This Morning Routine Will Save You 20 Hours Per Week

Author Article

The traditional 9–5 workday is poorly structured for high productivity. Perhaps when most work was physical labor, but not in the knowledge working world we now live in.Although this may be obvious based on people’s mediocre performance, addiction to stimulants, lack of engagement, and the fact that most people hate their jobs — now there’s loads of scientific evidence you can’t ignore.

The Myth of the 8 Hour Workday

The most productive countries in the world do not work 8 hours per day. Actually, the most productive countries have the shortest workdays.

People in countries like Luxembourg are working approximately 30 hours per week (approximately 6 hours per day, 5 days per week) and making more money on average than people working longer workweeks.


This is the average person in those countries. But what about the super-productive?

Although Gary Vaynerchuck claims to work 20 hours per day, many “highly successful” people I know work between 3–6 hours per day.

It also depends on what you’re really trying to accomplish in your life. Gary Vaynerchuck wants to own the New York Jets. He’s also fine, apparently, not spending much time with his family.

And that’s completely fine. He’s clear on his priorities.

However, you must also be clear on yours. If you’re like most people, you probably want to make a great income, doing work you love, that also provides lots of flexibility in your schedule.

If that’s your goal, this post is for you.

However, you must also be clear on yours. If you’re like most people, you probably want to make a great income, doing work you love, that also provides lots of flexibility in your schedule.

If that’s your goal, this post is for you.

Quality Vs. Quantity

“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.” — Dan Sullivan

If you’re like most people, your workday is a blend of low-velocity work mixed with continual distraction (e.g., social media and email).

Most people’s “working time” is not done at peak performance levels. When most people are working, they do so in a relaxed fashion. Makes sense, they have plenty of time to get it done.

However, when you are results-oriented, rather than “being busy,” you’re 100 percent on when you’re working and 100 percent off when you’re not. Why do anything half-way? If you’re going to work, you’re going to work.

To get the best results in your fitness, research has found that shorter but more intensive exercise is more effective than longer drawn-out exercise.

The concept is simple: Intensive activity followed by high-quality rest and recovery.

Most of the growth actually comes during the recovery process. However, the only way to truly recover is by actually pushing yourself to exhaustion during the workout.

The same concept applies to work. The best work happens in short intensive spurts. By short, I’m talking 1–3 hours. But this must be “Deep Work,” with no distractions, just like an intensive workout is non-stop. Interestingly, your best work — which for most people is thinking — will actually happen while you’re away from your work, “recovering.”

For best results: Spend 20% of your energy on your work and 80% of your energy on recovery and self-improvement. When you’re getting high-quality recovery, you’re growing. When you’re continually honing your mental-model, the quality and impact of your work continually increase. This is what psychologists call, “Deliberate Practice.” It’s not about doing more, but better training. It’s about being strategic and results-focused, not busyness-focused.

In one study, only 16 percent of respondents reported getting creative insight while at work. Ideas generally came while the person was at home, in transportation, or during recreational activity. “The most creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in front of your monitor,” says Scott Birnbaum, a vice president of Samsung Semiconductor.

The reason for this is simple. When you’re working directly on a task, your mind is tightly focused on the problem at hand (i.e., direct reflection). Conversely, when you’re not working, your mind loosely wanders (i.e., indirect reflection).

While driving or doing some other form of recreation, the external stimuli in your environment (like the buildings or other landscapes around you) subconsciously prompt memories and other thoughts. Because your mind is wandering both contextually (on different subjects) and temporally between past, present, and future, your brain will make distant and distinct connections related to the problem you’re trying to solve (eureka!).

Creativity, after all, is making connections between different parts of the brain. Ideation and inspiration is a process you can perfect.

Case in point: when you’re working, be at work. When you’re not working, stop working. By taking your mind off work and actually recovering, you’ll get creative breakthroughs related to your work.

First Three Hours Will Make or Break You

According to psychologist Ron Friedman, the first three hours of your day are your most precious for maximized productivity.

“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well,” Friedman told Harvard Business Review.

This makes sense on several levels. Let’s start with sleep. Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections.

So, immediately following sleep, your mind is most readily active to do thoughtful work.

So, your brain is most attuned first thing in the morning, and so are your energy levels. Consequently, the best time to do your best work is during the first three hours of your day.

I used to exercise first thing in the morning. Not anymore. I’ve found that exercising first thing in the morning actually sucks my energy, leaving me with less than I started.

Lately, I’ve been waking up at 6AM, driving to my school and walking to the library I work in. While walking from my car to the library, I drink a 250 calorie plant-based protein shake (approximately 30 grams of protein).

Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, recommends consuming at least 30 grams of protein for breakfast. Similarly, Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body, also recommends 30 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking.

Protein-rich foods keep you full longer than other foods because they take longer to leave the stomach. Also, protein keeps blood-sugar levels steady, which prevent spikes in hunger.

I get to the library and all set-up by around 6:30 AM. I spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation, followed by a 5–10-minute session in my journal.

The purpose of this journal session is to get clarity and focus for my day. I write down my big picture goals and my objectives for that particular day. I then write down anything that comes to my mind. Often, it relates to people I need to contact or ideas related to a project I’m working on. I purposefully keep this journal session short and focused.

By 6:45, I’m set to work on whatever project I’m working on, whether that’s writing a book or an article, working on a research paper for my doctoral research, creating an online course, etc.

Starting work this early may seem crazy to you, but I’ve been shocked by how easy it is to work for 2–5 hours straight without distractions. My mind is laser at this time of day. And I don’t rely on any stimulants at all.

Between 11 AM-noon, my mind is ready for a break, so that’s when I do my workout. Research confirms that your workout is better with food in your system. Consequently, my workouts are now a lot more productive and powerful than they were when I was exercising immediately following sleep.

After the workout, which is a great mental break, you should be fine to work a few more hours, if needed.

If your 3–5 hours before your workout was focused, you could probably be done for the day.

Protect Your Mornings

I understand that this schedule will not work for everyone. There are single-parents with kids who simply can’t do something like this.

