In a world full of distractions, many people struggle with staying focused and increasing productivity. Unfortunately I’m one of those people. In the last few years I’ve tried many different things to help keep me focused and on track. Not all of them were successful. I’ve developed some key habits that have allowed me to take full advantage of my time. I recently finished reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, which gave me a better understanding of how and why these small changes had such an impact on my life. They’re called “Keystone Habits”. I advise everyone to read this book.
What are Keystone Habits?
Keystone Habits have the ability to transform your life. They spark chain reactions that help facilitate other good habits. One example of this is exercise (not a key habit that I’ve mastered yet). Regular exercise often encourages healthy eating. According to Duhigg, “[Keystone Habits] can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate…they help other habits to flourish by creating new structures and they establish a culture where change becomes contagious.” These habits are hard to recognize at first and are different for everyone. Some key habits that work for one person may not work for another. You really have to figure out what works for you. I was able to identify my Keystone Habits through trial and error. I’ll spare you details on all the ones that haven’t worked for me, focusing only on the ones that have. Here are some of my keystone habits.
The early bird gets the worm
I used to be one of those people that could sleep until 1:00/2:00 pm in the afternoon. I dreaded getting up early. Mornings were met with grump and disdain. I started out getting up early at least once or twice a week. To my surprise it really did have a positive effect on my day. On those days, I was more productive, my mood was better, and at the end of the day I felt great, like I had accomplished so much. Being a creative, and having an entrepreneurial spirit, I started to realize that taking advantage of every hour of my day was critical to accomplishing my goals. I don’t wake up at the crack of dawn every day, but most days I am up by 8:00 am. On work days I try to get to the office at least an hour before everyone else. This allows me time to work on my personal projects with out being disrupted. I get more done in my week.
You’re never too old to have a bed time
In grad school, one of my friends set a 12 am bed time for herself. No matter what we were doing, whether it was school work or hanging out, she made sure to be home by 11:30 pm to make it to bed on time. Grad school took up so much of her time and energy that going to bed at 12 am every night was her way of taking care of herself. It’s very easy to stay up until 2 – 3 in the morning lost in school work, only to have to get up at 8 am and do it all over again. Having a bed time also kept her from procrastinating. She had no choice but to finish all her work for the day by 12 am. It seemed like a good philosophy so I decided to try it, and it really did help.
I try to be in bed by 11:00 pm every night no matter what I’m working on. Sometimes when I’m writing, editing, working on a new project, or simply binge watching Netflix I get so wrapped up into what I’m doing that time just passes by. Next thing you know it’s 3 am only allowing me to get 4 hours of sleep before the next day starts. Having Lupus, getting enough rest is critical to my health. At first it was hard to have such a strict bed time but I honestly love it. It really does keep me well rested and I still get the same amount of things done, sometimes even more. It helps with my procrastination and reminds me that no matter what, my health and well being is the most important thing.
A cup of positivity in the morning
I used to be one of those people that checked social media as soon as I woke up. Sometimes I would spend 30 – 45 minutes in bed scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, only stopping because the emptiness of my stomach would become over bearing. I realized that habits like that were not good. Not only was it a huge waste of time, but it didn’t put me in a good mind frame. I decided to fill my mornings with positivity and things that would feed my brain. I downloaded an app called “Motivation” (download here). You can set it to give you an inspirational quote during different times of the day. I set mine to pop up every morning, allowing me to start my day off right.
Life isn’t perfect and there will be days where things seem to be going wrong at every turn. Being positive and not allowing these obstacles to change your mood gets you through the day smoother. This habit has changed the way I deal with problems, people, and how I approach certain situations. No matter what happens, I don’t allow anything to ruin my day and I smile even through the fire. I also started reading every morning, even it’s only for 10 minutes. Reading calms me and puts my brain at ease. Starting your day with a positive attitude can have a huge affect on how your day plays out and what great and amazing things come your way.
Say NO to junk food
Surprisingly this wasn’t too hard for me. I never really ate sweets, pastries, or candy when I was younger (not in abundance). Of course as a kid I had my fair share of sugar highs and snack attacks but sugary treats aren’t my thing. I don’t really like chocolate and too much sugar gives me a massive head ace. After a few potato chips I start to feel sick and I’m one of those people that will usually skip dessert. The only cookies I like are oatmeal raisin and even with those I’m extremely picky about how they’re made. I’m a healthy snacker, I like to munch on fruits and veggies more than chips and candy. As a result I eat healthier and am a little more conscious about the things I put in my body.
Get dressed even when you have nowhere to go
On those rare weekends when I had no plans, I usually sat in my pajamas all day and morphed into a couch potato. I would constantly tell myself that I needed to get up and do something productive; read a book, take a trip to the store, write, or do laundry. Lying around the house in pajamas made me feel extremely lazy. People would call to invite me places and I would bail because I didn’t feel like rolling off my couch and changing out of my comfortable pajamas. On the days that I were up and out early, I was more likely to go out again later or actually be productive. Some mornings I started getting up and getting dressed, even if I had no where to go. On those days I was more willing to go hang out if someone called me, I got my house chores done faster, and would get through a lot of my to-do list. Now, I do this all the time and I urge everyone to try it.
These are just a few things that help me get through my day. I can honestly say that these minor changes have facilitated other habits that help me organize my life better. I’m more social and all around nicer to those around me. I get more writing done which in turn has boosted my confidence as a writer. My attitude has changed, allowing more positivity and opportunities to enter my life. My health is better which has kept me from falling back into my depressive episodes and now I have the energy to be more active.
What key habits do you have and how have they changed your life?