I have read so many articles that have a headline similar to:
“If you want to be successful, adopt these 5 habits right away!”
The problem is, the author is always telling me what I should do to be successful as if my success and their success looks exactly the same.
I get so many of these articles telling me about the habits that I should have or my life is clearly falling apart. I’ll admit, many are good and I have certainly tried them.
But what about the author? Are they using all of those tips? Do they really have all of those habits locked down when they had a post a month ago telling me 12 other success tips? I want to know the person behind the word and if it’s actually worth my time.
Maybe I’m small minded and not wired for success, but when someone says that Bill Gates does X every day, I have a hard time thinking what’s applicable to Mr. Gates is applicable to me. Maybe it’s my bias towards good bloggers because I want to be one, but I’d rather know what they’re thinking than what Microsoft man is thinking.
Here are a few habits that I have tried and failed at establishing, but I want to have. The reality of habit creation is that starting or ending a habit is pretty difficult on the first try and just because I enjoy writing about this stuff doesn’t mean I have it down.
I have tested each of these and seen the benefits, I’ll tell you why they’re worth a try yourself, why I have failed, and how to get started.
1. Establish a nightly review
Taking as little as 5 minutes to review your day — cross off your task lists, plan the next day, reflect on what happened — is probably the most effective time spent in your evening.
Why should you do a nightly review?
There is a sense of closure for the day’s activities. If you do it before you sit down to binge on Netflix or IG, the time you spend on those activities aren’t bogged down by lingering thoughts from your day.
I often half-pay attention to what I’m watching or reading because I’m still working through what happened that day. As a result, my time to relax is rarely relaxing and I end up crashing into days where I get nothing done but hours of home makeover shows and LoL Let’s Plays.
Instead of half-ass processing your day in your head while distracted, sit down and write it out so it doesn’t take up more time than you need it to.
How do you do this?
Pick a platform — a notebook, the note-taking app on your phone, or a word doc on your computer. Set a timer for 10 minutes and review your day. It can be longer or shorter. Just do it consistently and write in the same place every day.
If you don’t know what to write here are some questions — Did you do everything you wanted to today? What is on the schedule for tomorrow? What good/bad happened? What do you want to do better tomorrow?
Why I’ve failed at this?
I, like the rest of the world, come home and think any effort put towards anything after a long day of work is terrible. I worked all day dammit why I do I have to effort some more?
But I’m just being lazy and making life harder for myself. We make time for everything and everyone but ourselves, 10 minutes won’t kill you.
Here’s the deal, people get intimidated by the idea of meditation, I get it. They think it’s some hippie nonsense or they try it a couple times and think it’s not working and give up.
It’s new, it’s different, and it’s difficult to know if you’re doing it right because you don’t get the same concrete feedback that you would, say, running 2 miles a day. Our brains have also been melted by distractions from the internet at all times so the prospect of sitting with nothing happening can be anxiety inducing on the first few attempts.
How often do you get through a whole article without something pulling your focus away?
It could be that my writing is boring (likely), but it is likely that your mind is in constant distraction mode at all times.
Why should you meditate?
Meditation is the cheapest, quickest, and safest time you can spend improving your mental health.
It’s just you. You don’t have to buy anything, talk to anyone, or make yourself vulnerable in uncomfortable ways.
Meditation improves my focus, brings me clarity, and fights off anxiety. My thoughts often feel like one is melting into the other without completion.
I have spent 5 minutes in the bathroom stall meditating at work before. It’s very good for those days you get chewed out by a customer and need to regain composure. I feel squeamish about wasting company time, even if it did improve my performance, so it never became a habit, only a tool.
My longest streak of days spent meditating only 5–10 minutes was about 9 days. The best overall streak was 17 out of 20 days.
Why have I failed at this?
First thing in the morning, I’m thinking about coffee and don’t plan enough time to meditate. In short, I’m not doing it because I’m making excuses that I can’t find the right time. I watched four episodes of The Good Doctor today with my partner, together we probably watched about an hour worth of commercials and I’m saying I don’t have time. Embarrassing.
