Just 3 small, simple things that I changed last year have had a massive positive effect on my outlook and my personal development. They literally take up no extra time, but they have helped me move on and develop enormously.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. If I want to change something, why not start now? If I wait until a new year to change, how much do I really want to change? It can’t be that important if I’m prepared to put it off until some arbitrary future moment.
These days, I try to incorporate self improvement into my life as much as possible. Life is easier when spent on the couch, for sure, but I don’t want to feel like I’m living in the Matrix. With my one life, I plan to get as much out of it as I possibly can. Sometimes that means pain and suffering. After all, growth doesn’t come from being comfortable.
3 Small Changes For Big Results
All 3 changes basically come down to a better use of time. I used to constantly complain about not having enough time. I don’t do that anymore. It’s not that I feel that I have enough of it – I’d love not to have to sleep and then I could benefit from an additional 7 hours of productivity every day. What’s changed is that I know that I now use my time as productively and constructively as I can. I work hard, yes, but I still get to relax, go out and play with the mutts.
After all, we all get the same amount of time. Other people don’t get more, or less time, than I do. Time, like health, is one of the few things we cannot buy more of. Yes, if you have money you can buy better health care, and pay someone to do certain things for you, to save you the time of doing them yourself.
But we all have 24 hours in a day to use however we want, and each of us is born with a physical body that we choose to either nurture or neglect.
How To Change Your Lifestyle Habits
Habits and routines go hand-in-hand. Healthier habits are easier to incorporate if you have an established routine. And it’s much simpler to develop successful routines that fit into our everyday life if we don’t try to change everything at once,
For my changes to work, I introduced these 3 new habits into existing routines. The changes themselves were simple and realistic. If you hate going to the gym and you set yourself a New Year’s resolution of working out every day, you’re setting yourself up to fail. It’s unlikely that you’ll keep it up for long.
Here’s how I incorporated the 3 new habits:
Habit 1: Make Better Use Of ‘Dead’ Time
So what do I mean by dead time? When you’re in the shower, driving in the car, cooking / washing the dishes / cleaning. Basically, you’re already doing one task, but it’s the kind of task that leaves you free to listen. The first new habit I incorporated into almost all of my routines was to make better use of dead time.
I listen to podcasts and audible books when I’m doing household chores or cooking. When I’m in the shower, I listen to the news in Spanish. I keep a book in the bathroom and I read one page of it when I’m on the loo. OK, some people dislike the idea of reading on the loo, but I grew up in a house of comic lovers and there were always comics in the loo to read. It comes pretty naturally to me. You should try it.
You might not think that reading just one page a day is all that useful. I challenge you to read Darren Hardy’s ‘The Compound Effect‘ – or even better, listen to it on audible whilst you’re doing some other chore – and you will see the value in just reading one page a day of a book. If you’d like to see which books and podcasts I’ve been reading / listening to, there’s a list at the end of the article.
Reading is like a software update for your brain.
Whenever you learn a new concept or idea, the “software” improves. You download new features and fix old bugs.
The only expense this new habit involved was getting myself some bluetooth headphones to wear so I could listen to the podcasts while I am vacuuming, and the monthly membership cost to Audible. However, you could avoid the cost of audible if you’ve can’t manage it, and just listen to free podcasts.
Habit 2: Maximise Your Morning Routine
You know how it is, when you get out of bed feeling great you’re ready to take on the world… But some days seem to go wrong from the moment you wake up. Having a successful morning routine helps to set the tone for the rest of the day and ensure that every day will be more productive.
Everyone’s routine looks different. Some people like to include exercise in the their morning routine. I used to do yoga most mornings, but I’ve since changed my exercise to the evening. It just fits in better for me at this point in my life.
This is the morning routine that currently works for me. My alarm wakes me up, or one of my pesky pooches do. I play with the dogs, on the bed, for a couple of minutes and then I pick up my laptop – while I am still in bed – and I check my schedule for the day.
After quickly reading through each of the day’s booked sessions to familiarise myself with any essential details, I check my email and immediately answer anything that can be dealt with straight away. I then look at social media accounts. This entire morning routine takes around 30 minutes – all while I’m comfortably snuggled up with the beasts.
I listen to a podcast / audible book / the news in Spanish while in the bathroom getting showered and dressed – oh, and don’t forget the page of reading an actual, real book when on the loo!
On weekdays I listen to the 3 – 5 minute Darren Daily mentoring session while I’m preparing breakfast. Then I’m ready to face the day!
None of this has required me to make any really difficult changes, buy new stuff, sign my soul over to the devil or make promises I couldn’t keep. The new habits were easy to incorporate into my existing routine, and they had the added effect of streamlining it.
Habit 3: Change Your TV Watching Habits
Without a doubt, this will be the one most people will struggle with. We’ve become such a nation of couch potatoes. If you add up the hours in a week that you spend watching TV, does it match or surpass the time you spend at work, earning a living? There’s nothing wrong with that, if your aim is to live your life watching lots of TV.
