There are no quick solutions to changing your entire life. You won’t get rich in the next 6 weeks or 6 months. You won’t have a six-pack in the next 30 days.
Happiness, productivity, wealth accumulation — these are skills that take time to learn.
I do understand how overwhelming the entire process can be, however, and I want to share some habits you can create over a long period of time, but can also be done in short periods.
It’s hard to control time. It slips away quickly. If you’re really really struggling, try doing one teeny tiny habit it one small block of time. Surely you have 30 minutes a day, right?
The following habits, interconnected with one another, have helped me transform my life. Any success I’ve had is due to the accumulation of them.
Pick one and try it today. Take one step. Pat yourself on the back. And do it again tomorrow.
1. Read books
When I was broke, lazy, and frustrated with my life, I adopted reading as a keystone habit — the habit acting as the first domino in the chain of personal transformation.
I read 75 books on topics ranging from evolutionary biology to eastern philosophy. Reading has made me a better writer, helped me make better decisions, find comfort in a chaotic world, and given me more confidence to tackle new dreams in challenges.
I have no goals, per se, when reading. I just want to know what I don’t know. I don’t know how this knowledge will help me, but it always does. The quote “the Average CEO reads 60 books per year” is dumb. Who cares what CEO’s are doing? Plus, reading won’t turn you into a CEO.
What it will do, however, is give you a wide collection of thoughts and insights you can use to form a philosophy that moves your life in a positive direction.
30 minutes doesn’t seem like much, but it can add up to around 12 to 15 books per year. The more you knowledge you have to put to use the better.
2. Listen to audiobooks
Audiobooks are great for people who don’t like reading. It’s also useful as ‘background noise’ while you’re doing other activities like commuting or working out.
Audiobooks almost have a subliminal effect on you. You’re not always listening to them intently, but you can soak up wisdom in a passive way. I won’t listen to something like Darwin’s the Origin of Species on audio, but audio is perfect for books like How to Win Friends and Influence People — lighter books with little nuggets of wisdom.
Listening to books on audio is also a pretty excuse-free habit. You can’t put in some earbuds and passively listen to a book for 30 minutes a day?
3. Go for walks
Walks are an excellent way to gather your thoughts and gain some clarity on situations that are going on in your life. I’ve had several epiphanies and serendipitous moments while taking a stroll. Walking every day is also good for your health. It’s often recommended for people who are just beginning to start an exercise routine.
If you’re in a creative field, bring a notebook with you while you walk, because you might have some ‘aha’ moments you won’t have while you’re sitting at your desk or staring at the canvas.
There are many, many, many benefits of meditation. The best one, though? Meditation helps you realize how ridiculous and insane your thought patterns actually are — the imaginary scenarios that’ll never happen, the hopscotch between egomania and self-doubt, the incessant chatter.
It helps you realize much of what you see going on in the world is just a manifestation of the incessant chatter in other people’s head. Not to go deep, but exploring your mind and understanding the nature of thought helps you not take yourself so goddamned seriously all the time and live your life.
5. Make simple, short to do lists
Make a list of 2–3 things you want to get done for the day. Only include items that are going to have a major impact. Do those things. Cross of the list. It’s gratifying.
The entire productivity industry is, as the kids say, being extra. No need for meticulous Evernote files and folder systems, timers, and idiosyncratic routines.
Keeping regular to-do lists and actually completing them builds self-confidence and makes you more productive.
6. Write down the things you’re grateful for
This may seem a bit cheesy, but it’s actually a fantastic way to gain perspective and learn to appreciate the good things in your life. Mornings are great for this exercise because it establishes a positive mood for the entire day. No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, I’m sure you can find something to be grateful for.
Sit in a room by yourself in silence and think. Think about your goals. Think about situations that need to be resolved. Struggle through the process of being alone with your mind. Many times we don’t find solutions to problems because we haven’t taken enough time to think of a creative way to solve them. You’d be surprised what you come up with if you take the time to think and focus.
Sitting alone to think also lengthens your attention span. Lengthening your attention span helps you do work uninterrupted. Doing work uninterrupted helps you produce better work. We hate being bored, but being bored gives you time to process what you’re doing.
We’re scared to be with ourselves. But being with yourself from time to time gives you a type of perspective you can’t get otherwise.
8. Do some form of exercise
Ah yes, the elephant in the self-help room, exercise. Look, let’s not beat this dead horse, but it’s worth mentioning.
Aside from loving how you look in the mirror, exercise has a much more practical function. The better you feel the better you perform at…everything.
Work, playing with your kids, making love!
I once did a 90-day yoga program. At the beginning, I couldn’t touch my toes or even get my hands more than a few inches past my knees. By the end, I was doing handstands and could not only touch my toes but stand on top of my entire hands. Tiny habits…
9. The Idea Machine Technique
All credit goes to the writer James Altucher for this one. Here’s what you do. Take out a pen and paper. Write down 10 ideas for doing “x.” “X” could be new business ideas, ways to improve your relationship, plans for the weekend, anything.
These practices strengthen your ‘idea muscle’. If you write down 3,650 ideas per year — some of them should be good. Take a good idea and write another 10 expanding on that idea.
It works. This practice is part of the reason why I’ve written more than 500 blog posts and more than a half-million words. Try it.
10. Unplug before you go to bed
When it’s almost time to go to sleep, off your television, close your computer, and put away your smartphone. You can read, spend time talking with your significant other, journal, whatever. Take some time to actually wind down and reflect on your day.
Looking at screens before you go to bed keeps you awake and causes insomnia. It’s also nice to not be wired 16/7 (24/7 minus sleep, get it.)
The Bottom Line
If I see one more blog post that says, “How Elon Musk Starts His Day,” I’m going to hurl my keyboard across the room.
Personal development has more benefits than becoming rich and famous. It actually just makes life better. Adopt these habits to become a better version of yourself…for the sake of becoming a better version of yourself.
Try one. Today. Don’t do what you always do and read a blog post then do nothing. Go. Go. Go.
Originally published at medium.com