Most people are always waiting for something extraordinary that will just “happen” and finally change their life. They fail to see that it’s our habits, especially our daily habits, that really have the power to make big changes in our life.
This is why it’s essential that you choose good habits to form, while changing and replacing the bad ones.
Now, since there are so many different habits out there, you might have a question:
Which habits should I develop first?
To answer this question, I have prepared for you a list of 12 daily habits that are small and not that complicated, but can have a HUGE positive impact on your life.
In fact, these are the daily habits that have helped me immensely when I was a lazy, unhappy, unmotivated guy that had no particular goals in life other than playing video games all day.
Let’s see what these 12 daily habits are.
[BONUS: Download a free guide containing a list of the 14 best habits to improve your life! (It’s an easy-to-save PDF where you’ll find 14 small but powerful daily habits that will really make the difference in your life). Click here to get your free download.]
1. Be Proactively Positive
I strongly believe that being positive (not to a toxic extent, obviously) is crucial on one’s journey to a better life.
Of course, positive thinking alone won’t make you successful, but it can undoubtedly help you go through difficult times. Not just that, positivity can also motivate you to pursue your goals and form good habits.
But what does “proactively positive” mean?
In his best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes proactivity as the habit of recognizing that we have the responsibility and the ability to choose our own responses and make our own decisions, without ever blaming the circumstances.
Being proactive means taking the initiative and bringing solutions to problems, because it’s our responsibility to make things happen instead of waiting, waiting, and waiting for something to happen and take care of every problem.
I want you to be positive in a proactive way, meaning that you won’t just be positive and say positive things without taking action. No, you will still keep a positive mindset, but you will also take action and work hard to actually make things better.
By making proactive positivity part of your daily habits, you will become more easily motivated and disciplined, and therefore more productive, as well.
To be proactively positive is to keep a positive mindset regardless of how bad the situation is, and to take action and work hard in order to make things better, instead of waiting for something or someone to do it for us.
What about negative thoughts?
It’s important that you understand that being positive doesn NOT mean never having negative thoughts or even despising them.
Instead, it’s knowing and acknowledging that life is not always good and there are always new problems, but keeping a positive mindset nonetheless.
When you surprise yourself having a negative thought or about to start a negative talk (usually with yourself), mark it on a piece of paper.
The simple act of noting down the moments you have negative thoughts will enable you to see how unnecessary they are, and you will be able to avoid negativity more easily.
2. Focus On The Right Things
You can work your ass off every day, you can be extremely disciplined, you can complete dozens of tasks a day, but you know what? All this doesn’t matter, if you are not working on the right things.
One of the main differences between achievers and non-achievers is that the former know that you can get important results only if you focus on what really matters in relation to your most important goals.
Every day, you should be clear on what your top 3 most important activities are, and give absolute priority to those.
If you need some help figuring out your priorities, I highly recommend that you use the Time Management Matrix.
3. Track Your Time
Saying “I don’t have time” is incorrect, because you do have time. It’s just that you don’t spend it in an optimal way.
Time is the most important resource we have, and wasting it should be considered a sin, because time is more important than money.
Just like tracking what you eat increases your chances of sticking to a new diet, so does tracking your time usage.
By making time-tracking one of your daily habits, you will become much more aware of where exactly your time goes, and you will realize that saying “I don’t have time” is wrong, because you do have time. It’s just that you don’t use it efficientively.
A few more benefits of tracking your time:
- It makes all other productivity techniques more effective and easier to implement. I mean, if you don’t know how you spend your time, how can you use it better?
- It makes you a better planner, because you will see how much time an activity really requires, so you can plan your day better.
- It makes you more disciplined, because tracking your time and seeing how well (or how bad) you’re doing is a great way to motivate you and hold yourself accountable.
You can start by using the Pomodoro Technique and log how many pomodoros are needed to complete a specific task.
If you prefer to see exactly how many hours, minutes, and seconds you spend on each task, you can use an app or software. I use Toggl, but I’m sure there are many other valid options. You just have to choose one.
4. Read 30 Minutes a Day (at Least)
I don’t think you need anyone to tell you about why reading is important, but well, it’s always good to receive a reminder.
Reading books doesn’t just increase your knowledge and save you from living an ignorant life; it also makes you a better learner and a better thinker. What’s more, reading enhances your creativity, and it has calming effects, as well.
“But I don’t like to read!”
Listen, if you really want to become a better person and live a better life, you don’t get to decide whether you like reading or not. Almost every successful person is also a voracious reader, and it’s not a coincidence.
“Does this mean that reading will make me successful?” No.
Reading won’t automatically give you success, but it’s necessary in order to increase your chances of achieving it. Are there exceptions to this “rule? Most likely yes—there are always exceptions—though I don’t know of anyone super successful that doesn’t read consistently.