We all need to work within the constraints of our unique contexts. However, if you work best in the morning, you gotta find a way to make it happen. This may require waking up a few extra hours earlier than you’re used to and taking a nap during the afternoon.

Or, it may require you to simply focus hardcore the moment you get to work. A common strategy for this is known as the “90–90–1” rule, where you spend the first 90 minutes of your workday on your #1 priority. I’m certain this isn’t checking your email or social media.

Whatever your situation, protect your mornings!

I’m blown away by how many people schedule things like meetings in the mornings. Nothing could be worse for peak performance and creativity.

Schedule all of your meetings for the afternoon, after lunch.

Don’t check your social media or email until after your 3 hours of deep work. Your morning time should be spent on output, not input.

If you don’t protect your mornings, a million different things will take up your time. Other people will only respect you as much as you respect yourself.

Protecting your mornings means you are literally unreachable during certain hours. Only in case of serious emergency can you be summoned from your focus-cave.

Mind-Body Connection

What you do outside of work is just as significant for your work-productivity as what you do while you’re working.

A March 2016 study in the online issue of Neurology found that regular exercise can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years. Loads of other research has found that people who regularly exercise are more productive at work. Your brain is, after all, part of your body. If your body is healthier, it makes sense that your brain would operate better.

If you want to operate at your highest level, you need to take a holistic approach to life. You are a system. When you change a part of any system, you simultaneously change the whole. Improve one area of your life, all other areas improve in a virtuous cycle. This is the butterfly effect in action and the basis of the book, Start with Habit, which shows that by integrating one “keystone habit,” like exercise or reading, that the positivity of that one habits ripples into all other areas of your life, eventually transforming your whole life.

Consequently, the types of foods you eat, and when you eat them, determine your ability to focus at work. Your ability to sleep well (by the way, it’s easy to sleep well when you get up early and work hard) is also essential to peak performance. Rather than managing your time, then, you should really be focused on managing your energy. Your work schedule should be scheduled around when you work best, not around social norms and expectations.

A Very Simple Technique For Building Keystone Habits

You only need one keystone habit to start. If you create one, then you’ll have built the confidence to build several more. The reason is simple: how you do anything is often how you do everything.

If you can lock in one keystone habit — particularly something that is fundamental and important like food or money or time — then you’ll have gained sufficient confidence and control in your life.

This is actually what most people don’t understand about willpower. They think willpower is about self-control when willpower is actually a matter of confidence.

If you have low willpower, it’s because you have low confidence.

You create confidence by getting small wins, which ripple into bigger wins. The more confident you are, the less willpower you need to make good choices.

So how do you build a keystone habit quick?

One answer that psychologists have hit upon is called “implementation intentions” It’s extremely simple and easy to apply.

Basically, you create a planned response every time you’re either triggered or tempted to do something you don’t want to do.

For example, every time you get triggered to smoke a cigarette, you immediately call a friend. You can also have back-up plans if the friend doesn’t answer.

But the principle is simple: have an immediate response to a trigger so you don’t unconsciously react.

Your planned and immediate response takes willpower out of the equation because it takes the choice out of the equation. Willpower is all about choice, or in reality, the lack of having made a choice. Willpower is the byproduct of not knowing exactly what the outcome will be. For instance, when you get triggered to smoke or do any other negative behavior — if willpower is part of the equation, it is because you haven’t decided beforehand what you will do. You’re still undecided. Hence, 98% commitment is much harder than 100% commitment.

True decisions mean you have cut-off alternative options. The decision is the opposite of decision fatigue, and decision fatigue is the same thing as willpower. Thus, willpower is the absence of a decision, and leads to an emotional tug-of-war within yourself which generally ends in failure.

Part of the genius of implementation intentions is simply their ability to distract you from your trigger for long enough for the trigger to subside. In the brief 10–60 second window where you’re going through your pre-planned and healthy response to a trigger, your re-reminded of the decision you made and the goals you’re pursuing. The trigger and desire go away as you engage in healthy behavior and re-ignite your confidence.

I applied an implementation intention while at Disney World the other day. Instead of caving into the junk food all around me, I did a bunch of push-ups. Every time I wanted to eat snacks, I just did 10 pushups. By the end of the day, I’d done over 100.

Habit formation is about replacement more than simply removal. You can’t just create a void in your life. You need to fill it with something more congruent. Therefore, in order to build a successful implementation intention or pre-planned response— you need to establish an “if-then” response to whatever you’re trying to accomplish.

Pick the goal.

Whenever an obstacle appears, use your if-then response. Example:

Goal: Be as healthy as possible.
Obstacle: eating bad food.
If-then: if I’m tempted to eat unhealthy foods in an impulsive and non-planned manner, then I will immediately drink a big glass of water and do 20 jumping-jacks.

It doesn’t really matter what your pre-planned response is, so long as you consistently do it. By consistently following through, you’ll create small wins. Small wins build self-respect and confidence, thus lowering your need for willpower. Small wins and confidence solidify the decisions you’ve made, giving you increased inner-knowing that you absolutely will achieve your goal.

Another key reason that confidence lowers the need for willpower is that the more confident you get, the more you genuinely DESIRE better results. At the heart of willpower is not actually knowing what you want. Indeed, you may actually still desire eating bad food, for example. Thus, you’re at continually battling within yourself.

This is a horrible yet common way to live.

Most people do not know what they truly want. They don’t know how to make decisions. They haven’t learned how to build genuine confidence. Most people’s lives are a constant back-and-forth of indecision and lack of clarity. Yet, decision and clarity go hand-in-hand are not actually hard to build. They are skills.

You start with one simple one. And watch the ripples grow and success compound.

As you become more confident and mature as a person, your desires fundamentally change. You stop wanting stuff you used to want. You start wanting to succeed. You start loving yourself enough to win at life. You start seeing a much bigger picture for yourself. You realize increasingly more that you are the one painting the picture and actually have been the entire time.

Rather than being disappointed by your previous choices, you’re increasingly grateful for what your life is. You see increased vision and potential in everything around you.

Don’t Forget to Psychologically Detach and Play

Research in several fields has found that recovery from work is a necessity for staying energetic, engaged, and healthy when facing job demands.

