If you’ve been around for any length of time, you know that I am uber productive. I work full-time, homeschool my kids, cultivate a family lifestyle of fun, blog consistently, and make lots of time for self-care.
These things don’t happen by accident. In fact, I am very intentional about most of my habits, and that makes me happy and productive.
I get questions all the time about how I do it all (which is a misnomer because I most definitely don’t do it all as you will see below), so I set out to write a post about some of my habits that allow me to accomplish everything I do and feel joyful and content in the process.
If you’re not thrilled with where you are right now or you’re not getting everything done that you need or want to, read on. But do so with this huge caveat:
DON’T TRY TO IMPLEMENT THESE THINGS ALL AT ONCE.
If you do that, I promise you will fail. You can’t overhaul your life in one fell swoop and expect the changes to stick.
If you want to be more productive and satisfied with your life, try one or two of these things for a couple of weeks. Once they’re solid habits, then add something else in. Big changes never work out. Baby steps are the only things that do.
35 Almost Daily Habits That Make Life Great
- Go to bed early. I know most people like to get things done after their kids are asleep. Honestly, I would like that luxury as well, but I don’t have it. I have laid down in the bed with my kids every night since forever, and they expect it even at 7 and 10. It is our special time together where we talk and giggle and they spill their hearts to me in the dark before we all fall asleep in their bunk beds. I love it and wouldn’t give it up even for an extra hour of alone time.
What this means in the practical sense is that I am in bed by 9 pm and asleep by 10 pm just about every night.
- Get up early. The other side of going to bed early is that I can wake up early. I have many times complained that people who say to get up early are simply unrealistic, but at this stage of my life, it is totally doable for me. I set my alarm for 6 but usually put my feet on the floor around 6:30. Sometimes my girls get up by 7 and sometimes they sleep in, but I don’t wake them unless we have to leave the house for some reason.
When I am blessed with alone time in the morning, I read and enjoy my water and putter around on the computer or watch Outlander, just whatever makes me happy.
- Weigh myself. I am slightly obsessive about weighing myself. It’s not for everyone, and perhaps some day I will back off and only weigh myself once a week like you’re supposed to, but weighing myself is the first thing I do after I pee every morning. My weight does fluctuate by day, just like everyone’s, but I can see early on in the day how I did the day before with my food and water intake and whether I need to make some changes for the next day.
- Start the day with a very large glass of water. Your body is about 65% water, and you lose a lot of that as you sleep (and when you pee first thing in the morning, right?). Starting the day with a large glass of water not only helps you get in what you need for the day, it rehydrates your body from a long dry night.
- Take vitamins. Because I am a bariatric surgery patient, I have to take vitamins every day for the rest of my life. It’s a good habit for everyone, though, even healthy adults with a good diet, because it fills in the gaps and makes you healthier and more energetic. I take my vitamins twice a day.
- Get dressed. I used to be a person who stayed in her pajamas all day every day. No more, not for a motivational reason, but because I get cold since I’ve lost so much weight. Now, I get up, drink my water and take my meds and vitamins, and then get dressed and put on my slippers.
- Light a candle. I’m on a candle kick right now, but diffusing essential oils would be just as good. I enjoy having a comfortable and familiar fragrance floating on the air, and I like the flicker of the flame. My current favorites are Yankee Candles in Honeycrisp Apple Cider fragrance, but any pleasing scent will do.
- Brain dump. First thing in the morning, I write down everything that’s on my mind. I write down everything I want to accomplish for the day, any blog post ideas that are rattling around, and anything else that comes to mind. It really helps my focus and attention for the whole day by getting down what would otherwise distract me.
- Evaluate my brain dump. When I’m writing the brain dump, I write down every single thing in my brain. But after I have it all down, I think critically about each thing. Does it really need to get done today? Can it wait? Can I cross it off forever without guilt? I can’t do everything, so I don’t try.
