing projects. As a rule, my morning writing has to be for something new.
11. Track EVERYTHING. I record how every minute of my day is spent and it is a powerful exercise. The same goes for all the habits mentioned here. What gets measured gets managed.
12. Learn a language for 30-90 minutes. French, Hebrew, Danish and German all get some attention each day. It's as much about training myself to focus on demanding tasks as it is about the actual language.
13. Watch a TED talk. This is my favourite way to get a quick boost of inspiration. TED talks are also fantastic for idea generation. I keep the topics as varied as possible. If the speaker is passionate and engaging, I'll watch any talk.
14. Read. Keeping up with my goal of 200 books a year required getting through the best part of a book per day. I do some of this at the gym, some whilst travelling, some during breaks and some before bed. Reading slots into the little gaps in my life. Or rather, my life slots into the big gaps around reading.
15. Make notes from books/articles. I keep a combination of physical and Evernote notebooks (which my patrons have access to.) Whilst reading a borrowed book, I mark passages with post-it notes. If it's my own book, I underline or asterisk key parts. Then I transcribe these for future reference and analysis.
Let me know in the comments what your daily rituals are and which you would recommend!
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