Recovery” is the process of reducing or eliminating physical and psychological strain/stress caused by work.

One particular recovery strategy that is getting lots of attention in recent research is called “psychological detachment from work.” True psychological detachment occurs when you completely refrain from work-related activities and thoughts during non-work time.

Proper detachment/recovery from work is essential for physical and psychological health, in addition to engaged and productive work. Yet, few people do it. Most people are always “available” to their email and work. Millennials are the worst, often wearing the openness to work “whenever” as a badge of honor. It’s not a badge of honor.

Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience:

When you’re at work, be fully absorbed. When it’s time to call it a day, completely detach yourself from work and become absorbed in the other areas of your life.

If you don’t detach, you’ll never fully be present or engaged at work or at home. You’ll be under constant strain, even if minimally. Your sleep will suffer. Your relationships will be shallow. Your life will not be happy.

Not only that, but lots of science has found play to be extremely important for productivity and creativity. Just like your body needs a reset, which you can get through fasting, you also need to reset from work in order to do your best work. Thus, you need to step away from work and dive into other beautiful areas of your life. For me, that’s goofing off with my kids.

Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied the “Play Histories” of over six thousand people and concludes playing can radically improve everything — from personal well-being to relationships to learning to an organization’s potential to innovate. As Greg McKeownexplains, “Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.”

In his TED talk, Brown said, “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.” There is a burgeoning body of literature highlighting the extensive cognitive and social benefits of play, including:

Cognitive

  • Enhanced memory and focus
  • Improved language learning skills
  • Creative problem solving
  • Improved mathematics skills
  • Increased ability to self-regulate, an essential component of motivation and goal achievement

Social

  • Cooperation
  • Team work
  • Conflict resolution
  • Leadership skill development
  • Control of impulses and aggressive behavior

Listen to Brain Music or Songs on Repeat

In her book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis explains why listening to music on repeat improves focus. When you’re listening to a song on repeat, you tend to dissolve into the song, which blocks out mind wandering (let your mind wander while you’re away from work!).

WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, listens to one single song on repeat to get into flow. So do authors Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss, and many others.

Give it a try.

You can use this website to listen to YouTube videos on repeat.

I generally listen to classical music or electronic music (like video game type music). Here are a few that have worked for me:

One Moment by Michael Nyman
Make Love by Daft Punk
Tearin’ it up by Gramatik
Terra’s theme from Final Fantasy 3
Duel of Fates from Star Wars
Stop crying your heart out by Oasis

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This article first appeared on Medium

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

Author Article

University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky details the things research shows the happiest people have in common.

Via The How of Happiness:

  1. They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  2. They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  3. They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
  4. They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  5. They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  6. They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  7. They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
  8. Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

I guess the blog post could end here. You’ve got your answer. But did you just want trivia? Or do you actually want to get happier?

The internet has become a firehose of ideas we never implement, tricks we forget to use.

Reading a list of things is easy. Implementing them in your life can be hard. 

But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s get down to business.

“Happiness Subscriptions”

Here’s an interesting fact about happiness: frequency beats intensity. What’s that mean?

Lots of little good things make you happier than a handful of big things.

Research shows that going to church and exercising both bring people a disproportionate amount of happiness. Why?

They give us frequent, regular boosts.

Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says it’s really that simple: the things that make you happy, do them more often.

We have designated work hours. We schedule doctor appointments. Heck, we even schedule hair appointments.

We say happiness is the most important thing but fail to consistently include it in our calendars.

Research shows 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity. You can change your happiness by up to 40% by what you choose to do every day.

happiest-people

And much of what you do, you do on autopilot. 40% of what you do every day isn’t the result of decisions, it’s due to habits.

Via The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

See where I’m going with this?

Happy things need to be a habit. Part of your routine. Part of your schedule.

Stop waiting for random happy events, you need a “happiness subscription.”

So how do we take that list and make them things we actually do every day instead of more forgotten trivia? Let’s get started.

1) Wake Up And Say ARG!

Even scientific happiness advice is often corny. I’ll say that now so we can get it off the table … But it works.

And this is why you might want to say ARG when you wake up. It’s an acronym that stands for:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Recollection
  3. Gratitude

I’ve written about the importance of a morning ritual and how research shows your mood in the morning affects your entire day. So start right.

Anticipation is a powerful happiness booster. It’s 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing.

So think about what you’re looking forward to. Got nothing you’re looking forward to? Schedule something.

Recollecting great moments has a related effectMemories allow us to relive the good times and kill stress.

Via The How of Happiness:

People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and to experience intense emotions. In contrast, those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.

And gratitude is arguably the king of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

… the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

And the combo often leads to optimism. Another powerful predictor of happiness.

So, corny as it may be, wake up and say ARG! And then do a quick bit of anticipation, recollection and gratitude.

(For more on optimism click here.)

All that’s fine and dandy. But what do you do once you’re out of bed?

2) Savor Your Morning Coffee

Take a moment and really enjoy it. Smell it. Taste it. Appreciate it. Corny? Maybe.

But other research shows savoring — appreciating the good moments — is what separates the happiest people from the average Joe.

I imagine some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t drink coffee.” And please imagine me saying, “That’s not the point.”

It can be anything you do every morning.

And embedding savoring in our little daily rituals is powerful because studies show rituals matter.

Here’s Harvard professor Francesca Gino:

You can think about rituals that you yourself might engage in prior to consumption experiences. What they do, they make us a little bit more mindful about the consumption experience that we are about to have. Because of that, we end up savoring the food or whatever we are drinking more, we enjoy the experience more, and in fact, we’re also more willing to pay higher prices for whatever it is that we just consumed. Once again, rituals are beneficial in the sense that they create higher levels of enjoyment in the experience that we just had.

(For more on how savoring can make you happier click here.)

So what other habit can we build into our schedule that boosts joy? How about one that can make you as happy as sex does?

3) Sweat Your Way To Joy

When you study people to see what makes them happiest you get three answers: sex, socializing and exercise.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering.

