Five Habits that Radically Improved My Life

Michael E. Gruen
3 min readApr 8, 2013

Over the past year or so I’ve adopted a few habits that I thought would enhance this little experiment called life.

I didn’t start them all at once—I kneaded them in over time, giving each new habit three months to stick. Then, on the next.

I thought to share them in the hope they’d help you, too. In order of appearance:

Skip breakfast

The habit returned 30 minutes to my morning and reduced my caloric intake by about 300 kilocalories a day. Each week, 3 hours and 2,100 kilocalories back in my favor.

The first few days were rough, but after a week it was a non-issue. I lost fat mass, gained time, and made better food choices throughout the day since I only had two meal decisions to make, not three.

Breakfast may be “the most important meal of the day”; but, for me, it’s marginal at best.

Wake up consistently

I wake up at 8:34am EST every day—weekend or weekday—regardless of bedtime. I don’t use an alarm.

8:34am? When I started, sunrise hit my bedroom window at 8:35am, and I figured I could use the bright light to my advantage. After a few weeks, I started waking up 30-60 seconds before my alarm went off. Now, 8:34am. No alarm.

I sleep better, fall asleep more easily, and have a sunnier disposition despite my curmudgeonly ways. Oh, I also don’t require caffeine, a fact that shocks nearly everyone.


I don’t kid myself that I can multitask (no one can) so I remove all unnecessary distractions to focus on the task at hand.

When working, especially on longer projects, I disconnect my e-mail, silence my phone, and put on some big ‘ol headphones to tune out the world.

In result, I do better work in fewer hours.

Also, that nervous twitch to check my inboxes, cellphone, Twitter, etc. has faded. On the occasions where my own intellect interrupts me, I shunt its random, off-topic musings onto a nearby notepad for later consideration.

Lift heavy

Like most knowledge workers, I exercise regularly to offset the more sedentary hours. However, unlike most knowledge workers, I push myself to failure every time.

While useful for preventing injury, reducing stress, shedding fat, growing muscle, and increasing energy, lifting heavy also makes end-of-day sleeping incredibly welcoming. Quality sleep yields quality thinking, generating better work.

I can also, on occasion, eat with reckless abandon without fear of meaningful repercussions.

Keep a daily journal

Every day, I spend a half-hour chronicling my life into a 500 to 2,000 word narrative that forces me to reflect on my choices, accomplishments, and failures since my last entry.

Of all my recently-formed habits, this has been the most transformative.

The exercise makes each moment more memorable—each day more meaningful. Even on days with twelve contiguous hours planted in a desk chair, life seems fuller.

Blank canvases feel inviting, not daunting. My word choice more vivid, precise. My thoughts are more organized, and my work continually improves in quality.

Writing matters. So, I practice on myself.

Skip breakfast, wake up consistently, unplug, lift heavy, and keep a daily journal.

Next up: Dress Smarter.

Further reading recommendations: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. LeanGains by Martin Berkhan.