Although I learned early on that my New Year’s resolutions are bound to fail, I do like making small habitual changes throughout the year. Especially with some semblance of stability in my life, I want to adjust my routines to be as effective as possible at keeping me healthy and happy.
Here are the three that have made the biggest difference this last year. I plan on continuing and expanding all of these through 2015, and I can recommend them if you’re looking for some new habits.
This year, I made it a rule that I do a physical warmup at the beginning of my day. For the first three quarters of the year, that was the yoga sun salutation, which is a series of poses that gently stretch and open the body. I still like doing these, but I’ve switched it out for a series of mobilization exercises. These are movements that also stretch and open the body, but they work particular joints more directly, and I find them gentler.
Now I’ve folded these into a “miracle morning”, which is a series of little rituals popularized by Hal Elrod. These include meditation, journaling, my exercises, and some other steps.
Look, I’m incredibly skeptical of self-help stuff. The claims for the results are often so ludicrous that to go in believing that waking up at five will lead to millions of whatever-currency-you-have, then you’re bound to be disappointed. So I’m not doing this thinking that doing it alone will solve all my problems.
I do like the basic idea of it though, and I’ve gotten up every morning a little bit – about an hour – earlier to do this.
Results? My joints are happier with me. I wake up with fewer little aches and pains. My mood has improved. I wouldn’t say that it’s a “miracle”, but it’s the obvious result from starting the day in a healthier way. There are all sorts of ways to expand this in 2015, and I’m looking forward to more experimentation.
If you don’t do any of these, then you might try finding some morning ritual that gets you moving and active. The sun salutation is good. So is a walk. If you’re curious about my mobilizations, I’ll eventually write them out.
Calorie Counting and Health Tracking
When iOS 8 for the iPhone came out, it included a health application that listed a bunch of health data. Since it was empty, I decided to actually feed it some data. The phone already tracked my steps, so I started counting the calories in the food I ate using My Fitness Pal. I also began using RunKeeper again to track my exercise sessions.
I will probably stick with this for the long haul, though counting calories is especially tedious at times. What compels me is how informative it was. I was amazed at how high-calorie some foods are, and by elimintating some things from my grocery list, I’ve lost a few pounds (bye bye sliced bread at home). At the very least, this keeps me aware about what I’m eating.
Results? A few pounds lost, and I exercise more consistently. I’m mostly curious about how far this technology combined with good habits can go. I don’t have any extreme fitness goals, but I do want to maintain a basic level of fitness consistently. I also don’t have any plans to buy further technology to track more. Rather I just want to keep the habit and strengthen it.
I won’t lie though: this is a pain. I bought a scale to weigh foods at home, but when we’re out, I just have to guess the weights and the ingredients. MyFitnessPal does do some great work with branded foods and barcode scanning and all that, but it’s still work. Step tracking is about to become ubiquitous in our phones and watches, but calories counting? That takes some effort. But the clarity that comes from actually tracking this stuff is eye-opening.
I’ve been doing some form of GTD for years, but I always skipped out on the weekly review part of it. That changed in the latter half of 2014. I’ve set aside some time on Sunday mornings for reviewing my projects and tasks in Omnifocus.
This doesn’t take very long since my life is not super complicated. Mostly my complications are of my own making (this website, for example, is a personal choice rather than externally-imposed), but using GTD and Omnifocus does help visualize it all. The review is important for maintaining a big picture of it all and seeing what I’ve let languish or what needs to be taken care of soon.
Results? I do consistently use the system more to do my tasks, and I think I’m more productive. There’s nothing really gamified in Omnifocus, so it’s hard to see exactly whether I became more productive or not (unlike Todoist). but I do feel like I’m more on top of the tasks of my life more. This has also been useful for building these new habits, since I can send myself daily reminders to do certain things.
If you don’t use GTD, I still think it’s a good idea to set aside some time to evaluate the previous week and begin planning the next. What went well? What didn’t? What do you want for the next week?
Other Atempted Habits
Here are some other things that I think are still good ideas, but which I didn’t consistently apply:
- Sight singing/interval practice: I actually did practice sight reading a lot using a variety of sources, so I did improve substantially. But I can’t claim to have created a real habit yet.
- German podcasts: I listened to a lot of German podcasts, so again, this isn’t failure, but I didn’t find a consistent habitual time to do this.
- Updating the budget: I did update my budget spreadsheet when I needed to, but I need to habitualize this somehow. Otherwise piles of receipts form, and math errors start to creep in.
- Consistent bed-time: ::Sigh::. Total failure. This one is hard when you work late and inconsistently. I’ll give this one another go though.
Upcoming Habits for 2015
What habits do I want to add this year? I’m going to be vague here, because sometimes good ideas come to me later:
- I do want to change some habits around buying food. German cantinas are one of the best and worst aspects of German theaters. They’re the best for socializing and feeling comfy in one’s working environment. They’re the worst if you want to save money since another Brötchen or Kaffee or Cola Light or Kuchen is just downstairs.
- I also want to develop a more consistent practice routine. A “miracle practice” or something like that. I practice plenty often, but I’d like to ritualize it a bit more.
- Likewise for weekly and nightly rituals. I’ve recently heard/read some interesting ideas for these. The GTD weekly review is one such ritual, but there are others I’d like to try additionally.
And then… who knows? The year is long, and six months in I could have an epiphany.
In any case, wish me luck, and I hope some good habits became a part of your routine in 2014 and that 2015 is a year of growth and happiness for you.