In my efforts to stress less, live more intentionally, and slow down, I’ve begun to implement some small changes in my life. The five habits I mention here are things that I think have been helpful for me in shifting my mindset, boosting my mood, and ultimately improving my day-to-day life. I am deliberate in my choice of wording – these habits are changing my life, rather than having changed my life, as I am still in the process of establishing them and sometimes I still trip up (particularly with #4 and #5)!
1. Looking to add to my diet, rather than take away
You won’t find me talking about the sugar content in my yoghurt, or the calories in my dessert. This is because basically, I don’t care, and I actively try to keep it this way.
In the past, I have been obsessed with these things, to the point where I wasn’t really focusing on enjoying my meal, but rather, on tracking the numbers and nutrients to make sure I don’t tip over a certain (often arbitrary) goal I decided for myself. It took all of the pleasure out of eating, and also led to me craving certain foods more than if I just allowed myself to have them when I wanted to.
Since I stopped focusing on what I “shouldn’t” be eating too much of, I believe I am healthier than ever. The one thing I will pay attention to, in an effort to maintain a healthy diet, is adding nutrition to my diet. I try to ensure I incorporate enough veggies and fruit each day into my meals and snacks. I try to choose high-fibre, whole grain foods, and I try to add a protein source to meals wherever I can. But if I want dessert too, I will absolutely have it, and that’s fine by me.
2. Walking to work
I am an anxious person, and for whatever reason, an area of my life this particularly manifests in is driving and parking. Equally, I hate being late. The combination of these factors makes the process of commuting to work via car, in peak hour traffic, an extra stressor in my life.
While I do occasionally need to face the anxiety and drive places, I realised that when it comes to my commute, I’d much rather walk the 35 minutes. Not only is it far easier to time accurately, wonderful incidental exercise, and cheaper (read: free), I also just find it extremely therapeutic.
Walking – unlike driving, or even catching public transport, allows me to almost fully switch off from concentrating. It’s like a mental break; and serves as a great preparation for the day ahead, as well as a great wind down after a long day.
3. Going to bed early
I know not everyone is the same, but I need a lot of sleep to function at my best, and a disrupted sleep can ruin my day. There was once a time when I tried to fight this, but now I really lean into it, and allow my body to rest when it needs to.
To me, this looks like getting into my bed at 10pm, and getting out of my bed at 7am. Accounting for some time to fall asleep, as well as waking up slightly before my alarm (which I love, as I find it quite jarring to get out of bed as soon as I wake), this allows me a solid eight and a half hours of rest. I wake up in the morning feeling energised, motivated and ready to start the day.
4. Focus on achieving one task each day
In many jobs, it’s common to have a million things on your to-do list at any given time. Often, we don’t even get a chance to make a dent in our to-do lists because our days end up filled with other “smaller” tasks that crop up suddenly and urgently, that are certainly not so small when they appear one after the other (not to mention time spent in meetings!).
Feeling like we’re constantly busy but achieving nothing can be disheartening and demotivating.
I’ve found that rather than have a long to-do list that I optimistically try to tackle each day, I commit to achieving just one task I need to get done each day. If other urgent tasks crop up in the day, I therefore have time and space to get these done, too. Sometimes, I have fantastically productive days and can achieve more than I set out to. Other times, this process allows me to have a slower day, where I take my time with my work and can take time out for more breaks (which is incredibly important but easy to skip when busy!).
By setting a goal that’s achievable, I stay on top of my work, without setting unrealistic expectations for myself.
5. Following the 80% rule
This one might be my favourite on the list, but also the one I struggle with the most. I’m someone with perfectionist tendencies; the type of person who is told they have a great “attention to detail”. Although this can be useful sometimes, for the most part it’s exhausting, and in reality, often unnecessary.
The 80% rule is about getting something you’re working on (for example, a piece of writing, a DIY project etc.) to 80% perfect, and stopping there. It stems from the idea that 80% of our output will come from 20% of our input, and that we can spend 80% of our time trying to perfect that final 20%.
Although deliberately stopping myself from looking over, reconsidering and revising a piece of work five times before I send it to my colleagues is challenging and often confronting, I’ve been making a really deliberate effort to do this in order to relieve some of the stress that’s associated with trying to get things “perfect”, and it’s been working.
If you also have these tendencies, challenge yourself to follow the 80% rule on your next project (it could be a blog post!), and see how you go. While I will never be someone that this comes naturally to, as I continue to practise shifting my thoughts, it’s becoming more of a habit.
Thanks for reading, and I hope some of these habits might spark your interest!