I’m becoming more and more aware that habits are built with intentionality and discipline. There’s a part of me that knows what I should do and desires those good things, while there’s another part of me that proves that those desires aren’t quite strong enough.
You see, we are creatures of habit, but we are not creatures who easily build new habits. We much more quickly fall out of discipline than into it, and we’ll much more readily discuss what we should be doing than actually do it.
I’ve been convicted about the changes I’ve been intending to make to my lifestyle, especially last week. I spent most of last week at home alone because Aaron was at a conference. Without my usual accountability partner and best friend around, my daily rhythms fell into a bit of disarray. So now I’m determined to cultivate these habits for good– and to commit to them solidly enough that I can maintain them even if no one else is around to keep me in check.
6 Indispensable Habits To Schedule Into Your Day
1) A solid breakfast.
Breakfast is the perfect time to think about the day ahead, nourish your body and mind, and allow yourself to be encouraged. This could mean reading a short devotional piece to get in the right mind space, or enjoying the meal with someone who can root for you throughout the day.
While recent research has demonstrated that breakfast isn’t necessarily the “most important meal of the day,” it can still be extremely important if the rest of your day is unpredictable. Plus, if you anticipate using your brain or body intensively in the morning, better to have some calories and nutrients in your system.
2) A stroll, run, or trip to the gym.
Whatever it is you choose to do for physical activity, anything is better than nothing. And what I’ve found is, unless it’s on my schedule, it’s not going to happen. I don’t feel an immediate need to exercise the same way I feel the need to eat, but it does always improve my mood and energy.
If going to the gym for intensive training is too much right now, lower your expectations and simply spend some time walking outside. Eventually that habit can be built into regular gym sessions, or whatever your physical activity goals might be.
3) A moment to breathe deeply and drink enough water.
When our schedules are full and our to-do lists long, we sometimes forget the most vital things. Scheduling a short break to actually breathe and stay hydrated is the best way to avoid unintentionally abusing our bodies.
Forgoing breath can be a body’s reaction to stress; I learned this from my physical trainer who often had to remind me to breathe properly. I’ve also found that I sooner reach for coffee than water when I have a lot to do. But is anything more important to our bodies than oxygen and water?
4) A meal with your family.
My father-in-law worked long hours when he was first starting out in his career, but he made a commitment to always be home for dinner with his family. I really appreciate this discipline and have been instituting it in my own life. Last spring when Aaron and I would be apart from each other for about 13 hours a day, we made a point of sitting down to breakfast everyday.
If you live with loved ones, eating with them daily is an important way to stay connected. And, while I’m usually tempted to watch TV when I’m eating alone, I know that I would always much prefer to sit in front of a real person than in front of the screen.
5) A chance to reflect and plan.
As obligations pile up, it’s easy to lose track of our goals– personal, professional and relational. Taking a few minutes to reflect on the day and plan ahead can reduce that feeling of overwhelm.
I’m hoping to spend a few minutes before bed thinking about what lies ahead of me. I also want to spend time being grateful, no matter what my day was like. I think this is what it truly means to take life one day at a time.
6) A consistent bedtime.
I think it’s perfectly reasonable to set an alarm for bedtime just as we set alarms to wake up. It is so easy for me to push myself later and later into the night, catching up on extra work or doing research on an interest I have. As a freelancer I can be tempted to continue “working” even when I don’t have to; and I’ve found it to have negative consequences on my energy the next day.
The bottom line: Schedule the habits that matter most to you.
The irony of our priorities is that we often tell ourselves we will make time for them– eventually. We rush to meet urgent needs rather than choosing what’s truly important, and our habits eventually follow suit.
Building new habits will require all kinds of unglamorous structure: alarms, reminders, incentives, accountability. In adding these items to our calendar, we are declaring to ourselves that these things really are just as important as going to work or meeting the needs of others. Without such explicit intentionality, these habits will never make it into our lives.