10 Health Habits You Should Adopt

A list of actionable habits you can adopt in your daily routine.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I feel I have never had such a creative moment as I’m having right now. I feel so inspired that I want to accomplish more and more. For a while, I kept waiting for the right moment to start something, I kept waiting for that inspiration people say usually say that comes. And it never happened. I continued to do what I usually do, which is pushing myself to do what I believe is important.

Suddenly I had a click, I realized the perfect moment is rarely going to come. We always have an insane amount of things to do and if you wait for that perfect timing, it rarely is going to come. So don’t wait for it! What we basically can do is to continue what we’re already doing, which is doing the work we’re supposed to do. I realized that I should do my work based on my own values and strategic planning, which means I also should do things slowly when needed.

I have a bunch of personal projects that are extremely important to me, and I decided I should do small batches until I get it completed and I should do it even when I don’t feel like it because I know a good result is coming in the end. Today I can do 10% of it, tomorrow I’ll do another 10%, and then I will already have 20% done and so on and so on.

Forget Big Change; Start Tiny Habit: BJ Fogg at TEDxFremont

The lesson here is to continue to do what you’re already doing and remember to always keep the final outcome in mind, but don’t rush it. Do it a little bit at a time — don’t stop! After some time you’ll have it completed and you can be proud of yourself. This year I started to have some healthy rituals that are helping me to become more productive while helping me to be a sane person in the midst of all the chaos. I made a compilation of ten things you should start doing if you aren’t doing already.

1 — Learn how to truly listen

After reading The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey, I started to think more and more about the importance of learning how to listen deeply. What I mean by that is active listening, which is not pretending you’re listening while you’re thinking about other stuff in the back of your head or even how you are going to answer the person’s questions. As Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

“When we really, deeply understand each other, we open the door to creative solutions and third alternatives. Our differences are no longer stumbling blocks to communications and progress. Instead, they become the stepping stones to synergy” — Stephen R. Covey.

Covey talks about how we should seek first to understand, then to be understood. I think this is brilliant! When we listen deeply to the other person we’ll understand better what they want, their expectations and you’ll also appear to be more empathetic. Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent of replying.

2 — Meditate

Do you know when your mind starts to wonder and what you feel like when you can’t stop it? Does this give you even more anxiety? Meditation can help you a lot with this. I truly recommend you to start with some guided meditation. There are really good apps for that, my favorite is Headspace and Insight Timer.

To help you to make the decision to start meditating, read this: Research shows that regular meditation can show a positive impact in:

  • Stress
  • Focus
  • Mood
  • Compassion
  • Aggression
  • Self-compassion
  • Work
  • Clinical populations
  • Anxiety (preliminary evidence)
  • Depression (preliminary evidence)
Headspace Video — Changing perspective

3 — Read books

I have some books that totally changed my life, who I am, and I’m super thankful for that. I understand that for some people it might be hard to maintain a daily habit of reading. I recommend you start slowly until you get into the habit of reading every day.

Some people recommend reading 10 pages a day which is not that much, so you can start with this goal in mind. I also saw some folks recommending to wake up earlier in the morning to read because your brain is refreshed after the sleeping all night and will absorb the information you read a bit better.

Another option you should consider is buying a Kindle, I finally bought mine this year and I’m definitely reading more because I have it. I love this idea of having different books available when I need them. Another great thing to consider is listening to books. I also use Audible and I love it, although I prefer to do both, read and listen to books. In fact, you can continue to read books while you also listen to books, and this is amazing! You should definitely try it.

4 — Turn off your phone notifications

I did that at the beginning of the year, and I’d like to say there’s no turning back. I absolutely don’t miss having my phone notifications on because it actually gives me peace of mind not seeing them. It also helps me to concentrate on what I need to do without having many distractions.

Another thing you should consider doing is to have a certain period of the day to check your phone. For example, check it during your morning break, during lunch and the afternoon break (of course at night too). You’ll be shocked in how productive and less worried you will be. I also love this idea of using social channels in a strategic way.

5 — Lunch breaks

I’m a true believer that we need to take the time to eat properly, meaning you should not eat at your desk or during meetings. Of course, eating at your desk can happen sometimes but it should be the exception and not the norm. Lunch breaks are a great opportunity to stop, have your brain rest for a while before you go back to your work and worries. And also socialize a little, get to know your work colleagues better and do some networking.

I love to have what I call “productive lunch breaks”, where I talk over the phone with my friends that are in different time zones. I also like to study during this time, as I started to do that to optimize my time when I was studying to get the PMI certification, and I loved having the feeling of accomplishing something other than my daily work during this time.

To boost your productivity you can also combine 45 minutes of intense work + 15 minutes of break!

Sometimes I like to read a book, listen to podcasts or even take some online courses during lunch break. It’s also a great opportunity to have lunch of a coffee with that person you met during an event, and you can also use it as your networking time with people who work close by you. It’s amazing to see the number of things you can do with this one hour break. I also started to have some productive lunches with work colleagues where we study together with a specific topic of a common interest.

