I am a firm believer in the power of positive habits. It's so easy to point at the clouds and say, "This is where I want to be." Anyone can do that. The challenge is to get your hands dirty and do what you need to do each and every day in order to turn those dreams into a reality.
1. Keep your first promise of the day.
The first promise all of us make to ourselves every day is what time we're going to get up. And you know what? A large majority of us break that promise. The alarm goes off. You hit snooze. And without even meaning to, you've already started the day on the wrong foot. You made a promise the night before that you decided not to keep.
Get in the habit of practicing making a promise to yourself and keeping it. This is about more than just "waking up." This is about the habit.
2. Dress for success.
Look good, feel good.
Part of your morning routine should involve embodying the energy you want to bring into the world. This has less to do with "looking professional" and more to do with getting yourself in a positive frame of mind. When you feel comfortable in your own shoes, you carry yourself with a different energy. It's the energy that matters.
3. A meditative moment.
Before the chaos of the day begins, take a moment to yourself. For some, this is meditation. For others, it might be reading a few pages out of a book, or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. But take a moment and feel the calm of the day. It will help you later on, should a storm hit (metaphorically). You'll think back to these early morning moments of calm and remember that life is full of waves. It's all about riding them out.
4. Eat lunch!
So many people underestimate the value of taking a break for lunch--even if it's just 15 minutes to eat a sandwich. Personal health is so important to the long game, and if you ignore it, then you're only setting yourself up for a much bigger problem down the road.
If your schedule is so busy you can't make time to feed yourself, something is out of balance--and I promise you, it's not the lunch that's the problem.
5. An afternoon moment.
How many people take five minutes in the middle of the day to just reflect on where they're at? Not too many. Instead, once our days get started, we push and push and push until we land on our couch at 9 p.m. and say, "Wow, I am exhausted."
Life is not a sprint. Life is a marathon.
Instead of having only a quiet morning and/or a quiet night, make time to have five minutes of quiet in the middle of the day as well. If it's "impossible" to find that, then excuse yourself to the bathroom for those five minutes. Everyone has to use the bathroom, right?
Whatever it takes, make those five minutes happen sometime in the afternoon. You'll be amazed at what five minutes of quiet can do for the rest of your day.
6. Find some free time.
If you're a driven individual, the concept of "free time" doesn't really exist. Free time is more time you can spend working toward your goals.
However, in the long run, this can also produce problems. Everybody needs time to unwind. It's not the length of time that matters as much as the quality of time. An hour completely detached from your daily grind is much more productive than 5 hours detached in which you mentally punish yourself for "taking a break."
Free time is crucial, especially for creatives. Let your mind wander. Take a step back. See the forest instead of the trees.
7. Manage your money, don't let your money manage you.
A lot of stress is rooted in money. But is it really money's fault? Or is it rather our relationship with it?
Take the time to learn a bit about finance and how you can set yourself up for success. Implement positive habits here and then stick to them. Put away a chunk of each paycheck to a retirement account. Put away another chunk to your personal savings. Make purchases within reason. And then once a month, do a quick review with yourself and look at where your money is being spent.
The more diligent you can be here, the more you will be able to build habits that set you up for the future you truly want.
8. Introduce yourself.
When was the last time you struck up a conversation with someone on the train? At the grocery store? In line waiting for your coffee?
You never know who you could meet--and it's these moments of serendipity that keep life moving in a playful way. Some of my best business connections I met through random conversations at the gym. Some of my favorite stories have been the result of deciding to talk to someone new.
Make it a habit to introduce yourself to people who cross your path. It's the easiest way to keep life interesting.
Building off the above, it's so easy to fall into routines of going to same places, ordering the same dishes, meeting up with the same people. Make it a habit to explore new things.
If you've been wanting to go to that new coffee shop down the street, then go. If you've been thinking of trying a new restaurant, make a reservation. It's never going to happen unless you make it happen.
10. Keep a journal and sleep.
And of course, there are two of the most underrated habits in the world--journaling before bed, and then actually sleeping.
The reason I advocate so much for journaling before bed is because it is one of the few moments during the day when all is calm. This is time that is best used to reflect, see how the day went, see how you feel, see how you can improve for tomorrow and then set your intention.
The other reason it's crucial to do this right before bed is because it will then soak into your subconscious while you sleep. If you can make this a habit, then you will find yourself consistently waking up the next day very clear on what you need to do in order to be successful. You will have just spent a whole night planting those "next steps" into who you are--and when you rise, it'll be time to get to work.
Sleep is so undervalued. For a long time, I thought the less you slept, the harder you were working. And actually, that's true--less sleep and you will feel like you are the hardest working person on the face of this planet. But that doesn't mean you're working smart.
Seven to seven and a half hours of sleep is the sweet spot. If you can get eight, great. If not, that's OK. But do not settle for five or six.
A well-rested mind is far more productive than a tired one (regardless of how much coffee you drink).