People who exercise are, across the board, mentally healthier: less depression, anger, stress, and distrust.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

A massive Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families published in 2006 showed that exercisers are less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing. A Finnish study of 3,403 people in 1999 showed that those who exercise at least two to three times a week experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and “cynical distrust” than those who exercise less or not at all.

Don’t like exercise? Then you’re doing the wrong kind.

Running, lifting weights, playing any sport… Find something you enjoy that gets you moving.

(For more on how sweating can increase smiling — and make you smarter too — click here.)

Okay, time to head to work. What’s the best thing to do when you start the day? It’s not about you — but it will make you happier.

4) The Five Minute Favor

Who lives to a ripe old age? Not those who get the most help, ironically it’s those who give the most help.

Via The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

And a great way to do that without taking up too much time is Adam Rifkin’s “5 Minute Favor”:

Every day, do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of this thing you do should be that it makes a big difference to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or broadcast on social media.

So take five minutes to do something that is minor for you but would provide a big benefit to someone else.

It’s good karma — and science shows that, in some ways, karma is quite real.

Yes, some who do a lot for others get taken advantage of. But as Adam Grant of Wharton has shown, givers also succeed more:

Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics.

(For more on the best way to get happier by being a giver, click here.)

Alright, you have to start work for the day. Ugh. But there are ways that work can make you happier too.

5) Life Is A Game, And So Is Work

Like the research shows, the happiest people have goals.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

In his studies, the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves—both short-term and long-term—are happier. The University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized don’t just activate positive feelings—they also suppress negative emotions such as fear and depression.

Many of us feel like work can be boring or annoying but the research shows many of us are actually happier at work than at home. Why?

Challenges. And we reach that state of “flow” only when a challenge presents itself. So how can work make us happier?

Three research-backed things to try:

  1. To the degree you can, do things you’re good at. We’re happier when we exercise our strengths.
  2. Make note of your progress. Nothing is more motivating than progress.
  3. Make sure to see the results of your work. This gives meaning to most any activity.

(For more on getting happier by setting goals click here.)

Enough work. You’ve got some free time. But what’s the happiest way to use your free time?

6) Friends Get Appointments Too

You have mandatory meetings in your schedule but not mandatory time with friends? Absurd.

One study says that as much as 70% of happiness comes from your relationships with other people.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

Why does church make people so happy? Studies show it has nothing to do with religion — it’s about the socializing. It’s scheduled friend time.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

And if you have the cash, pay for dinner with a friend. Money definitely can make you happier — when you spend it on other people.

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

By the end of the day, individuals who spent money on others were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves — even though there were no differences between the groups at the beginning of the day. And it turns out that the amount of money people found in their envelopes — $5 or $20 — had no effect on their happiness at the end of the day. How people spent the money mattered much more than how much of it they got.

Harvard professor and author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter SpendingMichael Norton explains in his TED talk.

Don’t have the cash for that? No problem. Take turns paying. Duke professor Dan Ariely says this brings more happiness than always paying half.

(For more on how to have happy friendships click here.)

What’s the final thing happy people have in common? They cope with adversity. So what should we do when life gets tough?

7) Find Meaning In Hard Times

Research shows that a happy life and a meaningful life are not necessarily the same thing.

It’s hard to be happy when tragedy strikes. But who lives longer and fares better after problems? Those who find benefit in their struggles.

Via The How of Happiness:

For example, in one study researchers interviewed men who had had heart attacks between the ages of thirty and sixty. Those who perceived benefits in the event seven weeks after it happened—for example, believing that they had grown and matured as a result, or revalued home life, or resolved to create less hectic schedules for themselves—were less likely to have recurrences and more likely to be healthy eight years later. In contrast, those who blamed their heart attacks on other people or on their own emotions (e.g., having been too stressed) were now in poorer health.

In many cases, Nietzsche was right: what does not kill us can make us stronger.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

A substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, often to the level of PTSD, but then they grow. In the long run, they arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning than before… In a month, 1,700 people reported at least one of these awful events, and they took our well-being tests as well. To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who’d been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three— raped, tortured, and held captive for example— were stronger than those who had two.

So when you face adversity, always ask what you can learn from it.

(For more on how to make your life more meaningful — without terrible tragedy —  click here.)

See that? I took the eight things happy people do and squeezed them into just seven habits. You can thank me later.

Now how do we tie all of these happiness boosters together?

Sum up

If you want every day to be happier try including these seven things in your schedule:

  1. Wake Up And Say ARG!
  2. Savor Your Morning Coffee
  3. Sweat Your Way To Joy
  4. Do A Five Minute Favor
  5. Make Work A Game
  6. Friends Get Appointments Too
  7. Find Meaning In Hard Times

We’re all quick to say happiness is the most important thing … and then we schedule everything but the things that make us happiest. Huh?

So what’s going to make you happy today? Have you thought about it? Is it on your calendar?

Reading happiness information is useless trivia unless you use it and you won’t use it unless it’s part of your routine.

If happiness is the most important thing then make it the most important thing.

Join over 330,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree

When Inspiration Strikes

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When Inspiration Strikes
Photo by Raul Varzar | Unsplash

Meditation practice should always be inclusive and workable. In fact, a wholehearted, mindful embrace of everything that arises in your mind is the only path to true freedom. It is critical that all thoughts—including inspiring ones—be included in meditation practice. So the moment when inspiration strikes is really the perfect opportunity to put this vision of inclusiveness and workability to the test! Here are some tools that can help you affirm your inspiring thoughts without letting them distract you from the focus of your practice:

1. Make an Agreement with Yourself
Before beginning a period of meditation, reflect for a moment on your commitment to bringing your inspiring thoughts into the heart of your meditation practice. Place a pad and a pen beside you. Make an agreement with yourself that you will allow yourself to record onlyone inspiring thought per sitting period.

2. Focus the Mind
If your mind is scattered, it is helpful to cultivate a degree of concentration and calm before bringing the awareness to thoughts and emotions. You may find it helpful to do this by focusing on the changing sensations of your breathing for a while.

