In his article, Keystone Habits: The Simple Way to Improve All Aspects of Your Life, productivity champion James Clear talks about the power of developing one (just one for now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!) keystone habit.
Keystone habits are “certain habits and routines that make success easier, regardless of the circumstances you face.”
Clear demonstrates an example in his own life by describing his keystone habit of working out.
When he works out in the morning, he experiences the following:
- He’s less inclined to eat junk food
- He feels better and has a clearer mind, making him more productive
- He sleeps better (which, I would argue, makes him more inclined to get up on time and work out again tomorrow)
I love this concept…how one keystone habit which falls into one category of his life (fitness) actually leads to “a cascade of other actions” in different areas of his life.
“In other words,” Clear describes “fitness is the keystone habit that puts the rest of my life in place. When I workout, other things naturally fall into place. I don’t have to think about eating better. I don’t have to force myself to focus on getting things done. Exercise naturally pushes me towards my best self.”
I thought about the domino effect of good (and bad) habits in my life.
One thing I personally like to do is get up early in the morning, particularly on weekdays. When I’m up early, I can spend time in prayer and then still have time to get a lot of administrative work done prior to my client sessions. I’m freshest in the morning, plus it’s quiet and dark outside, I’m drinking my coffee, and all feels good with the world. Definitely “best self” status. (When, by the way, are YOU your “best self”? That’s always the best time to schedule time to work on big and challenging tasks…those things you’ve been procrastinating on!)
When I wake up later, I often don’t get my prayer and admin work in, I sometimes don’t even have time to make my green drink, and I definitely experience signs of Rushing Woman’s Syndrome. I feel stress and sometimes show up at my client’s house still carrying that rushing, junk feeling. Boo…thumbs down all around.
So the domino effect can go either way…
Wake up early, pray, catch up on work, make green drink, pack lunch and snacks, drink lots of water, feel amazing, arrive early at client’s house, the day ROCKS! HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!
Wake up late, rush, don’t pray, don’t catch up on admin work, don’t start off the day with healthy nutrition, don’t drink water, don’t pack lunch, don’t wear cute earrings, forget things, rush, the day SUCKS! SAD, SAD, SAD!
So I’ve decided that for 2015 my “Keystone Habit” is “Going to bed by 9:30PM.” While what I really want is to wake up early, having a goal to “Wake Up by 5AM” feels a bit daunting.
The fact of the matter is, however, that if I go to bed by 9:30PM, I WILL wake up by 5 or 5:30 AM. For me personally, it doesn’t feel like drudgery, however, to have a bedtime goal in the way a wake time goal would.
And I’ve put measures in place to make it happen. I have an alarm on my phone that reminds me at 9PM every week night “Get Your Butt In Bed!”. That gives me time to wind down, get ready for bed, and get my butt in bed as directed. 🙂
I get excited to be in bed by that time, and to be able to read my book or watch The Big Bang Theory on my CBS app on my ipad. It’s a settling process for me, and for someone who has manic tendencies, this is so helpful!
Is there a keystone habit you could establish in 2015 that would make success easier for you?
I’ve listed some ideas below…perhaps one will resonate with you.
- Drink 8 ounces of water upon waking
- Pray or meditate for 5 minutes upon waking
- Walk around the block upon waking
- Do a 4-minute Tabata workout upon waking (You can search YouTube for “Tabata” and get a ton of great 4 minute routines to follow)
- Do something scary/irritating/annoying (the most challenging thing on your task list) first thing in the morning
- Drink a green drink or eat fruits/vegetables daily
- Avoid checking email until a designated time later in the morning in order to be able to focus on other tasks
- Achieve “in-box zero” every weekday
- Express gratitude to one person every day (thank you note, expressed kind word, etc.)
- Write a gratitude list at the end of each day of 3 things you are grateful for from that day