At the end of last year, I decided that I wouldn’t make any goals for the new year.
Instead, I’d look at my calendar and see what I loved from the last 12 months, and keep doing more of what works.
Here are my five best habits featuring wisdom from some experts you probably know and love.
“Our relationship with sleep has gone through dramatic ups and downs. And right now that relationship is in crisis.”
-Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution
In 2007, after a hectic trip, Arianna Huffington collapsed of exhaustion, and woke up in a pool of her own blood. Since then, she’s become a promoter of getting enough sleep so that you can thrive.
How many people tell us that they’d love to wake up earlier but they’re not a “morning person”?
They say they’d love more time to write, work out, or build a side business.
But almost no one does it.
Why? Because they’re typically focusing on the wrong area.
Waking up early starts with going to bed earlier. Don’t expect to wake up at 6 AM if you’ve been out drinking until midnight. Not going to happen.
Here’s my cheat sheet:
Set a wind down reminder on your phone. When you get that reminder, stop mindlessly surfing the internet and get ready for bed.
Arianna says to take a warm bath and read some fiction to help turn off your problem solving mind.
Compulsive late night Instagrammer? Put your phone in a phone bed away from your bed. This also means that you’ll have to get up to turn off your alarm.
After you wake up, it’s important to have some kind of routine (or you’ll likely just go back to bed)
Meditate, make some coffee, or write. Check your number one priority off your list, so no matter what, you’ve already won the day while most people are hitting snooze.
Slowly scale back your wake up time in five minute increments so that you can wake up and start the day on your terms.
What would you do with an extra 547 hours per year?
That’s what waking up 90 minutes earlier per day will get you.
“Meditation simply helps you channel drive toward the few things that matter, rather than every moving target and imaginary opponent that pops up.”
-Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans
It’s really hard to sit still. Our minds tend to jump from thought to thought seemingly without our control.
“That voicemail I left was awkward.”
“Why am I such a screwup?”
“I’m supposed to be meditating! FOCUS!”
With so much internal and external chatter, quieting your mind for a few minutes per day is necessary for high performance.
In Tools of Titans Ferriss recommends starting small:
“Complete 7 sessions before you get ambitious with length. 10 minutes is plenty. Do NOT start with 30- to 60-minute sessions, or you’ll quit before hitting the phase shift. Start small and rig the game so you can win.”
After meditating almost every day this year, the results are surprising:
Ferriss recounts his meditation results in Tools of Titans:
“Done consistently, my reward for meditating is getting 30% to 50% more done in a day with 50% less stress. Why? Because I have already done a warmup in recovering from distraction: my morning sit.”
“Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. When you say, “There just isn’t enough time,” remember you have the same number of hours as Bill Gates or Elon Musk.”
-Zack Arnold, Fitness in Post
Zack was working 12+ hour days editing Empire, and tucking his children in via FaceTime:
“My wife thought she had hung up the call but her phone was still on. And I overheard my son ask:
“Why doesn’t Daddy ever want to put us to bed? Why does he work all the time?”
From that moment on Zack committed to learning everything he could about working smarter and healthier so he could be home to put his kids to bed.
Design your environment to support your end goal.
If you do your best work in the morning because you have more energy, turn off your phone and reduce any barriers that might stop you from doing what you need to do.
(Or just block distracting websites and apps 22 hours a day like I do.)
Look at your end goal and work backwards asking the question: “What would I need to do to accomplish the next step.”
Weaving movment into your day can massively help combat fatigue and the midday slump.
Zack has some great thoughts on this:
Here are five simple ways to start being more active at work with little to no extra effort:
-Park your car as far away as possible in the morning (or if possible, walk to work)
-Take the stairs instead of the elevator
-Ditch phone, email, and IM’s, and actually walk to speak to your colleagues in the office
-Walk during phone calls (I’ve gotten 7500+ steps on a single call)
-Step away from your workstation every hour and take a 5 minute activity break
Taking the managing energy, not time approach to productivity has made me more creative, proactive, and happier when it comes to getting things done.
“Counting gratitude to three is ok. To ten is better. To 100 is life-changing.”
Four years ago, I lost all but three things I owned in a fire. (Okay, seven things if you count the clothes I escaped in.)
Months after the fire, I’d search for something I didn’t own anymore. In those moments it was important to remember that I was grateful my wife, cat, and I all made it out unharmed.
That’s easy gratitude. What about difficult gratitude?
“My boss hates me and I hate my job.”
“I am grateful for this job because it teaches me how to deal with difficult people.”
Studies tell us that keeping a daily or weekly gratitude journal can increase our optimism 5–15%. I’ll gladly take those extra optimism points.
What is one thing from the last 24 hours that you’re grateful for?
“Schedule time for connecting with people. You never know when it might be your last chance.”
-Jeff Callahan, Become More Compelling
I remember the last time I heard my Grandmother’s voice. She had been dead for hours.
I hit stop on the voicemail she left asking me to call her back. I had been “too busy”.
I felt guilt.
I felt sadness.
I felt pain.
You never know when it might be the last time you talk to someone, or have dinner with a close friend.
We could all crushed by vending machines that wont give us our Snickers later today.
Get social time on the calendar. Assign it the same importance you might assign a meeting with your boss.
Make it happen. Avoid the non-committal “Let’s get together soon!” texts.
Instead, offer two times next week. Let them choose. Make it easy for them to say yes.
Our lives are richer when we share them with others.
But how do we meet new people?! I like to use if-when-then.
Simply put: If-when-then gives you an in-the-moment blueprint for new behaviors.
When I get coffee at Starbucks, if there’s someone in line, then I’ll start a conversation with them.
When I walk into work, if there’s someone near my desk, then I’ll start a conversation.
Make those connections happen.
If you want a little extra help, I created a free 27 page guide to help you get out of your own head and effortlessly start conversations.
(Includes more word for word scripts) Get it here.
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Originally published at medium.com