3. Note Resistance
It is not uncommon to feel that the process of thinking is an interruption of what should be happening. So start by becoming aware of any resistance to these thoughts: do you feel it in your body? Where? Perhaps across the shoulder blades, or in the face, the groin area, or the stomach? Is there an experience of tightness or tension in your mind? Include this resistance in the field of your awareness.

4. Note Fear
If you are worried that you will forget the thought, fear has entered the picture! It is critical that you also include the energetic experience of fear in your practice. Where do you feel the changing sensations associated with the fear? The emotional transition from resistance to fear is a wonderful opportunity to observe the laws of karma at work. Insight into the laws of cause and effect and the interdependence of the mind and the body is an important aspect of meditation practice.

5. Use A Mental Noting Practice
If you tend to get excited when inspiration strikes, it may be interesting to examine what is happening. Mentally noting these feelings and reactions to your thoughts may help. Try: in breath, out breath, and note: “inspiring thought, excitement, thought”; then again, in breath, out breath, and note: “worry, fear, another inspiring thought,” and so on.

6. Maintain a Sense of Humor
Try giving the inspiring thoughts a humorous label as soon as they arise, like “Einstein!” The simple label will not only help you realize the cyclical pattern of your thoughts, but by not taking your thoughts so seriously you will probably dilute any impulse to turn them into a problem.

7. As a Last Resort, Write Down the Thought
If a thought keeps relentlessly recurring, document the inspiration on your notepad, maintaining awareness of each intention as you do so: the intention and sensation of opening the eyes, the intention to reach for the pen, the sensations as your arm moves, the sensations of grasping the pen, the intention to reach for the pad, hearing the scratch of the pen on the paper.

By mindfully making a place for inspiring thoughts in your meditation practice, you affirm these thoughts and—who knows?—you may even get enlightened in the process!

♦From In the Lap of the Buddha by Gavin Harrison. © 1994 by The Dharma Foundation. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications, Inc., www.shambhala.com.

 

These 5 Questions Can Help You Set Better Goals

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If your goal follows all the rules — specific, measurable, etc., — but you are still struggling to achieve it, it may be time to consider the core of the goal itself. In other words, how important is the goal to you? Instead of being driven by productivity or meeting simple tasks on a to-do list, you must also do the work to achieve your goals.

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Jeff Rose points out it is not simply enough to sign up for a gym membership or buy new tennis shoes; you have to get yourself to the gym and physically commit to working out.

Rose also challenges you to ask a group of five “why” questions. By analyzing each facet of your goals, you can get to the root and make conclusions about their importance to you.

Click the video to hear more from Jeff Rose about analyzing your goals.

Related: Here’s How to Find the Best Members for Your Mastermind Group

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on RokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

How to Keep Your Motivational Mojo When the Chips Are Down

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How to Keep Your Motivational Mojo When the Chips Are Down

Image credit: John M Lund Photography Inc | Getty Images

Tiffany Delmore
GUEST WRITER
Co-founder of SchoolSafe
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The road to entrepreneurial success isn’t paved in gold. It might, in fact, be strewn with nothing more thrilling than horse manure. After all, according to the list of startups to watch from The New York Times and CB Insights, many next-gen business entities are in the booming agricultural technology space.

Somehow, the visual of a road dotted with the droppings of our four-legged friends fits. After all, any serial entrepreneur will tell you that being an early founder can feel crappy. Late nights turn into early mornings, and all the while, you’re wondering if the time spent is worth it.

If you can stay motivated, it will be worth it — beyond your wildest dreams, perhaps. But you have to stay the course, and far too many would-be founders let go too early in the journey.

It’s about finding bliss amid the cow chips.

The key to staying the course is to unearth the innately wondrous aspects of working at 2 a.m. to tweak a product design or construct an airtight elevator speech. In that vein, Thomas Corley’s five-year Rich Habits Study gives a peek into the behaviors and motivations shared by folks who hit the million-dollar mark.

What Corley found is that even though entrepreneurship can be difficult, the difference between winners and losers is a matter of perspective. Those entrepreneurs with self-confidence, passion for their work and eternal optimism found love for their work, even in the midst of frustration.

Related: 7 Life Lessons From My Entrepreneurship Journey

Most entrepreneurs who have made it can attest that enthusiasm and motivation amid hardships kept them plodding along, despite the temptation to give it all up. If you want to join their ranks, you must accept what they learned: Nobody can authorize or deny your entry into the hall of entrepreneurial heroes — except you.

In other words, get out your waders because it’s time to go knee-deep into what may stink today but provide rich soil for a fertile tomorrow. Use these three strategies to stay motivated:

1. Identify your raison d’étre.

Once you’ve started a business, you’ll constantly be asked to validate your commitment. If you have no answer to the question “Why do you want to do this?” you’re already done. Dig deep into your psyche to find out what makes your venture important to you. For Chase Jarvis, the CEO of CreativeLive, the biggest concern was not allowing the desire for money to become his No. 1 focus. “Be careful if you’re only committed to something for the next two weeks or the next paycheck,” he advises. “Pretty soon, that eroding mentality of constantly chasing the next thing will hurt you. Alignment provides a level of hunger that can’t be achieved when you’re just working towards a paycheck.”

Shift your thinking to mirror Barry Turner, one of the founders of Lenny & Larry’s protein-rich cookies. He still has a palpable commitment to and enthusiasm for the company he founded 25 years ago. As he told one interviewer, “I always dreamed when I started this that it will be sitting between Oreo and Chips Ahoy.” Put your own “why” in language just as colorful and specific, and your hustle will feel worthwhile.

Related: 5 Learnings From an Entrepreneurial Journey

2. Go for four.

Forget about a seven-day workweek. Chances are good that it will only drive you crazy and make you less productive than before, according to one Wharton professor. If you really want to get good at managing your finite moments, try budgeting your tasks within a four-day workweek. This challenge should leave you asking yourself how you can boost your efficiency. And if you manage it, you’ll find you have the time you need to take care of yourself and spend time with friends and family.