I don’t personally own a TV, and haven’t had one for years. I do have a laptop though and I do have a Netflix account. Like many others, I also succumb to the occasional bout of binge-watching a season of a series I like. This is an area I have to be careful with in my life, so how did I change my TV (or Netflix) watching habits?
I only watch TV when I am preparing or eating dinner in the evening.
If I have completed all the urgent stuff I needed to do that day, I might watch Netflix for the last hour of the day in bed. Like I said, I do sometimes watch more than that, (‘fess up – the last time was ‘The Good Place’) but not often. I also have days when I’m so busy doing other things that I don’t watch anything at all.
Small Lifestyle Changes That Have A Massive Impact On Your Life
From such small changes, I have been able to learn so much more over the past year. I have worked on myself, my personal development, and I have learned new skills. These skills have allowed me to manage various things better in my life – my outlook, my attitudes, my expectations of myself and of others. It has freed time up to do more constructive things and it has got me out of that pointless habit of whining that I ‘never have enough time’.
I ask a lot of myself and I am driven. I don’t like the idea of ‘wasting’ time. Time is so precious, yet we spend it as if we were time millionaires. During dinner tonight, I watched an episode of Dr. Who (my daily dose of Netflix over dinner, of course).
The Doctor was trying to reason with a crazy scientist, Lazarus, who had experimented on himself to be young again, to be able to live several more lifetimes. The Doctor reflected ‘Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80’.
I believe that with the 3 habit changes I made last year, I lived at least three times as much as I did the previous year. By the end of the year I felt so much more fulfilled. I hadn’t wasted my time.
Habit Tracking and Habit Stacking
One of the things I learned during the year is that without a way of measuring something, you can’t tell if it’s successful. That’s why it’s worth habit tracking. I developed my own daily journal to track my habits. It lets me see where I’ve improved and where I’m failing. It keeps me accountable – to myself.
With that information I can tweak my routines. It takes nothing more than a couple of minutes each day to do this, then a quick sum up at the end of each week and each month.
One of the books I listened to which helped me form new habits was ‘Atomic Habits‘ by James Clear. He explains clearly how to incorporate new habits by ‘stacking’ them on top of current habits.
For example, I listen to a podcast I’m interested in while I am cooking or cleaning. Or, you want to watch ‘The Good Place’, so you watch an episode while you are on the treadmill at the gym – in other words, you only get the good stuff if you do the bad stuff.
Conclusion: The Consequences Of Better Habits
As you’ll see from the list below, I read over 14 books last year. I used to read a lot, but in the past few years the only time I ever read was when I was on a long-haul flight. So essentially, by incorporating 3 small, new habits in my life, I read more last year than in the previous 10 years.
No more constant whining that I don’t have enough time: I am much more productive now and I know that if I don’t follow my new habits, I won’t reach my goals. All my habits, and my goals, can be tracked in my journal and this keeps me on target.
I have absolutely LOVED how the world has opened up for me over the last year, all because of these 3 small habits that made such a big impact. It’s clear the extent to which I had literally been wasting my life before. I’m excited to think what I’ll achieve this coming year.
And what about you? How do you plan to make this year better than the last?
Books And Podcasts: My Reading List
Here’s some of my reading / listening list from last year. All of these have added to my sense of growth, learning and enjoyment of life. They’ve informed my decisions and guided my steps. The list is in alphabetical order by author.
Brené Brown, Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead
James Clear, Atomic habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones
John Cleese and Robin Skynner, Life and how to survive it (this was a re-read of a book I’d particularly enjoyed when I trained as an art psychotherapist years ago.)
Alie Fraser and Ash Ranpura, In the habit: Introduction to changing our behaviour
Darren Hardy, The compound effect: Multiply your success one simple step at a time
Ryan Holiday, The obstacle is the way: The timeless art of turning trials into triumph
Dr Qing Li, Shinrin-Yoku
Mark Manson, The subtle art of not giving a fuck: A counterintuitive approach to living a good life
Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro: Tap your inner power and create your life’s work
Cheryl Strayed, Tiny, beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar
Alex Tugend, Better by mistake: The unexpected benefits of being wrong
Florence Williams, The 3 day effect: How nature calms your brain
Irvin D. Yalom, Love’s Executioner (this was a re-read of a book I’d particularly enjoyed when I trained as an art psychotherapist years ago)
Irvin D. Yalom, Momma and the meaning of life: Tales of psychotherapy
The Life Coach School Podcast, Brooke Castillo
Darren Daily On-Demand, Darren Hardy
Enlightened By Dogs, Kathy Kawalec
Unfuck Your Brain, Kara Loewentheil
Do It Scared, Ruth Soukup
Noticias Mediodia, The News In Spanish
Oh, and the reference to Doctor Who, if you’d like to add it to your Netflix watch list: Doctor Who, Season 3, episode 7, The Lazarus Experiment
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