So many sophisticated philosophies are there about happiness! So much science about health! So many difficult practices and heavy books! But where is the simplicity?
Here, it is here. I made a list of 30 simple and easy actions (which will become habits if you practice), that actually change the mind bit by bit, change the life bit by bit and lead to health and happiness bit by bit…
All of these habits are advised by many many books, blogs, and other personal development material, but I selected only those which meet specific criteria:
- They are easily doable without too much preparation – you can start tomorrow.
- They are actual actions that can be done at a specific time, not vague terms like “be more grateful” or “be more kind to people”.
- You can do them daily.
- I tried them myself.
When people saw my draft list – they shouted: “but I need 48 hours to do all of this!”. Yes, the list is long, but most of the habits do not take any additional time, they might even save you time. That’s why I included a short commentary about time for each habit.
Please, do not try to implement everything at once! Pick 2 or three ideas and stick on them for next month. Then come back, and pick two more. For your convenience, I made a simple spreadsheet with all 30 habits for you:
- you can assess your level there
- you can track your performance
- you will find an example how to use it with my personal information
Find it right after the list.
You might not get really good at those actions at once – but do remember, if practiced daily, they will become habits.
Simple habits to change your life
1. Wake up early
What is early? Early enough is when you have time for your morning routines before leaving to your job or starting your usual daily life. It may be 5 am, 8 am, even 1 pm (if you are an artist and you feel more inspiration at night).
If you need to shorten your sleeping time to wake up early – don’t worry too much. You don’t need to sleep much, you need to sleep your optimal time, which is rarely more than 8 hours (but sometimes it is). There might be cases when you have sleep deprivation – then you must sleep more.
No need to wake up 2 hours earlier tomorrow. Just try waking up 5 minutes earlier. Later you can increase.
Effect on time: This will save you an amount of time, depending on when are you waking up right now. Might be even 2 or 3 hours.
2. Do morning exercises
You can do simple stretching exercises, yoga (Sun Salutation), Qi Gong, Tai Chi (24 form), go jogging or whatever that is not intense, but makes you awake.
Effect on time: you will need 15 minutes for this.
3. Use cold or contrasting shower in the morning
This will make you awake for sure.
Effect on time: zero, because you do shower already.
4. Smile at yourself
Look at yourself in the mirror and smile. This will make your day more positive. (I wrote about smiling experiment here)
Effect on time: you will need 3 seconds.
5. Have breakfast
I heard that many people are not eating breakfast. That scares me! Breakfast is a key to productive day – you need some energy to start going! Eat easily digestible food. If you are concerned about time – a smoothie or just a fruit is OK.
Effect on time: might be up to 30 minutes, depending on what you will eat.
6. Eat fresh vegetables or fruits with every meal
The simplest diet plan made by Zen Habits tells us that you need to eat a crapton of veggies first. If you cannot switch to eating a crapton – eat a bit, but with every meal!
Effect on time: zero. You are already eating and buying food.
7. Drink water
You might hear suggestions to drink water every hour or drink no less than 1,5 liter every day, but I suggest to start with drinking water instead of coffee, soft drinks and before each meal. Whenever you are thirsty – drink water. (If you need coffee to wake up in the morning, see habit no. 3)
Effect on time: maybe 2 minutes if you are going to drink water more often than you do it now.
8. Avoid highly processed food
This is my personal simple health plan – whenever I have a choice of more processed and less processed food – I choose less processed. Milk is better than ice cream. Chocolate is better than chocolate cake. Raw vegetables are better than cooked. But mind the hygiene and your digestion abilities – boil things if you need to, boil rice, do not eat them raw.
Effect on time: zero. You are eating something anyway. And I am not suggesting to go raw or vegan at once – just make a bit better choices.
9. Avoid snacking
Snacking is useful only if you are doing serious bodybuilding (there are advises to eat often, especially if you have ectomorph body) or serious hiking. But usually snacking is poison.
Effect on time: you will save some time depending on how much you snack now. Might be an hour. You might be surprised how much time does it take.