To be sure, pulling off a quick-as-lightning workweek takes some chutzpah and discipline. Rather than use day five as a chance to veg out, concentrate on making it count in other areas. It might be a day of personal development or an opportunity to research new business opportunities. Just keep it free from all the operational stuff so you can focus on adding breadth and depth to your business and yourself.

3. Hunt down your missing skill.

What would you never list on your résumé? Public speaking? Coding? Networking? Identify your underdeveloped skill set, and then do something about it. Chances are good that you’ll find some important stuff you need to know — or will if your company takes off. For example, when he moved to Texas, Ignitia Office co-founder Josh Bobrowsky realized that business deals happened at the gun range. The trouble was that he wasn’t a gun-toting guy — yet. After taking private lessons for months, he nailed the ability to shoot from the shotgun and the hip.

Be aware that what you lack might not seem important today, but it could be critical in the future. For instance, if you’re having trouble building your business brand, why not begin by developing a personal brand through social networks like LinkedIn? Your self-discovery could open new doors and launch you into opportunities you never realized existed.

Is it tough to remain curious and optimistic while trudging through what looks like mud but smells otherwise? Sure. But getting through the bad stuff with a smile on your face will help you persevere — not to mention appreciate the beautiful crops that will one day burst forth from the entrepreneurial soil you’ve laid.

Want to Succeed in Life? Every Day, Do This Thing First

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CREDIT: Getty Images

We live in the age of self-improvement. Wherever you go–your home, your car, your bar, your favorite bodega or bookstore–it’s forever there, staring you in the face.

The potential of a better you. Happy, strong, and successful. Prospering in all the important things, including your relationships and career.

It can drive you a little crazy. Most of us are satisfied to excel in just a few areas, and if we sacrifice our beach body by prioritizing parenting over the gym, so be it. But the ads keep pouring in: You can be perfect.

It’s pure B.S., of course. Life is short, and we can only strive so much. But if you put a gun to my head and demanded that I choose a single rule to live by–a rule to rule all others in the quest for human excellence–I’d have a ready answer.

Always do the hardest thing first.

It’s by no means an easy rule. It’s easy to say, and it feels nice to say it, but the minute you sit down at your desk, and that hardest thing is in front of you, and you’d literally rather do anything else–all bets are off.

Now for the good news. I’ve practiced this rule for many years, and can confidently report that with enough repetition it becomes habitual. You’ll still recognize the hardest thing as being the hardest thing–whether it’s balancing the books, making a sales call, or wrestling with your taxes–but the psychological dread that caused you to procrastinate in the past will have disappeared.

Here are three suggestions for taking the beast head-on:

1. Prepare the night before.

Before you go to bed, review tomorrow’s agenda.  Channel your inner Alex Honnold–if you haven’t seen Free Solo yet, I highly suggest it–and memorize every move in advance. Single out the moves that really suck, and then the one that sucks the very most.

Legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu advised that you learn to “know your enemy…and in one hundred conflicts you will naturally prevail.”

You now know your enemy. Meditate on it. Let it stand out in your thoughts. Isolated, it isn’t quite so intimidating.

2. Establish a soothing ritual.

Confronting your enemy in a dull or disordered state of mind is a great way to get slaughtered. To avoid this, establish a ritual or routine that you perform the moment you walk through the office door.

Arrive five minutes early. Greet your colleagues by name. Act cheerful and alert. Take your stuff to your desk and get organized.

Now make a cup of coffee or pour a glass of water. (Be methodical–your co-workers should be able to set their clocks by your movements.) Return to your desk. Seat yourself and take a sip. Fire up your computer. Your mind should be in a clear, calm state by now.

3. Inform someone else of your plans.

Announcing your intentions will ease your burden and provide extra motivation to succeed. You don’t have act like you’re running for president, but don’t be shy about it, either.

Tell a trusted teammate: “I’m going to do X now, and I’m going to show you when I’m finished.” If it helps, add some humor. Confide that you haven’t been looking forward to this particular responsibility and you hope talking about it will help you become the hero your mother always said you were. Or, if you had a rough childhood, that it will help you avoid becoming the lazy slob your mother always said you were.

Complete the step by following up with your teammate. Enjoy the euphoria for a minute or two, then move on to the next responsibility.

The rewards for doing the hardest thing first are obvious. The moment you cross that chore from your list, your mind unfurls like the first day of spring. Suddenly, other difficult tasks aren’t so difficult. Suddenly, your mind is totally yours, whereas before it belonged to the task you were postponing.

Perform the three steps religiously. Accept that you’ll fail–probably often. But then, something magic will happen. Gradually, you’ll improve. Your focus will tighten, your mood will lighten, your value will increase. And one happy morning, when you briskly crank out a task that six months ago would have haunted you all day, you’ll know what self-improvement really means.  ​

PUBLISHED ON: MAR 21, 2019

6 Daily Habits That Can Make You the Most Productive Person in the Office

Author Article

Ever wish you had 30 hours in a day to get more stuff done? Then again, how tired would you feel? You may already be exhausted by working eight hours per day.

Well, if you’re struggling to juggle work and life while trying to maximize your day without killing your health in the process, remember this: Being more productive doesn’t mean working harder or longer; it means working smarter.

Here are six ways to be more productive, the smart way:

1. Cut down the distractions.

Distractions are productivity’s biggest enemy. To make the most of your day, ax whatever is keeping you from being focused and productive. Take your work environment into account. Is sound/noise, lighting, the way the room is configured–like open-floor plans–a problem? Try relocating to a different space or make a case for working remotely. The key is finding out what distractions are messing with your productivity, and then doing something about it.

2. Have good boundaries.

Let me ask you: What’s most important for you to get done? Whatever it is, focus all your energy on those things. Take billionaire Warren Buffett, for example. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. The mega-mogul once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

3. Simplify.

Productive people are masters of simplifying things down to what matters most. They have a simple schedule. They live according to their values and purpose. They have no problem saying no to people or things that don’t serve them. If something coming their way on Tuesday has little value and doesn’t make them better on Wednesday, they simply walk away.

