What habits did you change that have totally changed your life? And how?

 

Excellent question!

The secret to building any habit is this: devoting 5 minutes a day to it can add up so much that it will affect the quality of your life. That’s why it’s important to be selective about which habits we nurture, and which ones we need to change so they can help us on our path to becoming better versions of ourselves.

These 5 habits significantly improved the quality of my life in the past few years, and I wished many times I had started incorporating them sooner into each day.

Habit #1. Starting the day with a morning routine to give me energy.

How did it improve my life?

There are tons of benefits I’ve felt since switching to a morning routine. Unlike before, I don’t feel dread or overwhelm as soon as I wake up because of all the things I need to finish on that day. I feel that I’ve become the master of my own time because I select what I want to work on first. In addition, I feel more calm knowing in advance what my day will look like.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Hack your morning alarm. Create an alarm that is friendly to your sleepy self. Pick a ring tone that’s unusual but not irritating, make a recording of your own voice saying a positive message, or queue up some music that you find uplifting and energizing and schedule it to play when you need to wake up.
  • Meditate to reset your brain. It can help you cope better with the thousands of random thoughts that occupy you throughout the day and may contribute to your feeling stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed. Download the Headspace app and practice for only 10 minutes; it’s great for absolute beginners.
  • Do a short 15–20 minute workout. It can be a morning yoga routine, a 15 minute bootcamp session, a set of sun salutation poses or a 20-minute power walk. It won’t take a lot of time, but you’ll feel the benefits for hours.

Habit #2. Asking one simple question every morning: “What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today?”

How did it improve my life?

This single habit is probably the biggest game changer for me. As soon as I wake up, I look forward to practicing it because I know it will boost my concentration. This tiny question simplifies my life, it helps my brain focus better, it makes me prioritize goals, and it streamlines my work so I don’t feel overwhelmed about having to accomplish too many things in a single day.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Write the question in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. The important part is that you can easily see it as you’re brushing your teeth or getting ready.
  • Read it out loud as you start each day, and come up with an answer on the spot. The trick is to get your eyes on it so that it becomes second nature and you don’t even think about having to glance over to it any more.
  • Keep your answer top of mind as you go through your work for the day, so that you don’t get distracted by other things that might take you away from what’s important to you. It will be a constant reminder of what’s your top priority.

Habit #3. Saying “thank you” for what I have in my life right now.

How did it improve my life?

Practicing gratitude makes a big difference in how one feels about one’s life. If you’ve ever heard of the saying “you either see a glass as half-empty of half-full”then this practice is a real-life example of what it really means. For me, it’s trained my brain to focus on positive things that are already a part of my daily life, instead of focusing on what I haven’t yet accomplished or acquired. I feel that being grateful keeps me grounded in my personal life because it gives me time to think what’s good for my growth, or what’s beautiful about my immediate surroundings or an event I’ve experienced.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Do it early. When you start your day with gratitude, you will feel the effects throughout the day. All it takes is 5 minutes of your time, so you won’t feel it takes away from your hectic morning schedule. You can write things down, say them out loud, or just think about them.
  • Start small. Focus only on 3 things you are grateful for today. It can be the simplest of things such as having a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, a friendship that is important to you, a dog or cat that you have as your pet, or an event from the previous day that made you happy.
  • Be specific. If it’s a friendship you’re grateful for, emphasize which qualities of your friend you are grateful for (they’re warm, gracious, kind, loving, incredibly funny). If it’s having a warm bed or your own room that you feel gratitude about, describe why this is important to you.

Habit #4. Doing my deep work early in the morning.

How did it improve my life?

Deep work (any kind of analytical thinking that requires the most concentration, such as reading, writing, analyzing or problem solving) is one of those mental tasks that requires a different kind of focus from the other more tactical things we do on a regular basis. I’ve noticed that when I switched to doing my deep work early (instead of leaving it for nighttime), I actually saved time the rest of the day. I also feel that it taps into my willpower to get the toughest tasks done first, so that I don’t run out of energy and motivation. And the best part? It frees up my afternoons and evenings to devote to socializing, working out, and coming up with better strategies to accomplish personal goals.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Set aside 2-4 hours after you wake up for deep work. Many scientists say that this is the brain’s peak performance time. If, for example, you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m. You can extend this time to whenever you have lunch, around midday, if you want to maximize your peak performance hours.
  • For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting to work, checking email, making phone calls, watching or listening to the news, chatting with co-workers or attending meetings.
  • Redesign your peak brain performance time. Think of how you can rearrange the things you do early that are less important to your personal and professional development. Like to stay on top of the latest news? Save this activity for your lunch break or right after lunch. Emails are waiting in your inbox? Be careful of how much time checking email takes; it can seriously overtake your day. Choose 2 blocks of time to go over your emails, one mid-afternoon and one closer to the end of your workday.

Habit #5. Being very selective about how I feed my brain.

How did it improve my life?

Just like most people, I observed my limited free time go by very quickly with TV episodes, movies I didn’t find mentally stimulating, or listening to the radio on my daily commute. The worst part was that I didn’t really get anything of value from all that so-called entertainment. Over time, I realized that I needed to be much more selective about how I want to spend that time so that it is beneficial to my personal development (and in many cases, educational as well as entertaining!).

How can you start practicing it?

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