And no they’re not exercising, eating well, or making your bed.
Habits are crucial to our well-being and existence. They are what either make or break you. With that said, habits can be good or bad for you. We tend to stick to the same habits that we developed in our early adulthood or teenage years. Habits are hard to create but even harder to break.
I’m sure you’ve seen and read about a bunch of morning routines of successful people. As we try to implement these morning routines into our own lives and make them part of who we are, we often end up in failure. This is because habits and routines are very individual.
What works for one person might not work for you. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take the wisdom and advice of others and try to implement it into your own life, …hell I’m writing this article with the sole purpose of helping you improve your life.
The habits that I’m going to tell you about are habits that I have implemented into my own life. They have worked well for me so far in generating desirable outcomes. They can have a great impact on your life as well, but for them to do so you must give them a real shot. This means that you have to practice them over a longer period of time.
There’s a common myth that it takes 21 days to adopt a new habit. I’m sure you can relate to this if you’ve ever tried adopting a new fitness habit like going to the gym. Just because you do it for a period of 21 days doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to happen after that.
More often than not it is better to replace a bad habit with a better one instead of trying to add new habits on top of your existing ones. This will lead to habit exhaustion as I like to call it. The result is that you will end up just spiraling into your bad habits and failing to adopt the better ones.
1. Read. Read. Read.
This is one of the most important and life-changing habits that you can implement. Reading develops your mind, character, and knowledge. What one doesn’t know, one can read themselves to. How can I best develop a habit of reading, you ask.
The best way I have found to get into a habit of reading is to use an existing event in your daily life as a cue for it. I suggest you read during breaks/pauses in your work, studies, or whatever have you. This is what I have found works best for me.
To illustrate it, let’s say you are studying using the pomodoro method. After every pomodoro, you take a break. Don’t go on your phone during this break. Read a book or an article instead.
But… this break is only five minutes you say. In five minutes you can read at least a page in a book. And these five minutes every now and then add up.
You will also find that once you start reading, assuming you like the book you are reading, that you don’t want to stop. This is great! It means that you are changing for the better!
Think of it this way, how much will going on your phone and scrolling through endless social media for five minutes benefit you? Not much, I’d say. It steals and doesn’t give back. A book, on the other hand, can provide you with great knowledge (and entertainment for that part!). Knowledge is like invested money, it accumulates.
One of the most important things, when you are starting a new reading habit, is to stop reading a book if you find it boring. Don’t force yourself to finish the book as that will only discourage the development of the habit.
Don’t feel bad about not finishing books you don’t enjoy. There is this social stigma that you have to finish what you start but that isn’t the case here!
2. Multitasking Is Destroying You
Alright… yes I admit it, “destroying you” is a bit exaggerated but by all means, is this an important topic.
Multitasking is the pandemic of the modern-day office worker. We all do it to some extent. It’s hard to avoid in today’s digital age of hyper-distractions. Computers can multitask, humans can’t.
By believing that you master the great ability to multitask, you are merely fooling yourself and hindering your own potential.
It has been proven time and time again in research studies that we as humans are unable to multitask. This is especially true when it comes to things that use the prefrontal cortex of our brains (the part responsible for logical decisions and reasoning, aka the intelligent part).
Every time we multitask, our brain has to shift its focus and it takes a few seconds every time. If you are constantly checking your email every five or ten minutes, you are losing out on focus potential.
In fact, researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track after a brief interruption. So instead of constantly interrupting yourself, try to narrow your focus on one thing at a time. I know from personal experience that it is easier said than done.
My biggest distraction and procrastination tool of choice is my phone. I’ve found that by removing my phone out of my sight when working, I’m not having any urge to use it. I simply put the phone on Do Not Disturb (or airplane mode if I’m feeling hardcore) in a drawer in another room. Poof, it’s not on my mind anymore.
What you can’t see, you can’t acknowledge or take action on.
3. Do This Before Bed
A successful day starts the night before.
What you do at night plays a huge role in how your coming day will play out. These are simple things that most of us take for granted, like sleep. Sure, going to bed at a reasonable time so that you get your eight to nine hours of sleep is important but you already know that.
What you do before you go to sleep can be fundamental to your personal well-being and success. I’ve found that having a solid “wind-down” routine leads to improved sleep and mental health.
Your night routine should preferably be disconnected, which means going off your phone, laptop, etc. Listening to music or a podcast is fine though. Just don’t use this time to read email or watch youtube.
My night routine:
- Put away my phone and make sure it is on silent
- Turn off my laptop.
- Brew a cup of tea (caffeine-free, of course)
- Grab the book I’m currently reading and read for about 20 minutes (or until I feel satisfied). I recommend that the book you pick is fiction because I’ve found that fiction helps my brain relax at night instead of trying to learn new things.
- After reading, depending on how I’m feeling, I meditate. I started with guided meditations but have recently made the switch to unguided meditations as I find that it allows me to really embrace the act of mindfulness. This usually takes about 15 minutes.
- Journaling is something I do on some nights when I feel the need to and I can highly recommend it as it helps alleviate and clear your head before bed so you can sleep peacefully and free of thoughts.
- Last but not least, I brush my teeth, mouthwash, take a shower, and do my skincare routine before finally going to bed.
You should try to implement some of these things into your own night routine. Start with one at a time and don’t rush it. If you try to adopt several new habits at the same time you will most likely fail every one of them.
If one or more things don’t work for you, don’t stress it. We are all individuals with our own needs and preferences.
4. Stop Watching YouTube/Netflix
This is a big one. This was by far the biggest time-suck for me other than my phone. I could spend hours every night on YouTube, watching video after video like YouTube wants you to. The same goes for Netflix, every now and then I’d find a new show I liked and binge it. This is not sustainable behavior. It will not lead you anywhere in terms of personal growth and happiness.
I’m not saying you should never watch a YouTube video or a Netflix show ever again or to feel bad about it for that matter. What I’m saying is that you need to be conscious about how you spend your time, being careful not to use YouTube as a way to pass time or to procrastinate.
You can’t just remove this though without replacing it with something else or you’d find yourself sitting there with a bunch of time on your hands not knowing what to do with it. Then out of boredom, you’d fall back into old habits of going back on these platforms. The best and easiest thing that you can replace these with, in the beginning, is reading.
Read whatever, whether it be Medium articles or a book. What matters here is that you slowly get your brain used to decreased levels of dopamine. When you are watching YouTube or Netflix, you are constantly being fed dopamine as you get offered the next video and so on.
This is why doing something else is most likely going to feel very boring or slow at first. With that in mind, you should be able to recognize these feelings and understand that it’s part of the process.
After implementing one or more of these habits you will find that you start to progress much faster in your life. They are the fundamental stones you use to build a strong foundation for success and a fulfilled and happy life.
You will find that you gain momentum which will lead you to want to do more and more things. When we see results is usually when we are motivated the most to continue. So, celebrate the small wins and don’t take life too seriously.