4. Exercise the “Pomodoro Technique.”

If done correctly, this classic time-management hack can help you get things done in short work intervals. First, decide on the tasks you want to check off from your to-do list. Next, set a timer to 25 minutes and knock off those items until the timer rings. After you finish, take a five-minute break and repeat the cycle four times. After the fourth cycle, take a 15- to 30-minute break and start over. The key is to focus on the short bursts, as it helps you to concentrate on your tasks without distractions.

5. Take more breaks

This sounds counterintuitive to being more productive at first, but according to a New York Times article, research shows that “daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office, and longer, more frequent vacations” actually boost productivity and job performance. Truth is, humans aren’t wired to concentrate for more than three hours at a time. Anything beyond that without a break and you’ll start to experience the negative effects of decision fatigue, lack of focus, and even impaired vision.

6. Schedule your to-do list items.

This productivity hack helps you be more realistic about what you want to get done. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says, “Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture, you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”

5 Surprisingly Underrated Habits of Super Successful People

Author Article

Success is often no accident.

It requires patience, effort, and consistency. The most successful people know that the daily routines we have make up our journeys to success — or towards failure. Today’s leaders are aware that even the small habits someone has can leave a huge impact on the kinds of accomplishments achieved.

If your daily habits are in need of some fine-tuning, or your performance at work could use some improving, consider adopting these underrated habits successful people are known to practice.

1. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. Successful people stay curious, and they care about details and how things work. If there is something they are not sure about, or something they do not know, they ask for an explanation. Asking too many questions doesn’t make you look stupid. In fact, you are more likely to look foolish if you don’t ask enough.

2. Analyze feelings and emotions.

Successful people don’t suppress their emotions. Although these leaders yield great results and are highly efficient, they are still human at the end of the day. Try regularly monitoring and managing your emotions. Be aware of how your emotions influence how you think and act, and understand that success will require you to sometimes keep your emotions at bay.

3. Stand up to inner critics.

It’s easy to beat yourself up after making a mistake, isn’t it? If you’re looking to succeed, remember that self-compassion is something you should practice regularly. Forgive yourself for what goes wrong, and speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a loved one or close friend. Practicing compassion for yourself will help you become mentally strong and successful.

4. Say no.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, says, “Every time you say yes to something, you’re really saying no to something else.” Practice setting and maintaining boundaries — successful people know progress comes from saying yes to priority items and projects and no to those that aren’t. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. Leave the office.

Working from home might not be a bad idea. In fact, one 2016 survey revealed how the most innovative employees divide their time between in-office and remote work. The survey suggested the ideal proportion of the workweek that you should spend in the office is 80 percent. This leaves 20 percent — or one entire workday each week — outside the office.

Each day is comprised of hundreds of decisions and actions, which ultimately determine your levels of productivity. No matter how innocuous your habits may seem, the reality is that these habits shape the course of your life, professional or otherwise. Try examining your current habits, and see if you can experiment with new ones.

8 Simple Productivity Hacks Backed By Science

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uncaptioned image

GETTY

In a world where your output is often measured by how much you can do on any given day, productivity is a serious concern. Entrepreneurs are their own boss, and while this has many benefits, procrastination and loss of focus can derail your efforts. As a digital nomad, these risks are compounded as work often has to fit around travel and different time zones.

Arguably, it’s better to be effective than productive, suggesting that being effective is about focusing on the right things. But all things being equal, if you were productive at what makes you most effective, you wouldn’t just get more done – you would truly be on the path to success.

So, how can you boost your productivity? Here are eight simple hacks you should try for yourself.

1. Turn Up The Tunes

Dr. Teresa Lesiuk at the University of Miami studied the effect listening to music had on work performance. What she found was that those who listened to music while working worked faster, had better ideas and experienced positive mood change.

You may want to experiment with different types of music for optimal performance. If you find music with lyrics too distracting, then classical or meditation music might be best. Personally, I have a soothing playlist with tracks by Ludovico Einaudi and Ólafur Arnalds which helps with creative thinking and strategy sessions.

2. Work Up A Sweat

study conducted at Bristol University found that exercise boosted employee performance by 21%. Their research was based on 200 employees across three organizations who exercised one day and didn’t exercise the next. Overall, on workout days, participant scores were 21% higher for concentration, 22% higher for finishing work on time, 25% higher for working without unscheduled breaks and 41% higher for feeling motivated.

3. Make Your Office Green

According to the University of Exeter, employee productivity soars by 15% when offices are furnished with just a handful of houseplants. Plants are also known to reduce stress, illness, absenteeism and noise levels. They can also help with cleaning the air and making your workspace more attractive to job applicants.

While a bonsai may look aesthetically pleasing, opt for something low maintenance like a cactus, spider or pothos plant. Looking at an office full of dead plants isn’t going to do much for productivity.

4. Get More Sleep

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found in a 2010 study that employees with insomnia or insufficient sleep experienced major productivity losses, spending almost three times as much of their day just on time management. Sleep-deprived workers also suffered a lack of motivation, couldn’t focus, had trouble remembering things and making good decisions. Getting your seven to eight hours per night is highly recommended.

5. Focus On One Thing At A Time

study from 2009 shows that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli. Multitaskers also performed worse on a test of task-switching. As it turns out, multitaskers are just more distracted.

If you want to get more done, do one thing at a time. Your concentration will improve, and ultimately, you’ll be more productive. My inbox is usually the biggest distraction that causes me to jump from one task to another so I make sure my phone notifications are off and my inbox is closed when I am working on big tasks.

6. Take Planned Breaks

Some people like to avoid distractions and get into a flow state while working. This makes a lot of sense on paper and when it’s crunch time I have been in danger of getting too in the zone. As it turns out, brief diversions can improve focus and performance, according to a study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Don’t forget to take a few quick breaks throughout your workday. Just make sure they are planned at intervals and not too long.

7. Power Nap

You would think sleeping on the job is a terrible idea. Typically, this would be viewed as a blatant act of defiance in the workplace. But according to a studyconducted by Vern Baxter and Steve Kroll-Smith, more employers are encouraging employees to take naps. As companies empowered their employees to nap, their overall productivity increased. Napping may not be the norm for you or your team, but it might be worth considering adding it to your routine or company culture.

