What sort of habits do you have in your daily life? Are they helping or hindering you? This was a question we were forced to reflect upon when we took our digital business on the road in 2014! Most of us know that daily “good” habits are the backbone of a successful business and for that mater a fulfilled life, so why then are they the first things that go out the window when you change your environment?
When we headed off on our 18 month working trip around the world, this was the one thing that upset our apple cart the most – establishing good habits that enhanced our work flow. Our trip had us moving every 2-4 weeks, so our environment was forever changing (from tent to hotel to air bnb to hostel to house sit etc.), this was not something we accounted for in our planning. No sooner had we developed a good habit and we were packing our bags and traveling to the next destination, where we had to re-adjust to a new environment. At each new destination we had to locate the closest sources of food, transport, entertainment (for the kids) and of course internet! These activities took a good few days to sort out and in the mean time our good habits had fallen by the way side..
I’m not just talking about work habits, after all none of us work inside a vacuum, our personal lives influence our work lives all the time, no mater how hard we try to separate them. What we found during our 18 months of traveling and working was that we had to establish positive habits in our work and personal lives and as much as possible protect these habits from our nomadic lifestyle.
After a lot of trial and error (and its still not perfect) we discovered what habits suited us as individuals and made us more productive in our business and personal lives. These were not always the same habits – for example Simon never quite came at 15-30 minutes of meditation in the mornings and I didn’t find listening to comedy as I go to sleep very helpful. The broader habit areas are universal but the manifestation of these habits could look very different to every individual!
The broad areas that I’m talking about are work, meditation/mindfulness practice, healthy living (food and exercise) and education habits. In order to lead a fulfilled life, you need to establish habits in each of these areas, and give some thought to how they will be affected when you change your work environment. The dream of working in a different cafe every day may not be as pleasant in reality if you don’t establish your own positive work habits. For example, when we found internet in various cafes we would already have a list of prioritised jobs that needed to be done online – our habit of creating prioritised job lists at the end of each work session meant we didn’t waist our precious internet time. Another habit we have developed in the work arena is to work in 25 minute chunks by using a pomodoro timer (http://pomodorotechnique.com) – in this way we can achieve a lot more in the day as we’re concentrating on one thing in chunks of 25 minutes (like writing this post – it took 4 X 25 minute chunks to finish). There are hundreds of different positive work habits you can apply to your work (researching David Allens’ Getting Things Done would be a great start – http://gettingthingsdone.com ). What I would like to say is that when your work environment changes frequently its vital that you enforce positive work habits on yourself in order to help you focus on what needs to get done every day (you will need to be very strict with yourself). There are a load of distractions when your view is constantly changing!
What about the other 3 areas – meditation/mindfulness practice, healthy living (food and exercise) and education habits? Well they all over lap into your work life because as I said earlier, you can never truely separate your personal and work life. Finding time to meditate and/or practice mindfulness each day is extremely helpful when you have a thousand things going on in your mind. This isn’t something that has to take up a lot of time – in fact you can meditate in just a couple of minutes by concentrating on your breathing. My tip for meditating/mindfulness is do not over complicate it, it should be just as natural as breathing 🙂 If you’re just starting with this I can recommend the headspace app (https://www.headspace.com) and the buddhify app (http://buddhify.com) – they both lead you through stilling your mind and providing a little peace in this busy world.
Healthy Living (food) Habits
We all know the benefits of healthy living but so few of us actually build healthy habits into our lives. When it comes to eating healthily there is loads of information online about what a healthy diet should look like – some of that information is contradictory. To stop myself chasing the latest health fad (maybe I should tell you that I’ve just started using kefir grains ;-)) I try and keep it simple – stay away from over processed foods and avoid sugar, oh and have a couple of cheat days here and there. The healthy food habit which has held us in good stead when travelling – always carrying a bag of raw almonds and a water bottle everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times a hyperglycaemic attack or dying of thirst episode was averted thanks to these two goodies! Eating healthily on a consistent basis requires you to get into the habit of thinking ahead and preparing or you will find your self grabbing the closest high sugar/fat snack around 3pm every day! Personally I have a habit of planning our family meals 2 weeks ahead – that way its harder for me to slip up and I have more time to concentrate on other things rather than what to feed the family every single day (mum rant over).
Healthy Living (exercise) Habits
What about the exercise element of healthy living habits? As I come from a marathon background the area of regular exercise is not that difficult for me to apply, although I certainly notice when travel/circumstances get in the way of going for a regular jog – the lack of exercise really upsets my feeling of well being and my ability to have clarity around my work tasks. There are loads of studies around why daily exercise is important for all of us – you need to make it a habit in your life, just like brushing your teeth (you are brushing your teeth aren’t you? ;-)). Again there are loads of apps that can motivate you to get out the door: I tend to use the Nike+ app (http://www.nikeplus.com.br) for my running, and I’ve noticed a proliferation of apps like “Couch to 5k” out there now. If you have an iPhone the health app is probably tracking your steps and you didn’t even know it (I only discovered this recently). Of course running, riding, surfing, swimming etc. may not be your thing and thats fine, you just need to move (preferably outside). Yoga is another great way to practice regular movement and it has an added bonus of mediation/mindfulness involved and of course there are plenty of yoga apps (like https://www.yogaglo.com). Find something that works for you and make it a habit.
Education is the last habit area in the list – keeping your mind learning is one of the best things you can do for your self, both personally and in your work life. There are many studies that show people who learn new things every day stay more mentally aware as they get older. In fact its a lot like exercise – if you don’t use it you’ll lose it! Again technology has come to the rescue – there are loads of ways you can be learning new things everyday, apart from reading (which is awesome). I chose to combine my exercise habit with my education habit and listen to podcasts and audio books while I run – I call it my mobile university 🙂
I can’t finish an article of habits without mentioning Hal Elrod and the Miracle Morning (http://www.miraclemorning.com) – Hals book details something he calls the miracle morning and surmises that if we set the day up right everything else will take care of its self. How many times in the past have you wanted to start a particular day over again? Well Hal’s miracle morning hopes to rid you of ever having that thought. Its a great book and well worth a read and then I would suggest you adapt his ideas to your individual situation. Hal basic morning activity looks like this:
- Up early
- Sit in silence
He even notes that if you don’t have much time you can do those things for a minute each, resulting in a 6 minute miracle morning 🙂
Here is my morning routine – which I try to stick to:
- Up 5:30am
- 10 – 15 minutes of meditation (I listen to meditation music while I read a few affirmations, some specific goal orientated visualisations & my written perfect day scenario. Then I have a few minutes of just concentrating on my breathe, followed by asking what one thing should I do today to get me closer to my goal. Then I just listen – usually I have to grab my pen and write down a bunch of ideas. I choose one idea as my one thing that must happen today).
- Start breakfast (we eat our main meal in the morning)
- 6:15am Kids out of bed
- 6:30am Eat breakfast as a family
- 7am Kids on the bus
- 7:10am off for a run while listening to podcasts/audio books
- 9am at my computer ready to work on the one thing my meditation highlighted as most important for the day, in 25 minute increments (with 5 minutes break) – once thats done I move onto the rest of my tasks.
Now its your turn – what do you do?
I’d love to hear what daily habits you’ve installed in your life to keep you fulfilled and happy 🙂