We’re all looking for that major breakthrough – that thing that will take us to another level. But while such things are possible, it is far more likely that you will make leaps through small steps. In some circles, these are referred to as micro-habits. Businessman Benjamin Hardy uses a financial riddle to explain. “Would you take $10 million today, or start with 1 penny today, and every day your balance doubles for a month?” Almost everyone would take the $10 million. However, the “doubling method” would actually be more than $10.7 million after one month. In the same way, you can make small changes each day and get further along in pursuit of your goals than one big breakthrough. With that in mind, let’s examine 10 micro-habits you can use to make significant changes in your life in less than a year.
10. Establish A Routine
What makes you feel super-charged? Is it a run, meditation, healthy breakfast? Whatever is the one thing that charges your battery the best, start your day with that thing. If you start the day with something you enjoy, you will be more energetic and ready to take on the tasks of the day. You will be more proactive and less prone to stress. Follow this up with the 80/20 rule, which states that 20% of the tasks produce 80% of the results. Use the energy generated by starting the day with your best activity to accomplish the tasks that will have the highest impact.
9. Increase Your Gratitude
French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “we can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” It’s very easy to focus on ourselves and our worries instead of appreciating the wonderful gifts we have in our lives. To change this mindset, you can keep a gratitude journal, or take time to give some appreciation to a loved one. This will reduce stress and increase your happiness.
Yes, we know – if you look at 1,000 job applications, “ability to multi-task” will be in the minimum qualifications of 999 of them. Chalk that up to hiring managers and staff including that line “because that’s the way it’s always been done.” The truth is, only 2% of all the people in the world can multi-task effectively. You may need to briefly toggle between two tasks, but only do so for a few moments. Generally, when you try to complete two challenging tasks at the same time, you will produce poor quality in both of them. This is where crafting a good to-do list either first thing in the morning or the last thing before going to bed will be a big help. Prioritize the high-impact tasks and go after those, one at a time.
7. Listen More
Effective communication is essential in business and in life in general. Part of communication is listening. Far too often, we hear what someone is saying, and start forming a response while the other person is still speaking. That is hearing, but not listening. To listen, you must give your full attention to what the other person is saying, and being able to discern what response the other person desires – sometimes a solution to a question or problem is sought, while other times the person may simply want to get something off their chest and want someone to just pay attention.
6. Read More
We should never desire to stop learning. Reading is an effective way to keep learning. It’s fine if you’re not one of those people that can sit down and plow through an 800-page novel. There are many ways to read – following experts on social media that post good content, listening to audio-books, read interesting articles online. Reading is a way to broaden your horizons, get fresh ideas and learn new things. Some studies have shown reading right before bed helps you sleep better. You can find solutions to problems you are facing by reading about others facing the same concerns.
5. Disconnect More Often
Previous generations had television as their greatest source of mindless, non-productive activity. Today, we have social media as the top thief of our time. The average person has 5 social media accounts and spends about 100 minutes a day checking those platforms. Science is discovering links between long stretches of social media activity and depression. Schedule regular time where your phone and laptop are shut off. Consider some of the apps that limit time on a specific website each day before blocking it, or ones that keep a count of how often you open certain sites. The idea is not to ban social media use, but to help you track the time you spend with it so you can reduce it if you are allowing it to steal your productive time.
4. Practice Self-Care
It sounds so selfish to say, “I need me-time,” but it’s essential to being your most effective self. However, lack of private time is what many people identify as a negative aspect of life. Spend a little time in your favorite hobby – reading, listening to music, learning a skill, cooking, going for a walk or hike, whatever it is that makes you feel good.
We are all aware of the need for exercise to keep our bodies in optimal health. But it also enhances creativity and cognitive skills, and build endurance and energy. It also helps by boosting the production of endorphins – hormones that act as natural anti-depressants.
2. Drink More Water
Is your first move each morning in the direction of the coffee pot? You may want to reconsider. Drinking water first thing in the morning is a great way to jumpstart your body. It not only jolts the brain to action, but it also helps your body to rehydrate and to expel toxins that accumulated overnight. If you rarely drink water, don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to get the recommended half-gallon every day. Start with that one glass first thing in the morning. Once you have made that a habit, try to add one more glass during the day. In time, you will build up to the point where you are getting the water you need.
1. Help Someone
It isn’t just a cliché from the Bible that it’s better to give than receive. It truly does help you as much as the person you are helping. One of the best antidotes to stress is to get out of your own thinking, and the best way to distract yourself is by helping someone else. You can’t worry about yourself when you’re busy caring for others.
These ideas seem fairly small when taken by themselves one time. But like the penny that when doubled every day turns into over $10.7 million in the course of a month, taking these actions each day will multiply your accomplishments and quality of life in ways you could hardly imagine before.