10. Stop smoking
We know this is harmful to your health, wallet, and also time. There are other ways how you can make a break in your work, or socialize with colleagues. (Check habits no. 11, 16, 30)
Can we really stop smoking tomorrow? No need! Tomorrow can be the first day to start reducing.
Effect on time: you will save some time depending on how much you spend on it now.
11. Take Power Nap
A Power Nap is a short sleep, up to 25 minutes. It will help you to refresh your mind significantly. If your brain feels tired, do this once a day. However, if you sleep longer – the effect is opposite. Never take a nap longer than 25 minutes.
Effect on time: you will need 25 minutes. But you will save time because your work will be more productive after that. I’d say the effect is zero.
12. Stop multitasking, concentrate on one thing to do every moment
You can have as many projects running right now as you want. But this very moment there must be only one task.
It might be impossible just to stop multitasking tomorrow. What you can do is to start practicing single-tasking.
Effect on time: I’d say you will save a lot because you will be switching less from one thing to another. This might amount to even 2 hours a day!
13. Limit your time for facebook or checking news
30 minutes a day is enough for social networks and news. Exceptions are when news are your job, or you do a project when you need to post on facebook and reply comments.
Effect on time: you will save some time depending on how much you spend on social networks right now. (If you already spend less than 30 minutes, you don’t need to increase though)
14. Limit your time for replies to emails and messages
Yep, this one too. Even if you work with emails constantly flowing to your inbox (like I did), block time for replies two times a day – in the morning and in the evening. Reply at once only if your CEO is writing personally to you and asking something really urgent. For many people, it is enough to check email once a day for 30 minutes. Messages on facebook messenger also go into this category. Do not open facebook for messages, use separate messenger instead.
Effect on time: the same as for facebook – you might save some time.
There are advises that you should exercise 2-3-4 times a week. But I suggest doing this every day. Everything counts: a small workout, some cycling, some jogging, stairs (stop using the elevator, I live in 8th floor and take all my bags from grocery shop by stairs), a walk (stop using motor transport for short distances), carrying heavy things. The more you do unnecessary physical activities – the better for your health. (Here are 21 sports suitable for introverts)
Effect on time: this will require maybe 30 minutes every day.
Effects on time: 15 minutes of meditation saves you 30 minutes every day. 30 minutes of meditation saves you an hour every day.
It is a nice word to call the practice of stopping for a while and saying “Thank you”. You can thank for the day you had (in the evening), for the food (before a meal), for new opportunities (in the morning). You can say “Thank you” to God, Buddha, Allah, Jesus, your parents, people around you, or even scientists if you are an atheist.
Effects on time: you will need maybe 10 minutes.
18. Work in intervals, do breaks
The one who exhausts himself cannot do much in long term. The one who can take rest effectively – will be able to do many things. So, if you are tired, maybe it is time to make a break. Maybe to take a day off. Maybe to take a power nap (see habit no. 11). Maybe to close your eyes for 5 minutes is enough.
Try working in short intervals of 90 or 45 minutes. Do 5 to 15 minutes break after each working interval. In this way, you will always do breaks and will not get exhausted.
Effects on time: zero. Short breaks keep you fresh and concentrated. Exhaustion leads to illness when you cannot work for days.
19. Do well or do not do at all
This is an action of the mind. Whenever you feel like you are doing something you don’t care – do one of the following:
- Start caring
- Stop doing
Otherwise, you are wasting your time and energy.
Effects on time: zero. Or maybe you will even save some time by not doing not important things.
20. Think positive
Practice seeing the opportunities, seeing the obstacles, creating ways how to seize the opportunities and overcome obstacles. (Positivity is explained here)
Effects on time: additional thinking might take some time, but this way of thinking will improve your life in many ways.
21. Do small things mindfully
“Mindfully” means concentrating on only one thing you are doing right now but on every aspect of that thing. Your thoughts, your movements, your sensations, your intentions.
What are the small things? Brushing the teeth, watering the plants, washing the dishes, eating, ironing, taking a shower, walking pets. All those small things might become your little islands of peace and mindfulness.