3. Morning Journaling
This habit I have finally started to establish. At the time of writing the first draft of this post, I’m at 25 days straight doing my morning journal which I call Dailies.
It’s nothing special, there are no magical prompts or anything. I understand that this is basically the same as the nightly review, but for me they serve different purposes. If you had to choose one, I’d go with the nightly review if you need a way to unwind, and the Dailies if you need to spark creativity and practice writing.
I write what is on my mind. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to do today, maybe it’s a blog post idea, maybe it’s me being pissed off because I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back asleep.
I just sit down and get words to paper. Taking the time to sit and evaluate what I’d like to happen, sets my day up to make things happen.
Most of my blog post ideas come from Dailies. I’ll often start the idea in the morning and spend the rest of the work day mulling it over in my mind until I finally get time to sit down and crank it out.
Why should you have a morning journal?
Besides the dozens of articles talking about it. Super-Medium writer Benjamin Hardy believes it could change your life. I tend to agree.
I’m more productive, more patient, and less likely to fall into crappy habits because I’m working through my emotions on paper rather than succumbing to impulse in real time. If I wake up needing Donuts, I can work through it on my Daily.
Why have I failed at this? (In the past?)
I’d often shoot myself in the foot with poor sleeping habits. I’d wake up with barely enough time to get to work so sitting down and writing quietly in my journal was out of the question. I started to fix this by sending myself an email every morning instead.
Why should you do yoga?
If meditation is the cheapest and most effective time you can spend improving your mental health, yoga is the cheapest, safest, and most effective time you and spend on your body.
Yes yoga is a multi-faceted practice, for sake of argument we’re talking about the physical movement (asana).
I grew up playing soccer, football, and basketball. I love powerlifting and bodybuilding. I biked to work 10 miles each way 6 days per week in a past job and I loved it. But if I could only do one thing for the rest of my life I’d do yoga.
Knowing how to control and move our bodies and practicing that every day beyond the normal stand, sit, walk, lay down is so important to your overall health! The practice literally combats a lot of what is involved with aging: stiff joints and muscles, reduced bone strength, poor circulation, lower overall body strength.
There is a type of yoga regardless of body shape, size, or the number of limbs you have. My grandmother is a double amputee above the knees and there are yoga videos for her that she does. You have an internet connection because you’re reading this, if you want to exercise there is literally no reason you shouldn’t be trying some basic movements.
Why have I failed at this?
I have prioritized other sports instead. For a while, I was rebuilding all of my powerlifting movements and currently, I’m focusing on bodybuilding. It’s been two years but I’m literally taking a class today (June 1, 2018) to start practicing again!
Update: It was hot yoga (as in 95 degrees) not as hot as I expected, I literally had sweat puddles on my mat, but damn it was good.
4. Weekly review
This is probably the anchor for all of my habits and goals. My weekly review is the time I spend to review my goals, check my finances, and update my journals or habit logs.
I don’t know why, has taken me way too long to realize that goals don’t work if you don’t actively review them often. It seems obvious, but I’m the kind of person who gets super excited about starting and planning rather than finishing and executing.
If you don’t establish some set day and time to look at your goals, you may as well be writing the list of things you’re buying when you win the lottery.
How do you do this?
Again, notebook/app etc. 10–30 minutes of your time. Go through the week, how do you feel about it? Was it good? Bad? What are some big things that happened during the week? What do you have coming up next week that you need to take care of? What are your goals? Did you move towards them at all? Could you have done more? What are you going to do next week to work towards them?
Why have I failed at this?
I foolishly treat my weekends as times where I’m not supposed to care or “work” towards anything and just lounge around watching YouTube and Netflix.
I also made the mistake of trying to constantly re-evaluate my entire life each week instead of just going over things piece by piece. Start with just what you’re trying to do to have a good week, then follow up the next week with more questions about goals if you have to.
I’m writing a blog post about my weekly review so I’d better do it this week.