To effectively turn reading into one of your daily habits, follow these tips:
- Dedicate a specific time of the day to reading. You need to treat it as an important activity, and set aside some time (30 minutes, at the very least) exclusively for reading books. (Note: make sure to alternate fiction and non-fiction.)
- Don’t waste a single opportunity to read. We do a lot of things, often on a daily basis, that literally require us to waste time.
I’m talking about things like waiting at the post office, waiting in line at the grocery, or the journeys by train and by bus from home to school/work (and vice versa), etc. These are all great opportunities to read a few pages.
If you feel that doing something like reading a book while in line at the postal office is weird, you can read an ebook on your smartphone or listen to an audiobook. But let me assure you that being a reader is nothing to be embarrassed of.
- Make time for reading by eliminating something less important. Watch less TV or Netflix, play less video games, scroll your social media feeds less. I’m actually a supporter of the idea of having “fun time” every day, but most people just spend way too much time doing fun stuff.
One more advice: if you’ve never had the habit of reading, start by reading just 5 minutes every day. There’s no way you can’t dedicate 5 minutes to reading. After some “practice”, you will automatically increase your reading time on your own.
5. Sleep Well
I believe that sleep is important. Really important. I mean, I even wrote a post titled Why Sleep Is The Most Important Habit.
I won’t bore you with all the reasons why sleep is good and lack of sleep is bad; just know that, if you have been neglecting sleep for some time, you must stop and start getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
My top two tips to help you get better sleep:
- Stick to consistent wake up and sleep times. When you go to sleep and wake up at around the same time every day, your circadian rhythm will regulate itself better, so that you can fall asleep more easily at night and wake up more effortlessly in the morning.
- Turn off your electronic devices one hour before sleep. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone that naturally increases when the sun sets down. Unfortunately, your laptop, TV, smartphone, etc. all emit blue light, which hinders the production of melatonin and tricks our brain into thinking that it’s still daytime and it’s time to be awake.
Avoid blue light exposure by turning off your devices one hour or at least thirty minutes before sleep, and you will naturally get sleepy as you approach your habitual bedtime. You will also get better sleep during the night.
If you want more tips to help you get better sleep, take a look at this article: How to Sleep Better.
6. Exercise Regularly
This wouldn’t be a list of good daily habits without regular exercise in it.
Ideally, we should all workout at least 3-4 times per week. If you’re just getting started, you might consider reducing it to 1-2 times/week. Though, doing a full-body workout 3 times a week, 30 minutes every session, is still very manageable, even for a beginner.
Remember, however, that you should try to do a little exercise every day.
“Uhm… You seem a little confused, Paolo. 3-4 times a week or daily? Make up your mind!”
Don’t worry, I’m not confused.
What I mean is that you should do a workout session at least 3 times a week and, in order to avoid leading an excessively sedentary life, also try doing some light exercise during the other days of the week. Yes, simply walking counts as exercise; just don’t spend all your day sitting.
Here are just a few of the many benefits you can get by exercising regularly:
- Better health
- Improved mood
- Increased energy levels
- Reduced stress
- Improved sleep quality
- Greater ability to focus and concentrate
- Enhanced creativity
- and more…
As you can see, regular exercise gives you benefits that go well beyond good health. Your happiness, your productivity, your creativity… they all improve.
Too good to be true? Well, it is true.
You could ask me for proof or do research on your own to find the (numerous) scientific evidence behind it, but the fact that exercising is extremely important won’t change.
As soon as you finish reading this article, stand up and take a walk outside!
7. Eat More Healthy
A healthy diet is the third pillar of the “good health trio”: sleep, exercise, diet.
This is not a fitness blog or a health blog, and I am not a nutritionist. As someone committed to self-improvement, however, I can’t overlook the importance of the good health trio.
Because we are not robots, we are humans.
If we neglect our health, everything else—productivity, success, plans, goals, etc.— becomes difficult, or even irrelevant.
On the contrary, by giving the right amount of attention to the good health trio, we get so many benefits that it’s really a shame that most people “don’t have time” to sleep enough, exercise regularly, or even think about sticking to a healthy diet.
Since I am not a nutritionist, I will leave this article by Healthline on how to make your diet healthier, hoping it can help you as it has helped me.
8. Keep Your House and Workplace Clean and Tidy
It’s often overlooked, but the environment around us has everything to do with our personal productivity and our ability to focus.
I have previously suggested decluttering as a practical way to become more productive, because a messy desk and a messy room lead to lack of focus and increased stress.
You might think that a cluttered desk is not that big of a deal, that you “know exactly where to find what I need”, but your brain actually hates seeing all this mess and having to remember “exactly where to find everything”.
