Research shows that it takes, on average, 66 days to form a new habit. In my experience, though, the number isn’t the most important part — you can try to do something for 66 days or 6,000, but you’ll never make a change if you don’t have a good reason. What drives change? Pain. At some point, you simply can’t stand your current behavior or situation, and you need to do something about it.
Over the years, I’ve found myself in this position multiple times. The habits I adopted as a result may seem like small improvements, with insignificant daily returns. But because I understand the pain I’d be in without them, these habits have changed my life. They might just change yours, too.
1. Set three or four daily priorities
This is one of the best productivity strategies there is. Focus is what leads to results. It’s the thing that will bring you closer to achieving your short- and long-term goals. But how do you focus when your days are filled with endless distractions? By limiting your options. Each morning, be clear with yourself about what you want to achieve. Then commit to completing three or four small, but essential, tasks — anything beyond is a bonus.
2. Read for an hour a day
I get it, you’re too busy to read. Or maybe you don’t like to read. Well, you’re not getting off that easily. Reading turns you into a better thinker and writer. If you do it every day, you’ll eventually stop hating it, and one day you’ll even love it.
3. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night
I never sacrifice my sleep for anything. Yes, I said anything. I recently canceled a meeting because I went to bed too late the night before. I had been reading a good book that completely consumed me, and started taking notes on that book. Before I knew it, it was 2 a.m. I was supposed to wake up at 7 a.m. to make the meeting.
So I canceled. This one meeting wasn’t worth being tired the whole day. While some people say they can perform well on five hours of sleep, those people are probably wrong. Protect your sleep, and be dead serious about it, whether that means going to bed early or adjusting your schedule.
4. Walk 30 minutes a day
If you can’t make time for a short daily walk, you’re not in control of your life. Walking, of course, keeps your body moving and is good for you, but the reason I love talking a walk is that it breaks up the mundane pattern of the day. Life is routine — there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you walk outside, you’re forced to be one with the world. Your senses are heightened. Your lungs feel the air, and your feet feel the texture of the ground. Go alone or with someone else — either way, get out, and enjoy your surroundings.
5. Do regular full-body workouts
Strength training has several benefits. It protects your bones, increases your muscle mass, keeps you lean, boosts your energy levels, and prevents injuries. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 16. I started with split routines, meaning I would work different muscles during every session. It turns out that muscles need more stress to become stronger. Ideally, you want to train all your muscles, three times a week. Full-body workouts are simple, practical, and they work.
6. Follow an intermittent fasting/eating pattern
I don’t eat anything after my dinner. And I skip breakfast. That means I “fast” for 15 to 16 hours every day. There are some health benefits associated with this style of eating, known as intermittent fasting; I do it because it makes me feel and look better.
How I do it: During my sanctioned eating times, I basically eat whatever I want, though I try to keep things somewhat healthy. The first meal of my day always contains a lot of unsaturated fat and protein. After that, I mostly stick to whole foods with a high nutritional value, and I stay away from junk food.
Consult with your doctor before you start practicing intermittent fasting, and make sure you consume the calories your body needs to operate (2,000 for women and 2,500 for men, on average, though each person’s needs will differ based on their body and lifestyle).
7. Be present
So many of us are so focused on “what’s next” that we forget to enjoy the present moment. We’re always waiting until we achieve something else. “I will be happy then,” we think. This is one of my biggest pitfalls. I need to remind myself every single day that I should enjoy the now.
Whenever you feel stuck in the future, find a trigger that brings you back to the present moment. For example, I recently bought a new watch. I’ve also been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. So I created a trigger. Every time I look at my watch, I say to myself, “What time is it? Now.”
8. Give love freely
People treat their love like it’s a depletable resource. It is not. Love never runs out. You can give away as much as you like, and you’ll still have more. So give away some of your love away every single day. Don’t worry about keeping score, and stop expecting something in return.
9. Write for 30 minutes a day
I need to get my thoughts in order every day, and I do that by writing. It helps me to focus on what matters in my life. Even when I’m not writing articles, I sit down and journal — for myself and no one else. It has been an excellent tool in helping me become a better thinker and person.
10. Save 30% of your income
Okay, if you can’t save 30%, then save 10%. It’s not so much about the amount you save, but how often you’re saving. Cut out purchases that you make daily or weekly. You don’t need the organic cashews that cost $10 — at least, not all the time. When you save on the small things, you can slowly but consistently grow your investments, your emergency fund, and the money you have set aside for big purchases or milestones. Small changes can help you be ready for anything life throws at you.
When you see where your new habits take you, how your life changes, it will be easier to keep going. I no longer see my habits as “habits” — they’re now simply a part of how I live.
All Rights Reserved for Darius Foroux