Some Good Habits To Follow
I'm extremely focused on habit development in my work as both a coach and on a personal level. I've found that breaking people out of routine and creating new ones is the best way to create long-term change. As such I have a very hard time isolating any single habit, but it is typically the accumulation of several habits that amount of what you want to succeed at. If you read many of my answers on health and fitness you'll find the same recommendations fairly consistently in terms of what habits seem to help people manage their own weight better (rather than typical eat less and exercise more recommendations). These include:
- Eating protein with every meal
- Eating veggies with every meal
- Eating complex starchy carbohydrates in moderation with some meals (more if you're exercising, less if you're sedentary)
- Eat healthy fats in moderation with most meals
- Aim for consistency over perfection, 80/20 or 90/10 rule is best; 70/30 seems OK for maintenance
- Cook as much of your own food as you can muster
- Keep healthy food options in the house in good quantity
- Keep food behind closed doors (you're likely to eat food that is left out in plain sight)
- Eat slowly and mindfully (count # chews, absorb the flavours, eat with chopsticks or off small plates, etc...etc...)
- Drink mostly non-caloric beverages like tea, black coffee and water
- Strength Train a few times a week
- Get your heart rate elevated a few times a week
- Move regularly through full ranges of motion (daily active stretching routine or better termed: mobility routine)
Here are some habits that I favour personally and have had to teach myself to to regularly in the more recent few years.
Meditation or Mindfulness Practice - Usually daily, anywhere from 5-20 minutes, but you can get good results according to research with as little as 60 seconds daily. It's key to practice, this is a new one for me, but I find myself much more at ease with an increased level of focus throughout the day.
Nap - Usually goes hand in hand with meditation, sometime mid-afternoon generally and no more than 20 minutes. I usually set an alarm, and meditate prior to it. I realize many people do not feel they have the capacity to do this (especially working 9-5), but I am so much more productive on days that I meditate and nap it isn't even funny.
Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. - 7.5 seems to be about the ideal length of time for me personally, as 8 often leaves me feeling drowsy and 7 often leaves me feeling tired. I think it's important to find a time somewhere between 7-9 hours that works for you. On days that I train harder, or am physically active for a long time (like a day hike), I usually sleep more like 8 too, sometimes 8.5, how much energy I expend in a day is definitely co-related to how much sleep I require. Also, quality matters, if I have a poor sleep, I try to sleep more. Recovery is absolutely critical no matter what you want to accomplish. It's difficult to get that specific all the time but that's why my next point seems valuable.
Decompress - Or create a nightly ritual before bed. For me this usually involves showering, foam rolling, a few low-intensity stretches, some reading, and a little writing to relieve my brain of excess thought. This has increased the quality of my sleep, improved mindfulness, gives me an opportunity to take notes about ideas regularly, reading can often give inspiration for those notes and it has helped my tissue quality and keeps me loose.
Make time for friends and family weekly - I'm actually bad at the family aspect of this, given that my family lives on the other side of the country but I generally manage to make time weekly for friends either through lunch meetings or over coffee. I run ideas by people mostly, but also get inspired by the ideas that get run by me. It also reinforces a feeling of gratefulness.
Make a Concerted Effort to Connect with My Spouse Daily - Say 'I Love You' often. Hug and kiss often, be physical, sweat together, travel together, talk often, make time. Have a morning and evening ritual. Meet up for lunch, go out for coffee, make time for dates. This is sometimes actually very difficult for me to do, given that I tend to over-focus on my occupational realm. It's nice to have someone reminding me to take a moment with them and get away from work from time to time.
Meet at least one new person a week - Something I've gotten away from this year but should get back to. New people breath new life into your perspective and take you out of your comfort zone a little bit, something I've always felt was good.
Write Daily - Lately this means a lot of stuff on Quora, but I have been writing a a blog called (it's third reincarnation under a new name) for a few years now. I've also been working on a book, that I plan to self-publish. I didn't start it with the intent of making money or building a brand, but rather wanted an outlet for creativity and a place I could refer clients to (I answer a lot of the same questions with new clients on a very regular basis). Writing helps you solidify and break-down complex topics that you know very well in your head but may have a difficult time explaining or communicating to others. To me it's all about the process.
Daily Mobility Break - Usually after I wake or after I nap. I take 15-20 minutes and go through a series of mobility drills, varying the tempo and adjusting based on how my body feels that day. I often groove motor patterns or work on stuff that I'm not particularly awesome at. This can also often include soft-tissue release work with various implements, but usually a travel roller, a lacrosse ball, a golf ball for my feet and two lacrosse balls taped together.
Read Every Day or Do Some Kind of Professional Development - Not just blogs either, which seems to be the preferred method of taking in content these days. I generally read a book or text-book, mostly non-fiction but that's just my personal preference (with the odd fiction book here or there) for about 30-60 minutes every day. Typically it is a technical book related to professional development, or on a skill I feel I lack but sometimes it's just plain out of interest. This habit has definitely made me smarter over the years and a lot better at what I do professionally.
Make Music a Regular Part of Your Life - I toy around with a group of guys, I guess you could call a band a couple of times a week. I have no aspirations of becoming a rock star anymore, but it's a lot of fun. Great creative outlet, takes my mind of work (which I often focus too much on) and allows me to explore other areas of life. It's my 'spiritual' kind of experience, some people go to church or practice a religion, I play music. If you don't play an instrument, try to pick one up. Or just listen to music regularly, expose yourself to new stuff on a regular basis, and not just top forty stuff either, get outside your comfort zone. Learn to associate different types of music with different things you do in life (I like to listen to Jazz or Classical while I cook for instance).
Get In the Habit of Discovery - Find What Works For You
I think often one of the best habits I've created, is the due diligence of working through advice like this and figuring out what is relative to me. For instance, I know a lot of successful people who credit their success to 'rising early' and even though I'm up at 6 AM pretty much every day, I loathe it. I get up that early out of necessity for work, not because I enjoy it, or find that I'm any more or less productive in doing so. In fact, I bet I'm less productive because I'm working against my natural tendencies. I think you have to tune into your own tendencies and be mindful of what works for you. I'm actually more of a night owl, and find that I get far more done late at night than I ever do in the morning, it's just that early morning is a prime time to work with other people for what I do professionally, so I've tried to adapt to that as best I can.
Likewise, everything above has been a period of trial and error for me. I know people who can't meditate, hate it, or struggle with it. The same can be said about napping. Some people hate music and believe themselves to be musically incompetent (ever heard people say they are tone deaf? ya actually that's impossible...). Others might be really flexible already and thus anymore flexibility work could be worse for them overall. I don't follow the logic that 'hey this person is successful and they've stated that this is what contributed to their success, so that is what I should do.' Though I may try it, if I know it goes against my values, my beliefs, my goals, or my abilities, I might not even give it a try, or maybe it's something that doesn't become a focal point for many years. I've known about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for many years, but it's only recently that I began to take it seriously.
Stop Making Excuses
One of the few things I've tried to restrict in life. Imagine how much more you'd get done and accomplish if you stopped making excuses for everything you can't do or things you could do if-only. Give yourself permission to not give a shit about everything. Excuses are self-inflicted limitations. Don't tell other people why you can't do things, focus on the things you can do the improve your own situation. When you experience a setback, tell others what you learned from that setback, resist the urge to come up with excuses why you did not succeed.
Not everything above will resonate with you, that's cool, it resonates with me. It's OK that it doesn't resonate with you, it's not supposed to. Nor should you expect that doing everything I list, will somehow translate into something meaningful for you. Everyone must find their own path, but it starts by not making excuses and setting your own limitations before you begin.