We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. — Will Durant
Being successful- at everything you do- stems from practicing good habits. We are all the product of our behaviors. Successful people build powerful habits into their daily routines that allow them to optimize their health, productivity, relationships- every area of their lives.
The most important habits are known as keystone habits. These are habits which have positive effects on multiple areas of your life. Follow good keystone habits, and other things start to fall into place. Here are thirty of the most effective, life-changing keystone habits I’ve found:
1. Turn off your wifi when you’re working offline. Yes, you can turn it back on any time, but even so, this stops 80% of the mindless web browsing that sucks up so much of our workdays.
2. Put your alarm on the other side of your bedroom. Force yourself to get out of bed to deactivate it, and the process of getting out of bed in the morning suddenly gets a lot faster.
3. Exercise a little bit upon waking. Just a few minutes of pushups, planks and air squats every morning can help you wake up for the day while warding off creeping fat gain. Plus, if you have a busy day ahead of you and want to skip the gym, you can extend this workout to 20–30 minutes.
4. Every evening, make your to-do list for the next day- then stop working. It’s hard to enjoy your evening when you’re thinking about the next day. It’s also hard to be productive when you don’t have your day planned out. Solve both of those problems by putting together a to-do list, then setting it aside until the next day and allowing yourself to enjoy your evening.
5. Every time you log onto Facebook, send a message to an old friend. It’s easy to put off getting in touch with old friends you’ve been meaning to reconnect with. This habit makes staying in touch almost automatic.
6. Do your most intimidating task at the beginning of every day. Until you get that one big thing done, it’ll be nagging at the back of your mind all day. Get it done, and you’ll feel better for the rest of the day.
7. Look for people’s most interesting quality. When talking to people, think There’s something interesting about this person, and I want to find out what it is.
8. Go outside and get some sunlight every morning. The combination of movement, light and fresh air will wake you up, relax you, and set your circadian rhythm so you’re more alert during the day, and better able to get to sleep that night. Do this as soon as possible every morning.
9. Any time someone on the internet makes you angry, wait at least a few hours to respond. Odds are, you won’t even care a few hours later. After following this habit for a few weeks, you’ll notice that even that initial angry reaction isn’t as powerful as it used to be.
10. When you notice a trait or habit you dislike in other people, look in the mirror. Focusing in on other people’s flaws is usually thought of as a bad habit, but it can be a great self-improvement tool if you use it as an opportunity for introspection. Learn to ask yourself, Do I do that too?
11. Plan for the worst, but don’t obsess over it. Our fears are most powerful when they remain vague. They tend to vanish once we name them and know that we have a way of confronting them. Identify your worst fear, figure out what you’d do if it happened, then move on.
12. When meeting people, assume the attitude of “I hope I like you.” Compare this to the neediness of “I hope you like me,” or the negativity of “I hope you’re not a jerk.” You won’t like everyone, but it pays to set a positive expectation and look for people’s best qualities.
13. Dress like the person you want to be. A professor once told my class to always dress up for phone interviews. Clothing doesn’t just change the way others perceive you; it changes the way you perceive yourself. It changes the way you talk and act. Always dress like the person you want to be, even if you’re not concerned with how others see you.
14. Keep your home and workspace clean. Messiness causes us more stress than we realize. Get rid of physical clutter and you get rid of mental clutter.
15. Keep your kitchen extremely clean and organized. When your kitchen looks good, you’ll want to cook in it. More cooking at home means you eat healthier, save money, and of course, avoid a lot of stress.
Note: If you want to start building these habits but you’re not sure how, check out my habit change cheat sheet.
16. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. Most people are chronically dehydrated. Don’t be one of them.
17. Wish happiness upon others. A few times a day, look at a complete stranger and think I hope he/she is happy.
18. Eat your vegetables first. Vegetables are the one food group most people don’t get enough of, and they’re disproportionately filling for how few calories they have. Eat them at the start of every meal. By filling up on vegetables, you can use them to “crowd out” less healthy foods.
19. Meditate for two minutes a day. Even two minutes a day can make you noticeably calmer, happier and less self-conscious. The important thing is to do it every day, not to meditate for a long time; as with most things in life, consistency beats intensity.
20. Actively challenge your own beliefs. Look for reasons you might be wrong. Look for evidence that you could be wrong. Read articles by people who disagree with you.
21. Practice the pomodoro technique. Work for 20–30 minutes, then take a break for 5–10 minutes. Repeat a few times, then take a longer 30+ minute break. You can only work for so long before you lose focus- by planning for that, you can stop wasting time and get a lot more done throughout the day.
22. Use Facebook friends lists to curate your Facebook feed. Put people who you admire or want to build a closer friendship with in the “close friends” group. If someone’s being a downer and you want them to have less of an influence on your life, unfollow them and put them on the acquaintances list. Nobody will know you’ve done this- it’s a great way to subtly grow closer to some people while distancing yourself from others.
23. Share credit as much as possible. Any time you work with others, go out of your way to acknowledge their contributions. Sharing credit almost never diminishes you, and it’s always remembered by others.
24. In groups, make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Some people will proactively volunteer their own opinions. Others won’t unless they’re asked. Be the person in the group who makes sure everyone gets their chance to speak up.
25. Have sex. It’s good for you. Also, it’s fun.
26. Seek out good news. Based on the news, you’d think the world is falling apart. It isn’t. Crime and disease are going down, education and life expectancy are going up, and the world is mostly better now than it was ten years ago, but you’d never know that from watching the news. Seek out positive stories to balance out the media’s negativity.
27. Look for everyone’s best quality. If you look for a reason to hate someone, you’ll find it. If you look for a reason to like someone, you’ll find it.
28. Adopt the body language of a happy, confident person to become one. Stand up straighter and you’ll feel more confident. Lean back, and you’ll feel more relaxed. Smile and you’ll feel happier. By controlling your body, you can control your mind.
29. When you find yourself obsessing over negative thoughts, interrupt that mood. Stop what you’re doing, stand up, grin like an idiot, jump up and down and laugh like a little kid. Then immediately start doing something else before the negativity can take hold again.
30. Don’t listen to Nickelback. Successful people listen to Iron Maiden instead.
And before you go…
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