Don’t be lazy, it really doesn’t take that long. Once you’ve cleaned up your living place and your workplace, you will feel much better.
Remember to always pay attention to what is really useful and what can be thrown away, so you don’t end up having to do a complete purge every few weeks.
I’m not telling you to become a minimalist; I’m just saying that, in terms of productivity, happiness, and focus, clean and tidy beats cluttered and messy every day of the week.
9. Stop Using Your Phone and the Internet So Much (Seriously)
If you have read my previous articles, you have probably noticed that it kind of looks like I hate smartphones. I’ve talked about it when writing about to-do lists, productivity, sleep, and I’m going to do it again today, because really, some people use their smartphones and the Internet way too much. (UPDATE: guess what? I published another post that gives you more strategies to help you stop using your smartphone so much.)
The main problem of being too attached to our phone (or tablet, laptop, console, etc.) is loss of focus—and let’s not even consider other serious problems such as ruined eyesight and reduced sleep quality, among many others.
Every time we get distracted (or distract ourselves) when working on something important, our brain needs up to 20 minutes to regain its focus, even if the distraction consisted of simply checking our email inbox for 30 seconds.
As we have seen in this article, an effective strategy for quitting a bad behavior (without giving in to temptation) is to put the “game” on hard mode.
Want to stop checking your smartphone every two seconds? Turn it off, put it on airplane mode, or put it in another room or somewhere you can’t reach easily. Just make sure you can’t check it effortlessly whenever you please.
Or perhaps your problem is more persistent on desktop devices. In that case, there are also plenty of software that allow you to block access to certain websites for a set period of time.
Another amazingly effective way to reduce your smartphone usage is to track your time, like we’ve seen at Point n. 3, because we often don’t realize how much time we waste on our electronic devices doing useless things, until we actually see it with our own eyes.
10. Write Every Day
You should always find time to write, every single day.
We all write in many different occasions, but I’m talking about writing just for yourself.
Keeping a journal has many benefits:
- It gives you clarity on what is working and what is not working in your life.
- It helps you organize your thoughts.
- It increases your chances of achieving your goals.
- It improves your decision making skill.
- It helps you focus on what is really important.
- It makes you a better writer, and writing well is always a good skill to have.
You don’t need to spend much time on it. I find that 15 minutes every night before sleep is enough.
To get started, simply write down the things you did and the thoughts you had during your day.
11. Dedicate 1 Hour to Yourself
To achieve goals and live a better life, hard work is important. It’s not just important, it’s necessary. But it’s not the only necessary thing.
Personal productivity is not just work, work, work. Not at all.
Those who are truly productive know how important it is to recharge ourselves.
After a day of hard work, you deserve some relax. Always dedicate 1 hour every day to something you enjoy: a movie, a hobby, a book, a game, etc.
Whatever you prefer, as long as it’s not a bad behavior such as eating fast food. Now, I understand that you think you deserve a treat after a day hard work, and you know what? It’s actually perfectly ok, but only if it’s just a once-in-a-while thing, and not part of your daily habits.
12. Stop Whining, and Practice Gratitude
I began this list of daily habits talking about the importance of being positive, but you can’t possibly do that if you don’t stop complaining.
I won’t hide it, I believe that being whiny is one of the most useless things a person can do.
Complaining about this and that doesn’t solve problems and doesn’t improve your life: it ruins it.
“Whininess” makes you moody, lazy, unproductive, unmotivated, unsuccessful.
What actually does improve your life is gratitude.
When you are grateful for what you have, you start seeing things in a different light.
You start realizing what is really important, you become happier, you become less vulnerable to negativity.
You will also increase your productivity, beat procrastination, and become more disciplined.
To get started with the gratitude habit, all you have to do is to simply take 5-10 minutes every day to write down at least 3 things you are grateful for. If for any reason you can’t come up with anything, try thinking about things that you have right now and that you would miss if you didn’t have anymore.
Daily Habits Are Life-Changing
There’s a quote attributed to Aristotle that goes:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Now, this is probably a misattribution, since it looks like it was Will Durant who first wrote this phrase.
But that’s not the point. The point is that our life is the result of what we do every single day.
The 12 daily habits we’ve seen today are small, but extremely powerful. They are like the foundation of a house: get them right, and you will be able to build a great life (house).
Make sure, however, to only tackle one habit at a time. Choose one, and when it has become automatic and effortless, start forming another one. If you try implementing too many habits at the same time, you will fail at each one of them.
Ok, it’s your turn now.
Pick one habit, and start changing your life.
How many of these 12 daily habits did you already have in your life? Let me know in the comments! And if you need some tips to build good habits and stick to them, click here.
[BONUS: Fill the form below and download the free PDF containing the 14 best small (but powerful) daily habits that will improve your life by A LOT.]