Every year, people set out to reach new goals—earn more money, lose weight, grow their business, and more. I’ve found that the best way to achieve your goals is by committing to a new healthy habit.
By definition, a habit is a regular tendency that’s difficult to give up.
When you create healthy habits that are difficult to give up, you will inevitably get closer to achieving your bigger goals.
Today, I’m going to talk about the most important habits that you can start doing daily.
Are hard work and exercise the most important habits?
There is a good argument to be said that regular exercise is the most important habit. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls exercise the keystone habit.
I agree that exercise is a cornerstone habit that leads to a better life. Even for a few minutes every day, a habit of exercise is a guaranteed way to become healthier and stay healthy.
On a similar note, people might argue that the best habit is hard work.
James Cash Penney, better known as the founder of JCPenney, once said,
“Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”
No doubt, being diligent is a crucial attribute for success and happiness.
The most important habit: planning your day
I would argue that making a plan, specifically, a daily plan is the most important habit.
In 2019, I wanted to find out the characteristics of the most happy and productive people. I surveyed 500 people from across the globe. The results showed that 70% of those who said they were the happiest also said they had a habit of daily planning.
I’ve found that 15 minutes in the morning and evening to plan and review set up all other daily habits. It's during the quiet planning time of the morning and evening that you plan your exercise, work, and all your other good and worthwhile activities of the day.
The ancient philosophers called the Stoics emphasized the importance of morning planning.
Marcus Aurelius proposes to remind yourself in the morning “of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Epictetus advises to rehearse the day in the morning, and then review your progress in the evening.
Here’s a four-minute video explaining the Stoic morning routine of looking inward, examining ourselves, and reflecting.
At daybreak, we should ask ourselves a few questions:
- What do I still lack in order to achieve freedom from negative emotions?
- What do I need to achieve tranquility?
- What am I? – A rational being.
The purpose of this daily routine is to get better and step towards our goals every day.
I found that a morning planning meeting with yourself can turbo boost your day. When you get off to a good start to your day, the rest of the day will follow suit.
Waking up early to conduct your morning planning is essential because it’s quiet, you can be still and free from interruptions. Early mornings are a time where you can connect to your soul and listen without worrying about the business of life.
What should my morning planning meeting look like?
- Start with gratitude. Use your phone or a journal to list the things you're grateful for in that moment and yesterday. This is a great way to start your day with positivity!
- Build your to-do list and calendarize it. Write your list in chronological order (as much as possible). A to-do list helps visualize the activities and helps with last-minute planning for each activity.
- Mentally prepare for how you want to show up. Build an intention for the day. How do you want to show up for your spouse/partner and kids? How do you want to show up under challenging decisions or issues at work? A morning meditation practice is a great way to prepare for the day ahead mentally.
- After your planning session, start your renewal activities. Build your emotional and physical capacity by planning and completing your exercise and spiritual practices. There are so many positive endorphins from morning exercise. Research shows that after exercising, you are highly productive for the next few hours. The spiritual/emotional activities after the planning session increase your emotional capacity. This is a time to set an intention for the day. Yoga, meditation, prayer, and scripture study are terrific habits to practice in the morning.
What should my evening review look like?
- Start building your gratitude list for the day. Gratitude allows you to not focus on the one thing that went wrong and train the brain to focus on what went right. The other day I had 18 things to do on a Sunday. I accomplished 17 things and didn’t accomplish my last goal of not eating sugar after 8 p.m. As I sat down for evening planning and preparation, I found myself focused on the one thing that went wrong. Has that ever happened to you? After my gratitude exercise, my mind started to focus on the 17 things I accomplished. The evening went so much better when I focused on what went right.
- Review what you learned. What did I learn today? What did I do well today? What can I do better? Write the answers to these questions down. I love thinking about what I learned each day. Many of my blog posts and podcasts come from my daily learnings.
- Practice acceptance. Acceptance of reality is a key that unlocks happiness. You can plan out your whole day, but usually it won’t go exactly how you’ve planned. Expressing gratitude for what went well, and accepting what didn’t go as planned is an attitude that leads to happiness. You will face success and blessings, along with disappointments and discouragement. We need to accept it all! I found a thoughtful article on acceptance from a psychotherapist and wellness writer, Megan Bruneau.
“No one is suggesting you like, want, or support whatever it is that you're accepting. But by struggling against the pain—by resisting and rejecting it—we create undue suffering. It doesn't mean that you've chosen or endorse what you're accepting. It doesn't mean you like your anxiety, want your chronic pain, would choose your body, or support an injustice that's happened to you or someone else. Rather, you're choosing to allow it to be there when you can't change it in that moment. To make space for it. To give yourself permission to be as you are, feel what you feel, or have experienced what you've experienced without creating unproductive shame or anxiety. The pain might still be there, but some of the suffering will be alleviated.” Megan Bruneau, M.A.
- Start your to-do list for tomorrow. Get a head start on tomorrow’s plan. Carry over the items that you didn’t get done from today but start with the same physical, spiritual, and emotional practices right after your planning session.
- Finish your daily review with a short meditation session to relax your mind and prepare for sleep.
Performing these daily practices will help you to look forward to the sessions to reflect and learn. You will find an enormous amount of joy from checking off the items on your to-do list. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how much I love checking things off my list.
When you build and maintain the discipline to plan every morning and every day you will accomplish your wildest dreams and aspirations. Step by step, you will be creating a practice of progress that becomes very self-reinforcing.
A Word of Advice
Remember to be patient with yourself, others and issues that throw off your plan. Relationships always take precedence over tasks. Be intentional in building relationships and connections as part of your daily routine!
It’s an incredible feeling of productivity and success to be a good daily planner. I believe that daily planning is the most important habit for sustainable happiness and success!
If I can help you get on the right path for these kinds of practices, schedule a free call. And head over to Continuous Improvement 4 Life to find tools designed to help you accomplish your planning and goals.
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