Habits are such amazing things. They can be the best possible thing, and they can be the worst possible thing. The best way to illustrate this is by using math.
If you improve by just 1% daily, you can completely change your life over the course of a few years.
Imagine if you worked out every day for a few years. How would you look? Pretty great, I'd imagine.
All of this comes from consistently using good habits to your advantage.
So now that you see why you should have habits, let me show you the five habits that I believe will help you the most.
The Five Habits
Focusing on your health
In this ‘one habit’, there are in fact three habits of great importance. The first is exercise, then healthy eating, and last but not least, sleep. Think about exercise like this:
If I told you that you could get any car you wanted. You can have that car, and it’ll be in your driveway by tomorrow morning. But then I told you that you only get that one car. You can never have another car. How would you treat it? Would you feed it with the wrong fuel?
Would you not do your best to make sure that the car is maintained properly?
Now imagine that the car is your body. Because this analogy is as true for your body as it were for the car. You only get one body, and you have to live in the body that you are given for your whole life. Make sure that you take care of it.
Some people do not exercise and only start to do so when it becomes critical that they do, for example when they become overweight. You can prevent that by exercising. Think of it as preventing your car from breaking down by maintaining it properly and caring for it. Health issues will be a natural consequence of your neglect.
The benefits of exercise are numerous. Exercise improves practically improves all aspects of your life. Exercise is what Charles Duhigg calls a keystone habit in his book The Power of Habit, and that’s because exercise leads to improvement in various areas of your life. For example, you’re more likely to eat better, when you exercise regularly. Those two habits contribute enormous energy reserves to your daily reservoir.
Have you ever eaten a large portion of unhealthy food, only to fall asleep right after because you got so tired? I know I have.
Not exercising and eating healthy are some of the worst things you can do to yourself, but by doing them, you’ll reap the benefits tenfold.
Even just going for a walk every day will result in great results when compounded over time. In fact, all of these healthy habits will do just that.
I mention the habits behind focusing on your health habits first, simply because they are the most important. Trying to improving your productivity while neglecting your body is the same as trying to drive while simultaneously stepping on the gas and brakes. You are only hindering your own progress.
It is like thinking that you are cheating your teacher by not doing your homework. Cheating your dentist by not brushing your teeth. Cheating your personal trainer by not exercising. No, you are cheating yourself. Do not cheat yourself.
Self Awareness and Reflection
Life is like steering a ship. If you only set the course once, you’ll end up where life takes you. If you consistently set the course, you’ll arrive at the destination that you chose.
The self-awareness habit is, in essence, all about taking responsibility for yourself. It’s about learning from your past mistakes and identifying what is holding you back from where you want to go.
Being self-aware, you ask yourself questions about your life. Are you where you want to be? If not, are you trying to get there? What is working for you, what isn’t?\ By asking these questions, you get answers. And these answers will help you overcome the obstacles that you face in life. A question that I love asking myself is the focusing question, which stems from The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller: “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?“.
Asking yourself this question helps you know what’s next. It tells you exactly what you should prioritize.
Asking yourself the right questions, and then getting the answers to those questions is the first step. The second step is to take action. You have to take action on the answers that you find. There is no other way around the obstacles than to fix them by taking action.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Meditation is such an amazing habit because it has so many benefits.
By meditating you learn to calm and control your mind, which in turn, cultivates more control and builds a strong discipline.
This is due to you silencing your thoughts and inner distractions, and only focusing on your breath. You learn to shut down the stampede of thoughts that would otherwise overwhelm your mind. And this skill is directly transferrable to other aspects of your life as well.
I personally use it for studying and reading. When I’m studying or reading, it’s really easy for me to get stuck on a tangent. I’ll think about something that I just read and go on this journey in my mind about that thing. It’s like a rabbit hole. After I started meditating, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier for me to go back to the topic at hand, and stay focused on it. And speaking of reading…
I previously wrote an article about reading that I would recommend you to read: How You Can Achieve Success By Reading. You should really read that article because I go a lot more in-depth about reading and why it might help you improve.
In essence, reading gives you the framework to help you make great decisions. Success is the result of many small decisions (and habits), and reading help you make the best possible decision because you’ll have the knowledge to make that correct decision.
Think of reading books as if an expert in the field were personally coaching you. Books are mentors in written form. You only get one life. But by reading, you are handed so many people’s life experiences and knowledge. Reading is the one and only shortcut to success, because it allows you not to make the mistakes others have made, while still learning from those mistakes.
Zero Distraction Work
When you are at work, it’s almost the norm that people can pop by and interrupt your workflow. Your phone is constantly pinging and beeping with news and messages that are all craving your attention. However, these distractions only serve to hinder our productivity. They have their time and place, but not when you are trying to get quality work done.
I’m a student, and when we are solving problems in the classrooms, it’s hard to get work done because of all of the interruptions and distractions there. That is why I’ve found that working on the problems at home, where I can do focused work in peace, I get so much more done, and I learn the concepts more easily.
You truly do your best work when there are no distractions and no interruptions.
Not having any distractions means closing unnecessary browser tabs, putting your phone on flight mode, and only having what’s necessary for you to work open on your computer.
If your phone pings or beeps while you are doing focused work, you would have to consciously focus on not opening the notifications that you receive. Even if you merely take a quick glance at them, they’ll occupy space in your mind. This only removes focus from the task at hand, and actively hinders you from doing your best work.
When you get zero distraction work done, you get so much more done than otherwise. By doing zero distraction work, you increase the quality and quantity of your work. Either you get so much more done in a fixed amount of time, or you finish so much faster.
There’s this great story about a man who was busy cutting down a tree. He had been going at it for a long time and was really exhausted. When asked why he didn’t just take a break and sharpen the saw, because then he might cut the tree down faster, he answered: “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m too busy sawing!“.
There is a difference between being busy and being productive. Make sure that you cultivate productivity, and that’s done by doing zero distraction work.