8. Go For Walks

A 2014 study from Stanford University demonstrated the value of going for walks. Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz found that participants who were walking – versus sitting – came up with 60% more unique responses to stimuli.

If you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, or if you’re beginning to feel a little tired, going for a walk might be an excellent way to stimulate creative thinking and come up with better solutions to the problems you’re encountering. In case you were thinking of staying inside and walking on a treadmill, think again, walking outside is better for creativity.

Final Thoughts

While productivity hacks can appear counterintuitive by taking you away from your work, the long term benefits of taking care of yourself physically and mentally will make you more productive in the long run.

10 Small Habits That Have A Huge Return On Life

Author Article
Over the years, I’ve adopted many different “positive” habits.

To me, a habit is positive when it improves the quality of my life. A lot has been written about forming habits.

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How hard is? How long does it take? What’s the best way to break habits? How do we adopt new habits?

My experience is that everyone can adopt any habit they want. There’s only one condition though: You need a good reason to make a change (I talk about that in-depth on this podcast episode).

And in 99% of cases, the reason to change comes from personal suffering, sadness, and hurt. At some point, you can’t stand your current behavior anymore.

Don’t worry about how you will change. Focus on what habits you want to form and why.

After one of my friends recently asked me about my current habits, I decided to share them here — with a brief explanation of what the habits are good for.

1. Do a full-body workout with weights 3 times a week
Strength training has several benefits. It protects bone health, muscle mass, keeps you lean, increases energy levels, and prevents injuries.

I’ve been lifting weights since I was 16. It’s the only habit on this list that I’ve been doing for that long. Like many people who lift weights, I started with split routines.

That means you work out different muscle during every session. With most routines, you’re training a specific muscle only one time per week. It turns out that muscles need more stress to become stronger.

Ideally, you want to train all your muscles, 3 times a week. That’s why I’ve been doing full body workouts. It’s simple, practical, and it works.

2. Set 3-4 daily priorities
This is one of the best productivity strategies there is. We all know that focus is what brings us results.

No focus? No results. So how do you focus? By limiting your options and tasks. Elimination is the key.

Be very clear about what you want to achieve every single day, week, and year.

Every day, work on 3-4 essential (and small) tasks that will bring you closer to your weekly and yearly goals.

3. Read 60 minutes a day
I get it, you’re too busy to read. Or maybe you just don’t like to read.

Well, you’re not getting off that easily.

Reading is essential for your cognition. But you already knew that. How about this? Reading will also turn you into a better thinker and writer.

“But I still don’t like to read.” Well, there are many things in life we don’t like, but we still do them. Instead of telling yourself you don’t like to read, learn to enjoy it by doing it every day.

And like magic, one day, you’ll love to read.

4. Sleep 7-8 hours a night
I never sacrifice my sleep for anything. I recently canceled a meeting in the morning because I slept late. The night before, I was reading a good book that totally consumed me.

After reading, I started taking notes. And before I knew it, it was 2 am. I had to wake up at 7 am to make the meeting.

I canceled the meeting. I’m not going to sleep for 6 hours so I can make a meeting when I know that I’ll be tired the whole day.

Some people can perform well with 5 hours of sleep. But most of us need more. If you’re part of the latter group, make sure you get enough sleep. And be dead serious about it. If you’re not in a position to cancel meetings etc, sleep early.

5. Walk 30 minutes a day
If you can’t MAKE the time to go for a daily walk, you’re not in control of your life. I don’t even walk for the health benefits. Sure, walking keeps the body moving and is good for you.

But I go for a daily walk because it breaks the pattern of our mundane lives. Look, we can’t deny that life is routine. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when you walk outside, you’re forced to be one with the world. It heightens your senses. You can go alone or with someone else. You can have a good conversation. Or you can simply enjoy the surroundings.

6. Follow the intermittent fasting eating pattern
I don’t eat anything after my dinner. And I skip breakfast. That means I “fast” for 15-16 hours every day.

There are some health benefits associated with intermittent fasting. But we have to be careful with making claims.

The reason I like it is that it makes me feel and look better. Plus, I can eat whatever I want during the day without gaining any weight.

I don’t eat junk food. I stick to whole foods with high nutritional value. Also, my first meal contains a lot of unsaturated fat and protein. And finally, make sure you consume the calories your body needs to operate (2000 for women, 2500 for men, on average).

7. Be present
We’re so focused on our goals that we forget to enjoy the present moment. This is one of my biggest pitfalls.

I really need to remind myself EVERY SINGLE day that I should enjoy the now.

We’re always waiting until we achieve something. “I will be happy then.”

Nope, you won’t if you’re always stuck in the future. Find a trigger that brings you back to the present moment.

For example, I recently bought a new watch. During the same time, I was reading a lot about this spiritual stuff. Now, every time I look at my watch, I say, “What time is it? NOW.”

8. Practice kindness & love
We all treat our love like it’s a depletable resource. That’s false. Love is unlimited and never runs out. You can give it away as much as you like.

But your ego stops you from doing that. You always want something in return.

So give this a try. Realize that you have an unlimited resource. Give some of your love and kindness away every day. Don’t worry about keeping score. You have enough love anyway.

9. Journal or write 30 minutes a day
I need to get my thoughts in order every day. I do that by writing. That helps me to focus on what matters to me. That’s why I journal.

Even when I’m not writing articles, I sit down and journal — only for myself. I don’t write in my journal for others. Journaling is also an excellent tool to become a better thinker and person.

10. Save 30% of your income
If you can’t save 30%, save 10%. Saving is not about how much. It’s about how often.

You save by cutting out useless things you do daily or weekly. You don’t need to buy a latte every day. You also don’t need to buy “organic” cashew nuts for $10.

Save on the small things. They will turn into big lumps of cash in time. Especially if you invest that extra cash.

And that is also the secret to these 10 habits. They are all small. And the daily progress you make seems insignificant.

You will only see the return it has on your life over time. You must stick to these habits until your life gets better.

And when that happens, you’ll keep going — not because you have to, but because you want to.

This article first appeared on Darius Foroux.

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