These, I believe are the top 12 habits you need to incorporate into your life, if you want to progress your goals and be your best self .
I have categorised these into 4 areas:
- Keystone – The basics, without which you will struggle in other areas
- Productive – Habits that will help you take action, progress and achieve.
- Self-Development – Habits that will help you progress your skills, career and hobbies.
- Self-Growth – Internal habits that will contribute to your wellbeing, and even your spirituality if that’s what you want.
The first 3 habits are keystone habits or foundational habits, if you form these, then they will make other habits easier to form, if you haven’t got these habits right, I suggest you focus on these first:
We all know that essential of sleep, but how many of us have consistent quality sleep? Sleep is probably more important than exercising, although they are both essential to a good life.
When you are fully rested, you are able to function at your full potential, so have a set bedtime and stick to it as much as possible.
The first thing to do is find out what your optimum sleeping hours are, some people function well on 4 hours, others need as much as 10 hours. Buy a sleep watch to track your sleep and provide an analysis of your sleep pattern, amount of deep sleep etc. some activity tracker watches do this. Most people need between 1.3 and 1.8 hours of deep sleep per night, for further information on sleep requirements see EightSleep.com
Once you know what your optimum sleeping hours are, make sure you get them.
2. Healthy Eating
We all know how important it is to eat healthy, but temptation is lurking on every corner. If you want to eat healthier, keep a food journal for 2-4 weeks. Use the findings to find out where and why you go wrong, do you wait until you are really hungry? then eat the all the wrong things. Do you buy convenient food? because you have not planned and prepped your meals. Having awareness of where you go wrong, will provide you with the answers of what you need to change.
Start with small changes, I don’t eat enough fruit in my diet, so I have just introduced eating 16 (approx) red grapes a day, the equivalent to 1 portion of fruit. I then introduced raw carrots, I did struggle to eat raw carrots, but now I chop them up and dip them in humous, I use these to snack on during the day. I prepare these and take them to work in tubs. I want to increase my fruit and veg intake further, particularly raw foods, but starting with these small changes is a positive step forward. What small change will you make?
I can’t stress this enough, if you do nothing else but exercise, I guarantee it will positively affect other areas of your life, including your mental health, motivation, energy and wellbeing levels. I know when I go the gym regularly, my anxiety virtually disappears, I feel good, confident and have high motivation in other areas of my life.
Again, as in habit 2, establish small changes first, you could start with walking just 15 minutes a day, or you may go the gym twice a week to start. Establish those small changes, then they can be built upon, have patience. Don’t make excuses, the health of your body should be a priority.
If you want to focus on just one habit at a time, that is okay, whatever works for you is always best. However, the first 3 habits are interlinked, for example if you exercise each day, you are more likely to fall asleep quicker and have better quality sleep and if you don’t ensure you get enough good quality sleep, you will not get the full benefits of exercise, nor will you if your body isn’t fuelled by healthy nutrition.
Habits 4, 5 and 6 are what I call productive habits, they are habits that will help you to take action by making the time and the space to so:
4. Wake up at 5.00 am
Why do you need to wake up so early? because google the habits of successful people and you will see they are mostly early risers, they get up earlier than they have to.
I love early mornings, you have more motivation early in the morning, motivation dwindles as the day goes on, as our brains and bodies get tired, so use that extra time in the morning to practice your good habits, many of which are mentioned in this post.
You don’t have to get up as early as 5.00 am, but try and get up 1 hour earlier than you have to, use that time to meditate, exercise, read or work on goal related tasks. Again start making small habits by getting up 15 minutes earlier each then and build on that.
Imagine gaining at least 1 hour every day to do the things that are important to you, that’s an extra 365 hours a year, now that’s what I call productive!
5. Planning and Scheduling
I started using the ‘Freedom Mastery Law of Attraction’ Planner, last year and I have to say it was the most productive year yet and now I have gotten used to this planner, I have started to plan out my second year. I may do a review post of his planner in future.
I review my planner most mornings, I sometimes take pictures of the planned day on my phone, so I don’t have to carry the planner around with me. I just have to check my photo to see what it is I need or want to do that day. I also have a smaller diary, just to transfer some of my ‘To Dos’ so I can carry this in my bag, its A5 and lightweight.
If you have only ever used a diary before, you will find this planner really helps increase your productivity, particularly in working towards your goals. Planning and scheduling in goal oriented tasks, keeps you moving forward. A good planner will also have a habit tracker to help you establish good habits.
Scheduling will prevent you from just reading through your goals and saying ‘one day’, scheduling time in to do a task and actually doing it is what will take you towards achieving your goals.
For me, even if I have only spent 10 minutes getting everything ready the night before, I am already off to a good start. When I have prepped, I feel so much better, more organised and it saves me time in the morning.
