7 Fundamental Habits to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness
As the author of more than 70 books, Steve “S.J.” Scott is one of the most productive and disciplined people I know.
His latest title, Habit Stacking, became a Wall Street Journal Bestseller and features 127 “small changes” you can make to improve your life in 5 minutes or less.
But as even Steve would tell you, trying to implement 127 changes at once is a recipe for disaster and disappointment, so I sat down to ask him where should we start?
What are the keystone habits he sees in happy, healthy, and productive people?
These are the 7 he came up with.
Habit #1: Track Everything
During my conversation with Steve, a common theme of measurement and tracking emerged.
What did he recommend you track? Just about everything, including:
- How you spend your time.
- How many steps you take each day.
- What tasks you completed.
- What foods you consume.
The tracking habit doesn’t have to add a lot of mental overhead to your day. He suggested apps like aTimeLogger and MyFitnessPal, and the Fitbit Charge 2 step-tracking device to help get this done quickly and seamlessly.
The principal here goes back to management legend Peter Drucker’s advice of “what gets measured gets managed.” Tracking also gives you a baseline of performance to try and improve against, and I’ve found it “gamifies” life a little so you work a little harder than you otherwise normally might.
“The idea here is to maximize your energy and the most important areas of your business,” Steve said.
I’ve found time tracking to be a powerful productivity hack myself, and have used tools like Toggl to get it done, but most often just use Excel.
Habit #2: Know Your Goals and Review Them Daily
Have you ever set a goal and then not thought about it for several weeks or months?
Me too, and if you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t hit that goal. Instead the trick is to keep those goals and priorities front and center in your life.
For example, Steve has his home screen in his browser open up to a private page on his website that lists his top 5 priorities for the year:
- Friends and family
- Training for an Ironman race
- Book writing
- Book marketing
- Working on his blog
This serves a multiple-times-per-day reminder of what he’s decided is most important, which makes it easy to say NO to things that fall outside of those areas — and easier to say YES to things that align with them.
Habit #3: Fix Your “Broken Windows”
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explained the “Broken Window Theory,” citing a correlation between run-down neighborhoods with lots of broken windows and graffiti and higher crime rates.
Steve said there is a similar correlation between how messy and chaotic your working environment is and how productive you are.
Perhaps the simplest “broken window” to fix is making your bed in the morning. I’ve found it helpful to clear off both my physical and digital desktops, so I can focus more on the task at hand.
Habit #4: Research A New Project or Income Stream
New investment opportunities or revenue streams don’t just happen, and they often take a lot of mental bandwidth to get started.
So instead of procrastinating on this, Steve recommended breaking the process down into 10–15 minute chunks. In his case, he spent his “research” time evaluating real estate investment properties.
The 10–15 minutes each day was enough to learn about the property, its condition, the neighborhood, and run some rough numbers in terms of expenses and projected income. The daily practice of analyzing deals gave him the confidence to pull the trigger and buy a house when one came across that met his criteria.
When you’re looking at potential investments or new areas of your business to expand, Steve suggested answering these questions:
- How much time will this realistically take on an ongoing basis?
- What equipment is required to get started?
- How much money do I need to invest?
- Does the type of business match my personality and interests?
- Could this scale into a full-time income (if that’s your goal)?
Habit #5: Break Down a Big Project into Manageable Steps
This habit is based on the Getting Things Done method by David Allen. For example, putting “write book” on your to-do list isn’t going to help you get your next book written.
Instead you need to, “take every single task and identify the next actionable step,” Steve said.
For example, Steve uses the Todoist app to help him do this. In his case, he’s built-out a 70-step process for writing a book, and uses the app to track his progress.
If you have something on your to-do list that’s been there for weeks or months, it’s probably because it’s not defined enough and needs breaking down.
Or it’s not really a priority.
Habit #6: Follow an Evening Shutdown Routine
“You need a really definite end to your work day,” Steve said.
He calls this habit his “Shutdown routine,” and goes through the following steps at the end of his working day:
- He makes sure he’s not forgetting any important tasks that needed to be completed.
- Reviews his calendar for the next day to be aware of any specific appointments or interviews.
- Identifies 1-3 most important tasks to work on the next day.
- Powers his computer down.
- Plugs his phone into a wall charger and leaves it until the next morning.
- Then focuses on family time.
This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes at the end of your day, but in our “always on” world it can be easier said than done.
I’ve found this to actually be a really rewarding habit to get into. There’s something about shutting down the computer that gives yourself permission to finally pause the hustle.
Habit #7: Practice Mindfulness
Do you even meditate, bro?
Mindfulness means different things to different people, but incorporating a mindfulness practice into your daily routine rounded out Steve’s list of recommended habits.
What does it look like in practice? It could be just a few moments of deep breathing, using a guided meditation app like Headspace, or going through a progressive relaxation routine.
This small habit can help keep your stress in check, and make you feel more grateful, grounded, and present.
What do you think of these habits?
Note: You can check out my full conversation with Steve on The Side Hustle Show podcast, where I explore successful business ideas and productivity tips every week.