Effects on time: zero. You are already doing those things.
22. If you notice your body is in a bad position – correct it
What is the bad position? When the back is not straight – make it straight. When you feel a tension in muscles – make yourself comfortable. When your body is in a weak position – change it to power position.
Effects on time: maybe 5 minutes a day needed.
23. If you have an idea – write it down
Keep a journal of ideas. You can have an actual paper notebook or use an app on your phone. Whenever you have an idea – good or bad – write it down.
Effects on time: maybe 5 minutes a day needed.
24. Write a diary
Each evening or morning, record the things of the previous day that matters. You can record the most positive thing (like I did), you can express your gratitude there (I did that too). Regular writing habit is a straight way to change your thinking habits. Just start it and see where it leads. (More ideas about what to write in a diary is here.)
Effects on time: I suggest spending no more than 15 minutes.
25. Plan the next day
Here is what you need to do:
- Write the things you must do tomorrow
- Select 1 to 3 priorities for the next day
- Review other things you might do if you had time
For this to work well you must have your to-do lists prepared. But this action will also help to develop them, to stay concentrated on most important things every day and not to waste the time. (Here is my article about selecting what is important)
Effects on time: I suggest spending no more than 15 minutes on this, but the next day you will waste less time.
26. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time even at the weekend
This will help you to improve the quality of your sleep, and better quality of your sleep will have positive effects on everything you do.
Effects on time: I guess you will have some extra hours on weekends.
27. Sleep in a cool and dark place
This will improve your sleep too.
Effects on time: maybe 5 minutes to set up your sleeping place, for example, to close the curtains.
28. Stop talking rude words
Rude words make you think about rude things. If you avoid rude words even when you are upset, you will practice avoiding rude thoughts, rude actions and will have a more peaceful life.
Effects on time: zero.
29. Read books or learn new things
I guess you know the benefits of reading books better than me. You can not only learn from them, but you can improve your creativity and imagination.
Learning new things is useful as well – be it necessary skills to boost your career, to develop your personal project or just interesting things about your hobby. It can be playing guitar, dancing, language, programming, painting – just anything you like. It is like training for your brain – to keep them flexible and powerful.
However reading a book AND learning a new thing will take too much time – so I put these two together – choose the one you like more. Never force yourself to do any of these – they are supposed to be a meaningful pleasure.
Effects on time: it is up to you how much you want to spend, but I suggest no less than 45 minutes.
Spend some time daydreaming about things you would like to do, about the life, you would like to have. Or spend your time in your fantasy world. Record your dreams in an idea book (see habit no. 23) or in a diary (see habit no. 24).
Effects on time: you can do it whenever your mind is free. So I guess the effect should be zero.
A little reminder
All this health and productivity is needed for you to live life, reach your goals or do anything else you want to do. They are not meant for themselves. “What is the point of dying healthy?” – my friends keep asking me. There is no point of dying healthy. You can die being tired from the things you do or from the heart attack due to inactivity, wrong food, and bad sleeping habits. If you do not have goals – enjoy your life as it is. Everyone will die one day.
But if you are not enjoying your life as it is – consider this list.
Here is the link to your spreadsheet:
(Works best with Excel)
Overall effects on time
Honestly, I did not want to put that much emphasis on time, but after I saw reactions of people on the draft of this article I understood, that I must calculate it.
The overall time needed to do all the things in this list every day is calculated in the table below. I used conservative estimations, for items with an asterisk (*) I put zero effect. Negative numbers mean saved time. Some of the estimations are based on my experience, some – on the experience of other people. (Check this great app for keeping track of your time and estimate the time yourself: Toggl)
If the whole list has been implemented the overall effect on time is 2 saved minutes. It almost balances itself out – the time you save by being more concentrated on your tasks you can spend on activities that help you to be more concentrated and productive.
This is a conservative estimate, so you can actually save more time! Use the saved time wisely!
Did I miss something? What are the small things you do every day? Any additions to this list are welcome. Feel free to share in comments.