Get your clothes ready, right down to your underwear, shoes and handbag, prepare your breakfast, lunch, gym bag, whatever you need for the next day. If you make this a habit, you will find you don’t have to think about it, you just automatically do it. I have green Matcha latte every morning using almond milk, I pour the almond milk in my glass cup and put in fridge the night before, just ready to pop in microwave, whilst I part boil the kettle to whisk the green matcha power.
If you prepare for the next day, you are less likely to forget something.
Preparing the little things the night before really saves time in the morning and puts you in the right mindset. I also set off for work earlier than I should, so I can meditate at my desk for 5 or 10 minutes before starting my day. Habit ticked off tracker and I am ready for the day.
I don’t think you can be organised with clutter in your environment, yes, some people can work that way but the majority of us would struggle and be less productive. Keep your house in order, do a 10 minute clean / tidy before you go to bed. I often set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes to do this.
Your day gets off to a good start when you wake up to a nice clean tidy environment, rather than a pile of dishes in the sink.
I associate self-development with developing external things such as your skills, career and hobbies.
I have included meditation in this section, rather than the self-growth section, because I feel it is a good practice to help self-development because it can give you clarity and focus. I swear by it, I have meditated daily for the past two weeks and it has put me in a good frame of mind.
The amount of time you meditate is not important, 5 minutes is better than nothing, you can always build on this once the 5 minutes becomes a habit.
I have tried for a couple of years to meditate, but only recently have found a way to make it a daily habit by getting up earlier, getting into work 15 minutes earlier to meditate. I have a meditation app on my phone and put my headphones on and meditate away.
Meditation gives you a good start to the day, you can pick a meditation that you want to do depending on your mood and you don’t have to stick to the same meditation everyday, switch it around, try a self-compassion meditation one day and a motivation meditation the next.
Like all habits, they key is consistency, most people can spare 5 minutes, give it a go.
So many people never read any books, I believe books serve many purposes, you are learning from an other person’s expertise, experiences or imagination, in a concise little package called a ‘book’, how good is that?
Many book’s collate many hours if not years of research, make use of someone else’s knowledge, imagine if you wanted to learn ‘how to form good habits’, would you buy a book or conduct your own research? Enough said.
Do a reading list of books you would like to read over the course of the next year.
I have recently started to read 15 minutes a day, a habit that corresponds to my goal of reading 12 books a year (one a month) for self-development. If you want to read regularly (most successful people read a lot), then schedule in your diary / planner, you may opt to read once a week, twice weekly, 1 chapter or 10 pages a day, week or month, just schedule in whatever works for you.
Whilst reading is a form of learning, habit number 9 goes beyond reading, it may be learning a new skill, a language or developing a new hobby. Learning is not something you should cease once you leave the education system, it should continue your whole life.
There is only so much you can ‘learn’ from a book and you can’t learn without putting things into practice, to me I learn best when I am practicing, that doesn’t mean I can’t read about the new skill I’m learning, the different types of learning and practices you do to learn a particular skill, the more the learning is reinforced.
Remember, just as our bodies need exercising, so does our brain. Write a list of things you would like to learn if money and time was no object. Then, brainstorm, what can you learn in the next 12 months, even if that is only one aspect of a particular thing you wish to learn. Your learning can be related to your current career or a new career, hobbies or just a skill you have always wanted to learn.
Remember, change takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight, it is only your consistent and persistent daily habits that will get you to where you want to be! So be patient, but above all else be persistent.
Personal Growth Habits
Habits 11 and 12 are more about internal work, that will improve your wellbeing, personal habits and give you a feel good factor on the inside.
Reflecting back on your year, your month, week or day can give you insight into your habits, behaviours, character and much more. It helps you learn about yourself, which can in turn help you see clearly what you want to improve upon.
Reflection is key to self-awareness and this awareness can help you see clearly what you want to change and what will work for you.
Journalling is a useful tool for self-reflection, you may see patterns or trends in your emotions, such as anxiety or depression which have become such a part of your day to day thinking that you don’t acknowledge anymore. Reading back through a journal and seeing these reoccurring emotions and patterns, can highlight things you may like to work through.
To me practicing self-compassion is an essential habit to have, not only will it make you feel good about yourself, you will relate better to others. You can’t have true compassion for others unless you have it for yourself.
You have heard the saying you have to love yourself first, never a true word was said.
You can learn about and practice self-compassion through reading, meditating and your thinking, accepting your flaws, being kind to yourself in thought, self-care habits and doing things that make you feel good about yourself, and don’t forget meditation.
Small daily habits are deposits in your ‘Goal’ account, they are all adding to the richness of the life you want. You will wake up one day and say ‘wow, I did it!’ You will then create new habits to work towards your new goals, knowing that it works.
You may already have embedded some of these habits into your life, if you have well done! If not, as already mentioned, focus on the first 3 habits, schedule in some time each week to focus on one of the other habits, learn about it, do a little research, then start making it a habit in your life!