- Eat a high protein breakfast within an hour of waking. My favorite breakfast is a fried egg with a cheddar jack cheese stick, but it doesn’t have quite enough protein for my current needs, so I have a cup of Greek yogurt with protein powder mixed in. Whatever you choose for breakfast, it needs to contain a large proportion of protein to get your brain and body functioning at its best right off the bat.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing all your attention on the thing right in front of you, with no distractions. I practice mindfulness first thing in the morning by petting one of my cats, whichever one is on the table drinking out of my water glass (usually Henry but sometimes a different one). I pay attention to the feeling of the fur (all four of my cats feel very different on my fingertips), the sound of the cat’s purr, and I enjoy his head pressing against my hand. I focus on him for at least two minutes, and that act grounds and centers me for the day ahead.
- Read my Bible. I have the One Year Chronological Bible on my Kindle Fire, and I read one daily section every morning. I’m currently at a really dry part (Deuteronomy – all the laws and rules for the people of Israel), but knowing I’ve done it makes me feel fulfilled and accomplished right off the bat in my day.
- Pray. As Christians, we are called to call out to the Lord in prayer. Actually, we are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but it starts for me first thing in the morning with a prayer for all the things in my prayer box which I thought I’d posted about but apparently, I have not. I will get on that soon as it is the foundation of my entire prayer life.
- Look at my planner. I write out my main, long-term To Do items, goals-driven items from my PowerSheets, appointments, and work commitments a week at a time, usually on Monday mornings, but I look at it daily to see what’s coming up and important for the day. While I’m doing this, I add anything from my brain dump that feels important and schedule that into a time slot.
- Greet my children. Every morning, the first time I see my kids, I say, “Good morning Sunshine.” Every morning, both kids. This will come up again below when I talk about bedtime, but being called Sunshine is important to my girls, and it sets our day on a nice, friendly, loving note.
- Write. I love to write, and I love posting on my blog, so every morning, I try to get in at least a couple paragraphs worth of writing, whether it’s for a blog post or just in a journal (but usually for a blog post). You may not be an avid writer, and that’s perfectly okay, but it is a small task that allows me to chip away at something big which is posting on my blog twice a week. Perhaps your big thing is keeping your house spotless, and so you spend 15-30 minutes on that every day. Or perhaps your big thing is a DIY project that you can work on a little at a time. It doesn’t matter what your big job is, if you do it a little bit every day, it will eventually get done.
- Exercise. I walk 2 miles every day at lunchtime. I take a 40-minute lunch break from work and walk quickly around my neighborhood to get in my 2 miles, rain or shine. The only times I don’t walk are when it is too cold (like sub-zero wind chills) or icy. In those cases, I do 40 minutes on the elliptical machine which I pretty much hate. But in any case, exercise gets my blood pumping, makes my brain sharper, and makes me feel energized and ready for the second half of my day. I used to hate exercise with a fiery passion, but now I don’t go a day without it. Ever.
- Eat healthy food. I eat less than 1,000 calories a day, exclusively lean proteins and vegetables with protein shakes and possibly a tiny bit of fruit. I don’t expect you to eat like me, but you should eat most of your calories from lean meats and vegetables and fruits with few carbs and no refined or processed foods if you want to feel your best.
- Drink enough water. I said earlier that I start every day with a big glass of water, but I think it’s worth mentioning that I drink frequently throughout the day as well. My goal for myself is to drink six 16 ounce glasses of water a day. Most of us are chronically dehydrated which can lead to fatigue, constipation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a whole host of other body issues.
- Self-care. A lot of the things on my list are self-care, to be honest, but I take time out of every day just for me. My current favorite self-care activities are crocheting and watching Outlander which I make time to do every day. I have also at different times done scrapbooking, Bible journaling, crafting, gardening, and playing games.
- Read or listen to something that makes me think. I try to get in a few minutes a day to enrich myself and my knowledge. Sometimes I squeeze this in during my daily walk or after work in the afternoon. I’m currently reading Silent Impact: Stories of Influence Through Purpose, Persistence, and Passion for a professional book club through my company.
- Hug and kiss my children. I’m not a touchy feely person, but the other three members of my family are all extremely touchy feely and need that. I have learned over a very long time to appreciate the hugs and kisses of my kids, and I make sure I do it at least once every day.
- Hug and kiss my husband. See above. Marriages need touch to cultivate intimacy, and hugging and kissing every day is just the beginning, so I make a point to seek him out at least once a day. Grossing the kids out is an added bonus.
