“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”
Habits are more important than we give them credit for. Cultivate healthy ones and your whole life is transformed. Allow a few draining ones to sneak in and, even if not dramatic, they slowly but surely eat away at your productivity, your self esteem and your days. Life is nothing but a series of how you spend your days all added up. The little things matter.
This blog is all about the little things. I have found that by implementing a few, simple daily habits the days are improved and in turn that positivity ripples out into better weeks, months. It forms a happier life. I’ve picked these up over the years by listening to various podcasts/reading various books and found them invaluable. None of these are hugely intrusive and I hope you, in turn, find them as helpful as I have!
How you start the day sets the tone. Having a routine also means there’s less room for faff and you can systematically ensure you set yourself up well for the day. Here are my top 3:
- Make the bed.
This is so banal that I almost didn’t include it on this list but Naval Admiral William McRaven thought this was such a vital task that he mentioned it in his 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin. He suggests the logic is as follows: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”
It’s an easy win and it takes me a couple of minutes.
2. Meditation / Podcast
I like to make sure that I start the day with positive input. Whether this is a morning meditation (5-10 minutes) or whether it’s listening to a podcast as I prep my pre-training breakfast, I make sure I’ve had a few moments to focus my intention for the day before it begins. Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday first thing as this book provides wisdom in bitesize chunks — perfect!
Note: Only after the above 2 do I switch my phone off Airplane mode!
Some of you may have a different rhythm with this. Personally, if I don’t exercise before lunchtime, I find that my motivation slowly but surely vanishes throughout the day. Getting this done in the morning means I energize the rest of the day — I clear my head, I brainstorm and I return back to my laptop much less restless and ready to tackle admin.
How you end the day can have a huge impact on how you sleep. I find that left unchecked my brain will continue to spin around with endless thoughts, plans and To Do lists. I make sure to write down any ideas /anything I need to tackle the next day and then switch off to recharge my batteries. These 4 habits keep me on track:
- No Screens Past 9pm
This is a big one for me. Phones are ever-present in modern life; they are brilliant at distracting and it’s so very easy to spend hours getting unintentionally lost down a social media rabbit hole. It starts out as a “I’ll just quickly check…” and then hours later you’re still clicking on interesting articles/watching comedy goat videos/checking out adorable adventure dogs on Instagram/getting outraged by the latest offensive Donald Trump statement. That email can almost definitely wait, too. Put the phone DOWN.
This is really a follow on from the point above. I find Netflix/Amazon Prime (I purposefully don’t have a TV) binges as deadly as phones for unintentional time loss and brain stimulation. “Just one more episode…”
To quote the ever-wise Dr Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
(If you want to keep updated with what I read each month then join the mailing list)
Gratitude is such powerful stuff. I genuinely wish people would practise this more and complain less. Every evening, I make sure to list 3 things I’m grateful for that happened during the day and 3 things that I’m proud of myself for. Neither list needs to be particularly outlandish — e.g. sometimes I’m really grateful that it didn’t rain because I had a long bike ride scheduled in and perhaps another day I might acknowledge that I delivered an inspirational school talk, which gained some really positive feedback from both the students and the teachers! Taking time out to appreciate the things that are going well, rather than berate the things that are frustrating, automatically switches your perspective. I find it’s especially important to do this on the tough days when it would be tempting to default to “I have nothing to be grateful for because I’m so grumpy” — you’ll find there’s always something.
Yep, this features again! Unlike in the mornings when I keep this flexible, I aim to always meditate before sleep and my evening meditation is usually a bit longer — around 20–30 minutes. I find my brain really needs to decompress after a busy day and this is a good way to wind down and gradually quieten any thoughts that are racing around.
Do you have any daily habits that you love? Let me know!