Do habits make us who we are?
Habits inform how we live our lives each day. And over time that adds up to who we are.
Habits underpin the goals we set, often at the start of a new year or season.
Whether it’s exercising more, working better or spending time with loved ones, goals are achieved bit by bit, in the smaller tasks we repeat on a regular basis.
As part of my own year-end rituals, I’m starting a new tradition. It’s called a Daily Dozen, for 12 key habits I’m committed to doing each day.
The daily dozen concept came from Walter Chauncey Camp. Known as “the father of American football,” Camp devised a set of 12 exercises called the daily dozen while he worked for the U.S. military.
Here’s my daily dozen – 12 exercises for body, mind and spirit:
The practice of morning pages clears your minds, helps you solve problems and sets the stage for a highly creative day. Completion time: 20 minutes.
But why wait for a stressful situation to try power posing? Pre-emptively, I’m doing a power pose every morning. Arms stretched out, excited about what I’ll do each day and what each one will bring. Completion time: 2 minutes.
2 sets of arm weights. While I understand why weight training should be done every other day to rest tested muscles, it’s hard to remember to do something every other day. It’s easier to do something daily, because it doesn’t require a lot of thought.
So I’ll split up my arm weight regimen. One day I’ll do 2 sets of weights, followed by a different 2 sets the next day. That way it’s daily, but different each day. Completion time: 5 minutes.
2 vitamins. This one’s easy. I’ve been taking vitamins for years. It takes seconds, it’s good for me and it gives me a small sense of accomplishment. This fuels the ability to meet other goals.
Have you ever added a task to your list after you completed it, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off as done? This goal is a similar concept. Completion time: 1 minute.
1 reasonable to-do list. Too often my master list of everything that needs to be done serves as my daily to-do list. Instead, I’ll make a daily list, the night before, of my top 5 priorities for the following day.
5 fruits and veggies. This comes from Michael Pollan’s mantra to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” In my case that’s berries with breakfast, salads for lunch and fruits and veggies for snacks.
This is how I lost weight a few years ago. It is painfully true that the really hard part is not losing weight, but maintaining the new weight. Completion time: negligible.
30 active minutes. Successful weight maintenance is easier with daily exercise. That’s been a habit of mine for quite some time. And I’ve upped the ante with my green-day challenge to reach 10,000 steps every day.
It’s also fun to mix it up and try new forms of exercise. This year I’m looking forward to more stand up paddle boarding and yoga. Completion time: 30 minutes.
3 family member time. Life is full with a spouse and 2 teens in high school plus 1 rescue dog. Sometimes it feels like group texts are our most often used means of communication and connection.
So I sit in the dining room in the evenings, to connect with everyone during homework and dinner time. Besides chatting for a few minutes about everyone’s day, I can do my “homework” from the office while they do theirs. Completion time: variable.
1 blog post. Initially I considered posting daily. But this would not be sustainable with my family and work commitments. What I can do is devote 30 minutes daily to blog-related activities: ideating, reading, researching, writing, posting or publicizing. Completion time: 30 minutes.
30 minutes of reading. Reading helps you relax, focus and learn – whether it’s my daily news ritual or reading to write a blog post. A great idea in Stretch co-authored by Karie Willyerd is to read from 3 different continents, to develop a global perspective. Does The Economist count for multiple continents?
When pressed for time, I can read on my iPad while on the treadmill (see “30 active minutes” above). And reading time counts as blog time (see above) if I’m researching a post. Completion time: 30 minutes.
3 things to be grateful for. Inspired by happiness and habits guru Gretchen Rubin, I end each day by writing down 3 things I’m grateful for. The list goes at the end of my morning pages (see above), hopefully creating a continuous loop of positive thoughts and actions. Completion time: 10 minutes.
7 hours of sleep. This may contribute the most to my well being. Life often feels like a trade-off between being close to caught up on the to-do list and caught up on sleep. But I can accomplish so much more when I’m well rested.
Sleep Cycle to the rescue, here. This app wakes you up at your lightest sleep point during a 30-minute interval that you specify. And it doesn’t subtract restless time, like another tracker I tried, which makes me happier. Completion time: 7 hours.
What’s your daily dozen?
This is my 50th post since launching this blog on New Year’s Day 2015.
While I didn’t hit my goal of 2 posts a week, I’m proud of maintaining this blog during a busy and transformative year.
With 2016’s theme of leaping, I’ll post and publicize twice a week for a total of 100. Game on!