Breaks help us with greater concentration. Your brain naturally works on high energy spikes, followed by low energy. The brain goes into a state of tiredness after one hour of work. My suggestion is not only having lunch breaks but boost your productivity combining 45 minutes of intense work + 15 minutes of break.

6 — Have a personal project

I have struggled for some time because I wasn’t feeling completely fulfilled workwise and after a while, I realized that it is really hard to expect your formal work to fulfill you completely, all-the-time. I have different ranges of interest that include creating my own clothes, doing calligraphy, being involved with animal rights, and of course, Product Management.

Two years ago I decided to work on a personal project which is an iOS and Android app dedicated to women’s health called Lunna, and despite the shortening up of my free time, my amount of happiness increased substantially. I’m not even talking about the number of things I learned and the new skills I developed and became an expert at because of my personal project.

I truly encourage any of you to have personal projects where you get to decide your own timelines and topics. It shouldn’t necessarily be something related to Product Management or your field of work, but it can be something completely different to your work like brewing kombucha. It should be something that makes you forget about your daily work and give you a good feeling and that gives you true joy. I have two good friends who live in Ireland and they decided to learn how to sail and got their sailor certification, including that one that authorizes you to manage the ship radio station. Isn’t it cool? I love it!

7 — Sleep at least 7 hours per night

After buying my smartwatch I realized how badly I was sleeping. Sometimes I slept 4 or 5 hours and when I was “good” I was sleeping 6 hours. Then I realized there was a correlation between my mood and my productivity that were tied to the number of hours I was sleeping. Pretty obvious but I only get a better sense of that 2 years ago. All researchers say that and there’s a lot of different blogs were also saying the same thing. I love to collect and analyze data, and of course, I only realized that myself after I quantified and saw charts of my sleeping habits. Shame on me! Of course, we’re different and we need a different amount of sleep, but that is not the point of this topic.

Over time I also realized I should have a good sleeping routine. In my opinion is not enough sleeping 7–8 hours per day, you should have quality sleep time, meaning that I’m not using my electronics for one hour (sometimes 30 minutes) before bedtime. The only electronic I allow myself during this time is my Kindle, which is in the category of books so that makes it my “happy category”. I was really surprised at how my sleeping routine and sleep quality are related and can be improved. You should also consider having tea (not caffeine) and treat yourself before bedtime to make your body slow down. If you’re not a tea person, find another drink that brings you joy and have that. Meditation can be a good option too!

You can also make this a habit. As soon as you develop the habit, your body will start to recognize it and respond better to the sleep time and all the gratitude it can give you. Don’t overestimate the power of habits, my friend! I’m currently reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and I’m taking this topic really seriously — a-ha!

8 — Work from home once a week

I always mention how I feel about the WFH thing. It’s definitely a treat my company gives to me and I really appreciate it. When I plan my week, I make sure the day I’ll WFH, I will do my most important work that needs my full attention and focus. Everybody knows how working in an open space office can be beneficial to the work collaboration, although it can be really distracting and difficult to focus as well. So I always try to take advantage of my WFH perk.

I know it can be hard, and some people and companies still nowadays have some prejudice about the WFH thing. WFH needs a lot of discipline and sometimes it’s not for everyone but I truly believe that maybe you only need to establish a routine and make sure you’ll deliver no matter if your video game and Netflix are begging you to give them attention. When you pass over the temptation of procrastination, you will see the difference and discover how productive (even more productive) you can be even in your pajamas, yay!

9 — Multitasking is killing you — slowly

In the past, we usually thought multitasking was a good thing and we could produce more work. We actually became really proud to say we can multitask all the time and we don’t have a problem with it. I know we really feel we’re incredible and extremely productive when in fact our brain is actually monotask. One study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively, and the rest of the mortals, probably like you and me, pretend we’re great and productive when we multitask.

The fact is that your brain needs more time to recall what you were doing when you’re multitasking. It’s impossible to switch between tasks in the way we envision simply because we’re not machines. We are still human beings who need food, water, sleep, and exercise.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t multitask:

  • Disrupts your performance
  • May cause brain damage
  • Memory loss
  • Insomnia
  • Increases anxiety

10 — Don’t work more than 50 hours per week

I already talked about why you shouldn’t burn your brain in this post, and I’d like to reinforce that again. Productivity is not linear and when we work more than 50 hours per week our productivity decreases significantly.

I know, we need to get things done and I’m all about that, too. But at the same time, I’m a true believer that we should consider having breaks to boost our productivity and listen to what our body is telling us. Make your body work in your favor, have a good night of sleep, take short breaks every 1–2 hours of work, and don’t burn your brain. When we’re rested we see everything in a different way making it easier to find solutions quicker.

I hope you enjoyed reading it. Share with me your secret weapon too!

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My name is Thaisa. I’m a Product Manager, and I’m based in San Francisco, US.

More about me @ my Portfolio, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m building an app dedicated to women’s health. If you want to get early access, subscribe to the waiting list here. If you’re looking for PM goodies, check my online store too!