Trying to improve your life sometimes feels like it needs to be a major overhaul of your day to day. Besides, we’re trying to make a big impact which requires big changes.
When we go in thinking about the larger picture, it can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to commit to such a large task. I’ve tried and failed a few times to overhaul my habits as a whole, but the process never seemed to stick.
Instead, we should be focusing on the small things that will improve our life. Change happens incrementally, so our improvements should tackle small bits at a time. When I changed my mindset to focus on the smaller changes, I finally found a process that worked.
These are the five small changes in my day that improved my life.
Reduce social media
There’s a lot of negative news out there, political drama, and just general complaining. Over the course of a week, I studied the amount of positive versus negative social posts I saw… it was overwhelmingly negative.
The solution? I started to unfollow (not unfriend) people who mostly posted negatively. I removed accounts that I no longer found useful. I eliminated all incoming social posts that were full of political opinions and complaining (I’m fine if you have an opinion, and I have one too, but I don’t need to hear it and you won’t hear it from me).
Reducing my social media usage and the accounts I followed greatly reduced my stress and improved my outlook on life. At one point I removed the apps from my phone completely. Now, I bring them back intentionally and don’t use them as time fillers. I go in with a purpose and exit when I’m done.
This habit was always a difficult one for me to keep. Because I use it as my last habit in my evening routine, I’m usually pretty tired and want to give up. Still I force myself to write at least a full page before I turn off the light.
Writing in a journal is my way to destress and brain dump for the next day. I can unload my head from the hectic day and make sure I list out the things that I should worry about tomorrow. When I get it all out on paper, I don’t have to keep myself up at night worrying if I might forget something or need to do something ASAP.
For days that don’t really need long pages, I have a list of prompts and quotes to guide me to the end of the page. It helps me to get out my thoughts, work through some of my personal goals, plans, and projects, and get myself ready for the next day.
As a former college and professional athlete, I used to move every day, but alas the sports life took its toll on me. Now with injuries pretty much anywhere on my body, I have a hard time doing strenuous activities for a long period of time.
Despite all my aches and pains, I still make an effort to move more. It’s not crazy, but it’s something. I walk to the bathroom at the other end of my office so I can get steps in, I walk around my home a few times before I leave for work, I stretch while I sit or before I go to bed, and I do still try to get some more vigorous exercise in.
Being smart about what I’m capable of now is the biggest challenge. Lung wise I can run for a really long period of time, but my body says I’m done after about 15 minutes. So, I run for 15 minutes and do some light exercises that I know won’t put unnecessary stress on my injuries.
Moving more doesn’t have to be a sweat-inducing, hour long workout in the gym. Just incorporate some sort of extra function into your day and you’ll find your life improving.
Learn something new
This one is always at the top of my list. Learning something new varies in my day today. Sometimes it comes from listening to a podcast, sometimes I read an article or blog on a new topic, or I actively look up material that can help me in my job or for my coaching business.
I love being curious. It’s one reason I stayed around for grad school and got two master’s degrees for it. I’ve now found ways to incorporate that into my daily life, no matter how big or small the nugget of information is. I’m constantly working to improve my life through reinforcement of ideas and growth in new areas.
Have something to wake up for
This is by far my favorite habit that I’ve picked up. I’ve always loved the idea of being productive by completing your top three priorities of the day (Most Important Tasks, MIT) but my life dramatically improved when I started focusing on making the first one something enjoyable.
My day starts between 4 and 4:30 AM and despite being a morning person, I don’t really want to be awake. But, I wake up before the sun because I know that the very first thing I get to do in the morning is something I love — writing.
If I want to motivate myself to get out of bed an hour before I really need to be getting up to go directly to work, I need a compelling reason. That reason for me is a writing project. This article was written around 4:45 AM and it was something that got me out of bed. I love writing so starting my day off with my favorite activity is the perfect motivation to get up before the daily priorities start getting more difficult.
I’ve incorporated these five small things into my life and noticed a huge improvement. They don’t require much mental effort (except maybe getting out of bed or learning something on some days) and they are small enough to be done in short amounts of time. They help me stay focused on my goals and values in life. These small habits amount to big changes and prepare me for a future of my choosing.
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