- Post on Instagram. I don’t get to this every single day, but I try to do it more often than not. I like Instagram for a lot of reasons, especially that it makes me stop and think about what events I want to capture and remember in our life.
- Enjoy my kids. I make a point to spend some time every day with my kids, doing something fun, whether that’s playing a game, doing a craft, or (my least favorite) watching tv or a movie together.
- Connect with my husband. If I’m not careful, I can go through my day, work, spend some time with my kids, homeschool, do my own stuff, and not spend a minute with my husband. I have, over the last couple of months, made a daily habit of sitting in the room with him while he makes supper so that we can chat about our days while the kids play in another room. I usually crochet and listen to whatever he wants to say and try to make our conversation meaningful.
- Look at my Tending List from my PowerSheets. PowerSheets are goal planners that help you to achieve your long term goals in tiny bites one month at a time. There is a tending list each month where you write down your monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Each afternoon, I look at my tending list and check off anything I’ve accomplished in the last 24 hours. It helps keep me focused as to where I am and where I want to go.
- Practice gratitude. I have at different times in my life written in a gratitude journal, but at the moment, I am doing a Gifts from God jar with my whole family. It sits in our dining room, and I try to write at least one thing to put in it every day. You should go read the whole post on gratitude, but in short, research has shown that people who describe themselves as joyful actively practice gratitude every day. So I do it every day because I want more joy in my life.
- Connect with the important people in my life. Relationships are vital to human beings. I make a point to intentionally cultivate the relationships that are most important to me by calling someone (usually Old Grandma who is not connected in any other way), writing out a quick note to drop in the mailbox, emailing, or sending off a quick text. It only takes a couple of minutes but it leaves me feeling connected and loved by loving others.
- 15 minute pick up. I have to admit that we don’t do this as often as we should, but when we do, it makes our days so much better. The idea is that everyone in the family picks up the living room for 15 minutes. When we all do it together, it makes an hour of cleaning! A lot can happen in an hour, and it makes big afternoon-long cleaning sessions unnecessary.
- Do one load of laundry. This is another habit that I only sometimes remember, but when I do, things go better and we don’t run out of underwear.
- End each day with a big glass of water. See above where I talked about starting the day with water and drinking frequently throughout the day. Your body needs water, so first thing and last thing are good times to get in some extra.
- Read aloud to my children. As I said above, I put my girls to bed by lying with them every night. The first thing we do after we turn off the light is to read a story (on my Kindle Fire on night mode). We have been reading from the fairy books by Andrew Lang for months now, and there is no end in sight. These are NOT fairy books just for girls. They are fairy tales of all kinds of people and places and all kinds of magical things. They aren’t sanitized Disney-fied stories, some are a little troubling and some have themes that wouldn’t be appropriate for the littlest listeners. We love them and the girls look forward to our reading time.
- Sing to my children. Another of our favorite bedtime rituals is when I sing to the girls. I put together a special collection of lullabies and favorite songs when Grace was naught but a week old, and the fifth song on the CD is “You Are My Sunshine” by Elizabeth Mitchell. I sing along with that song every night (unless I have a sore throat or something), and the girls crave it. They recently said something that made me realize they think every kid’s mom sings to her at bedtime, which I thought was absolutely lovely.
- Read for pleasure. When I put the girls to bed at night, we talk and cuddle a bit, and then they settle down to sleep. When that happens, I get out my Kindle Fire (on night mode) and read Outlander (I’m on my second reading of the series and just started book 5, The Fiery Cross.) I really, really enjoy the epic stories (as you probably already figured out since I have now talked about the tv series, the podcasts, and now the book series).
So that’s it. I know it sounds like a lot when you think about it in a big bunch like this, but every day is made up of about 16 hours or 960 minutes that you can spend however you want.
If I went back and put a time on everything, you would see that most of these things take 10 minutes or less, many a lot less.
The things that take longer are my self-care activities – I do read in the dark for about an hour most nights; I walk for 40 minutes a day; and I usually crochet for 30-60 minutes. Taking good care of myself and my own needs is important in my being a healthy, happy person, so I prioritize those things over everything else. You know the adage about putting on your own oxygen mask first.
The habits above aren’t keys to a successful life by any means. But they are the keys to my successful life.
Could you implement one or two of these habits in your life?
© 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.