How to establish habits based on personal inclinations and preferences
Life can sure feel like a juggling act. As smoothly as you learn to maneuver one aspect of your life, another comes right at you...then another...and another.
Can you image how nice it would feel to not feel overwhelmed by the cycle but, instead, empowered by the steady flow of life? The following steps are aimed at helping you organize your life and, in turn, experience that ease and grace for yourself.
Accept that planning can be freeing, not restrictive
Rules can be the worst, right? All of the confining "do this, don't do that" regulations and protocols. Truthfully though, I've learned (more often the hard way) that setting some guidelines for myself can be so dang freeing!
Still honoring flow throughout my schedule, I've discovered that when I give myself some structure around my intentions and goals for my days, I'm able to limit the overwhelm that comes with constant choice and the anxiety that accompanies indecision.
We all have habits that have come to form over time; some intentional and others that we've had conditioned into us. Take a few minutes to reflect on some of your habits and how they may compare to where you'd like them to be. Also set a goal for how you'd like to initiate the shift.
I dare say it may be the most important that you have a personal, deep-impacting "why" for your habit. Because well-intentioned habits truly have the power to help you feel good, inside and out. Which will increase not just the quality of your life but that of those around you as well.
I'd like to limit my TV time to 1 hour a night vs spending all of my unscheduled hours in front of the screen, to utilize my time in a more creative and fulfilling way.
I'll draft a list of creative tasks/projects that I look forward to doing, and I will dedicate my focus to one of those each day when I get the urge to plop down in front of the TV. I will also schedule my tube time so I don't go all couch potato and neglect this goal.
I know I feel more energized when I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night vs the 5 hours that I've become accustomed to. My mind is sharper, I'm less irritable, and I just feel better.
I'll set an alarm for 8pm to remind me to start winding down and preparing for a self-honoring 9:30pm bedtime.
I feel less crappy when I cook for myself vs getting take-out daily the way I have been. I know that my schedule is pretty full, but that's no excuse to let my health take a backseat.
I'm going to dedicate an hour and a half to meal prep on Sundays to help me be prepared and stocked with healthful options throughout the week. And I'm going to let it be fun.
“Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. Quite literally, you become your habits.” -from Atomic Habits by James Clear
Intentional habits strung together in a strong routine leave little room for procrastination and distraction. Try it for yourself!
Embrace your natural inclinations toward life
Beware the voice of the inner critic when determining your goals and inspiration for habits. Those sneaky shoulds will take out your motivation and self-dedication like no other. It's imperative that you create habits that are empowering for you.
Sure, it sounds productive to wake up at 6am, but what if you're naturally a night owl and feel more productive and energized when you wake up at 11am? Sure, you're aware of the harm of excess blue light exposure , but you truly enjoy the craft of film-making and feel depleted and deprived when you try to cut out TV as a whole.
For habits to work, it's a must that they align with your natural inclinations. Be realistic about yourself and work with what you feel empowered and supported to commit to for the long haul. Even if that "long haul" simply means the next month (see the section on experimenting below).
The best book is the one you can’t put down. The best exercise is the one you enjoy doing every day. The best health food is the one you find tasty. The best work is the work you’d do for free.” – Naval Ravikant
By choosing your personal path of least resistance you can save yourself the agony of trying to prioritize ideology you don't vibe with and simply opt for what you actually dig.
It is not all-or-nothing
In juggling, it's inevitable that some balls are just destined to hit the ground. That can equate to a few days of not getting to bed as early as you'd hoped, choosing Del Taco over cooking for yourself one evening, or putting off larger projects by procrastinating with "lower impact" tasks.
For most of us, the attitude of “all-or-nothing” can be a mega source of self-sabotage. By understanding the impact of incremental change, you can be more realistic with your progress and inch your way toward personal indicators of success.
The main step is to establish structure that actually fits into your life. For instance:
You know it's unlikely that you'll exercise daily. So start with 3 days a week, at a time of day that you know you'll have the available energy.
You know you won't fully cut out TV so limit it to 5 hours throughout the week.
You know you won't ditch eating out altogether so limit it to twice a week.
You know you won't have time to go on a hike every morning so plan for 2 mornings a week.
Overall, opt out of unrealistic plans. This invites you to be both honest with and respectful of yourself. Knowingly unrealistic goals set the path to shame and guilt, and nobody has time for that when they're trying to set themselves up for a more inspired, fulfilled life.
Balance truly is key
Our society largely has a habit of trying to do it all. In that habit, the idea of balance usually gets the boot.
Instead of getting to bed in a preferred window, you stay up gaming late into the night. Rather than meeting with treasured friends, you study all weekend for an upcoming exam.
While this sidestepping strategy can seem to work in the short-term, the long-term impacts will rear their ugly heads in due time, without fail: burnout, fatigue, resentment, and chronic stress don't wear well on anyone.
Prioritizing sustainability with balance and self-care is a legit must in this process of organized self-reclamation.
Some suggested choices that can help you along the way are:
Avoid overextending yourself and spending too much time on work projects, either at the office or by taking work home. Work-life balance is a real thing and it's crucial to your wellbeing.
Honor physical activity for its mental and emotional health benefits and ability to help you grow more mindful vs fixating on trying to change your visual appearance.
Schedule in time with friends and family.
Prioritize intentional alone time - meditating, journaling, listening to music...unwinding.
Ensure you’re getting enough sleep and avoid all-nighters at all costs. Throwing yourself too far from your circadian rhythm, especially for long periods of time, has severe health consequences. Regardless of your magnitude of night owl.
By keeping your battery charged, you’ll be able to show up more thoroughly in life for yourself and for others.
Simplification is also key
It's hard to feel organized when your thoughts are in disarray and surroundings in shambles. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to tidy up and clear your space, inside and out.
Getting to simplicity definitely isn’t always a simple process, but often the chaos felt in your life is the result of simply having too much crap. Too many material belongings, too much to do, too much to think about, etc.
Consider this when aiming to organize your life: less is always more. And remember, that should not come at the expense of value in your life.
Don't be afraid to experiment/let it be fun
Just because you’re aiming to grow organized doesn’t mean you can’t leave room for messy spontaneity! Silly goose.
Sure, we're creatures of habit, but we're also creatures who don't instinctually prefer stagnation. Sometimes things, when tried, truly just don't suit your fancy. Other times they’ve merely reached their expiration date and gone a little stale. Those are the ultimate times to introduce newness to your life and shake off the routine that isn’t working anymore.
Escaping ruts does not provide the excuse of moving backwards into historical, less health-full habits. Re-evaluation should still include and aim for growth and forward movement in your process.
Open yourself to a different job setting. Join a recreational sports teams to make pals and incorporate some movement into your days without the gym membership. Invest in that X-Acto knife and let yourself take on the collage project you've been saving magazines for.
Allotting space for a constant allowance of experimentation along the way will not only keep things fresh but keep you open to ideas, projects, and habits that you hadn't previously considered. No need to break through a plateau if plateaus aren't allowed to be reached, right?
Deciding how to organize your life isn’t about what time you decide to go to bed at night or exactly how much time you spend at work. Rather than getting gauged by the overwhelm of details, pay attention to the bigger pieces of the puzzle that lead to a life well-lived.
By simply having some guidelines and intention worked into the foundation of your days, you can approach every dang area of your life with more confidence and clarity and less stress and forced obligation.
Now go on...have fun with it!
By Sam Jump