A few simple things to make everyday a little more effortless
Willpower doesn’t work. You’ve probably heard this before, as it’s the title of Benjamin Hardy’s newest book, not to mention a concept used by self-development gurus everywhere. And I’ll be the first to say, they’re not wrong. Willpower is a limited resource that is constantly decreasing throughout the day. not to mention, we don’t start off with the same amount each day. It’s all dependent on the mood we make up with, the food we ate, and the experiences we have/situations we encounter throughout the day.
“If you believe you can change — if you make it a habit — the change becomes real.”― Charles Duhigg
The question is, then, how do we save our willpower while still getting just as much, if not more, accomplished during the day. And I’d like to say that I think the answer is what Charles Duhigg references extensively in his book The Power of Habit, and is echoed in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits.
But first, what even is a keystone habit?
A keystone habit is a deceivingly simple concept — it’s easy to wrap our minds around but takes a certain level of intentionality to actually implement in our lives. Duhigg describes them as this: “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives”.
“If you focus on changing or cultivating keystone habits, you can cause widespread shifts.” — Charles Duhigg
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They can also be interpreted as habits upon which you build up other habits — which the side of keystone habits that I’ll be touching on with the following five suggestions. Overall, a keystone habit is any habit that makes accomplishing and implementing other habits easier and decreases the willpower to get through them and your related routines. Now, onto the ones you can start using during your mornings:
1 | Drink water
It’s weird how great of a keystone habit drinking water is. But from a psychological and physiological perspective, I guess it makes sense. Drinking water not only helps you to wake up in the morning because of the taste and the hydrating effects it has in your body that’s been without water for the past eight or so hours, but it is a proactive thing you can do to get you started on consuming positive things through the morning.
“The brain can’t actually tell the difference between hunger and thirst, so often we can mistake thirst as a ‘sugar craving’. The next time you feel the need for something sweet, try drinking a glass of water first.” — Nicola Shubrook, registered nutritionist
Overall, water is just something you have to do — and it’s great to do first thing in the morning to kick of taking care of yourself and giving yourself what you really need. This can then kick you off on the track of eating a healthy breakfast, or feeling awake enough to go for a run, workout, or finish that project you’ve been wanting to get to before you head into work.
This habit also showcases what keystone habits are all about. It’s less about the habit itself, and more about the other things its spurs you on to do. Drinking water first thing leaves you feeling more awake, with less likelihood of having a headache, along with hydrated, healthy, and ready to go. What more could you ask for at 6am?
2 | Move your body
This habit really is truly a catchall keystone — it gets you taking care of yourself, makes you desire more water and to eat healthier, push yourself, notice how your actions affect your results, and more. Moving your body in some way quite literally gives you the momentum to keep going throughout the day — whatever that movement looks like for you. I have some friends who absolutely love running a 5K or so every morning. I much prefer lifting weights at home or going for a quick jog around the neighborhood if I can make time for it.
“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit card less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
In the times where I’ve been diligent about my physical fitness routine, I’ve seen radical increases in my joy, my mood, my desire to pursue fun goals, and have even slept and eaten better. It’s a habit that brings on better habits in every area, making it an incredible keystone habit to implement. It also can help boost positive hormones, and give you chemicals in your brain that prime your for more effective thinking, better decision making capacity, and healthier choices later on in the day.
3 | Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a vague habit, but still an effective keystone habit, however it may look for you in your practice. Is is, overall, a habit that will make every other habit and pursuit in your life easier to pursue and implement. Practicing mindfulness, like the other two keystone habits I previously mentioned, helps you to prime your brain for better performance as you move through your schedule. It also can improve your relationships, your self-awareness, your work, your focus on your dreams, and more.
“To truly tame the ‘monkey mind’ and defeat our habitual tendency toward clinging, meditation was the prescription, and sitting and actively facing the ‘voice in your head’ mindfully for a few minutes a day might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Accept that challenge and improve your life drastically.”― Dan Harris, 10% Happier
Mindfulness can also be attained in a lot of different ways. You can practice mindfulness through journaling, or meditation, or guided mindfulness practices, and more. I’ve personally used both the Calm and Headspace app, and enjoyed them each for different reasons. I’ve also used simple timers and focused on my breathing for 3–5 minutes. This can also be done in public, on a bus, or while you’re waiting in traffic. Take some deep breaths, center yourself, and prime your mind and body to hop into the next thing seamlessly.
4 | Get organized
Okay, don’t laugh at me — but organization is an amazing keystone habit that will make everything better for every area of your life. If you become more organized, keeping track of things, making solid plans, and generally being on top of things, you’ll do better in your work life, your personal life, and your academic life if you happen to be in school/trying to learn new things.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”― James Clear
If you make a habit of being relatively organized, in your kitchen, your closet, your car, and in your schedule, that will keep you on track for success in every area of your life. If you have a good habit of staying on track and keeping things where they need to be, you’ll have strong systems as James Clear would say, systems you’ll be able to rise to the level of.
Read also: 5 tiny habits that lead to huge results (highly recommended)
5 | Get ready for the day
In a time of working from home, businesses being closed or limited access, and the general mental health issues running rampant in our society, only heightened by a pandemic, it’s important to have routines. While the Miracle Morning is great, it needs one more habit to make it work. You have to get ready.
It doesn’t really matter when you do this, either before, after, or in the middle of your morning routine, what matters is that you do it. You’re getting ready for the day mentally and physically, now all you need to do is get ready physically to set that mindset in stone. Some of my best days have involved completing a series of a few favorite morning habits, a shower with one of my favorite podcasts in the background, and then getting dressed, doing my hair, and putting on makeup. This sets me up for a great day regardless of what it includes.
I might have classes and a meeting, and I feel ready and prepared for those, or I might be sitting at home all day. Either way, getting ready and preparing for the day ahead gets me in the mindset, first, of taking care of myself, and second, of having something ahead of me that I need to get ready for.
Keystone habits, in the end, are all about setting yourself up for success in the most efficient and seamless way possible. And as so many experts have proven and individuals have seen in their day to day life, when you can master one habit, it makes consequential habits that much easier. It frees you up to focus on the original habit, and to let the others flow in much more easily, as you’re already set up to accomplish them.
I hope that these suggestions have been useful to you, and that you’ll be able to implement some of these habits to make the flow of your day so much smoother, more enjoyable, productive, and effective.
And whatever you do, have a great day!
CONTRIBUTED BY KATIE LAWRENCE
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