Habits that overflow into everything.
Keystone habits are defined as “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives”.
This is per Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit (worth a read).
Below are my 7 keystone habits and how I implement each. They’re honestly in no particular order as I view them all as super important components of my day.
Read also: My 11 favourite Unconventional life hacks
Keystone Habit #1: Exercise/Movement
Exercise has so many benefits that I don’t even need to get into them in detail- age slower, live longer, be happier, etc.
Just find ways to move is the basic gist. But here are the ways I live this habit.
This is relative of course. Progressive overload is the idea. It doesn’t really help your muscles to curl 2 pound dumbbells, so don’t waste your time.
I try to lift weights 3x/week.
The idea here is to move. Walking, for me, and many others, has so many benefits, both physically and mentally.
We evolved from humans that walked many miles every day, it’s good for us. I can also think without interruption on my walks. I take at least 2 lengthy walks per day.
Night time is when I want to watch TV. I “frontload” my day, so I can relax at night.
But I think we can still make TV time very useful. So this is where I do some work on my body that’s not exercise the way we think of.
I roll on a Lacrosse ball and foam roller. I use a Graston tool to perform the Graston technique (particularly on my joints). Then I do some stretching and movement prep exercises. It’s designed to protect my body and try to correct my imbalances.
Keystone Habit #2: Meditation/Gratitude
The goal here is- Mental clarity/Emotional fulfillment. It’s pretty straightforward.
I really believe in meditation and its benefits. But traditional meditation has never worked for me, while on the other hand ASMR definitely works for me.
So now I spend at least 10 minutes per day with headphones on, listening to an ASMR video (I prefer no talking) and try to focus on nothing but the noise so I can clear my mind and relax.
First and last thing every day. I start every day with a list of things I’m thankful for- my loved ones, my health, my luck, my ability, the NFL, my dogs, my bed, etc.
I also end every day in bed with another list, might be the same things, may be new things that I enjoyed that day, the point is to remain grateful.
Keystone Habit #3: Reading
I have always been a big reader. When I was young it was Berenstain Bears and then Goosebumps and now as an adult it’s almost entirely non-fiction.
I don’t read fiction because my “entertainment” comes from family movie nights or watching TV shows with my girlfriend.
I want my reading to educate me and help make me the best version of myself.
Actual Paper Books
As mentioned, non-fiction 99 out of 100 times. I read books on history, psychology, habits, sports, leadership, you name it, I’ll read it.
But I have a rule…if you don’t show me value in the first 25 pages, I’m out. Also, I typically read 4 books at a time. 25 pages of each and rotate through them. It keeps my ADD brain engaged.
I seek out articles that are interesting…topics like finance, habits, investing, etc. always draw me in. Ryan Holiday, Morgan Housel, Farnam Street, etc.
I also enjoy a good list. I like using the internet in useful ways as opposed to just surfing the net or being on social media.
I love a good newsletter! My favorite is James Clear’s 3–2–1. Check it out. It’s about the only reason I log in to my email sometimes.
Keystone Habit #4: Sleep/Recovery
It has been drilled into us repeatedly…sleep is important. No way around it.
No, you probably aren’t one of the people who can survive on 4 hours per night. I know I’m not.
I remember reading about how sleep cleared toxins from the brain and that was enough to convince me to prioritize it.
Every night. I protect my sleep time. It’s a dark, cool room. I don’t let pets sleep with me. I use a white noise machine.
I have nice sheets and a cooling pillow. I get up by 7am every single day, even Sundays. Which means most nights I go to bed around the same time, between 10–11.
I try to get a power nap every day it’s feasible.
I always do it between 1–3 in the afternoon and I make sure it’s only 20–30 minutes long. Incredibly refreshing.
I make sure to build in time to either get a hot bath or sip tea on the porch or enjoy a beer while listening to music.
Recovery, and I mean that for physical and mental recovery, is more than just sleep. It’s also downtime.
Work on deep breathing techniques. We spend a lot of time shallow breathing.
I like to breathe in as deeply as I can, hold it for a few seconds then slowly release until there’s no more breath left.
Getting enough oxygen is actually a great recovery technique.
Keystone Habit #5: Nutrition/Diet
Nutrition is arguably more important than exercise and movement. I keep a running tally during the day of my nutrition.
At any given time I could tell you exactly how many calories, macronutrients and fluids I’ve had.
We’ve all heard “abs are made in the kitchen”, but so is your overall health.
Make sure to get 1 ounce per every 2 pounds you weigh. I personally count coffee and tea.
I have multiple cups of each per day and start every morning with 10 ounces of water mixed with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with the mother), a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of ginger.
I shoot for 25+ grams per day. Probably everyone should. Sometimes I get as high as 40–45…but I’ve yet to hit 50.
Apparently anything under 70 grams is considered okay. Most adults average 15 grams per day…yikes.
My personal goal is to follow the recommendation of the AHA and not consume more than 25 grams of added per day. Most days I get under 10g.
There’s a lot of info out there that indicates sugar ages us and feeds cancer cells. Whether it’s true or not, I prefer to err on the side of caution here.
Nothing good comes from too much sugar, I know that much.
I aim for 100+ grams plus per day.
Yours will vary depending on your goals and how much you exercise. I wouldn’t recommend going under 50 grams per day though.
I focus on berberine, vitamin D, fish oil and bone broth/collagen. You may have other needs, so figure out what you’re deficient in and fix that.
Do some research into top supplements for whatever you’re looking to improve upon.
Keystone Habit #6: Planning my day/time
Planning my day is a huge factor in my success and productivity.
I don’t even remember what it was like to be a non-planner. The stuff nightmares are made of I’m sure.
2 hour chunks
Sounds like what it is. I look at my day in 2 hour groupings. Broad ideas within 2 hour blocks of time.
Looks something like this:
6–8: wellness, reading, content creation
8–10: workout, content creation, reading
10–12: work or content creation
12–2: lunch, reading
2–4: work or content creation
4–6: content creation
6–8: reading, TV
8–10: wellness, wind down
Color-coded weekly schedule
Pretty self- explanatory. Every Sunday I look at my week ahead and fill in, by 30 minutes slots, in a Google Sheet, what I have to do.
I actually aim to get as much free time on there as possible. That let’s me know I’m being really productive during my other blocks. And it makes me happy.
I created mine like this:
red=work (my regular, full-time job)
green=free time (ex. WOO HOO, reading, relaxing, TV, beer, YIPPEE)
orange= content creation (ex. writing this article)
yellow=obligation/chore (ex. kid’s soccer practice/cleaning bathroom)
purple= errand (ex. grocery store run)
Must Do Lists
I create a Must Do List (there’s power in the word must) every night for the next day. I try not to add to that list during the day, I just finish what’s there and then create a new list for the next day.
I also have a Big Picture To Do List, which is more of a goals list and also things that I need to do, but not tomorrow, so they’re there as reminders.
Not a to-do list, but a true checklist where I check off my daily habits, mostly the ones in this article!
I like to see where I’m at and tally things up at the end of the month. I check off if I did my workout, if I had a beer, if I hit my diet goals, did I sleep 7+ hours, etc.
Keystone Habit #7: Positive thinking
Every habit listed is huge, but this is a big one because it’s one of the hardest ones.
Rewiring your thought processes and learning new mental models is not easy, but it’s so very worth it.
Read also: 5 tiny habits to stop feeling tired all the time
This provides you with so much power. And personal power is a beautiful gift to give yourself.
When you take responsibility for everything that happens in your life, you also take power to say you can change it, fix it, whatever needs to be done.
You own your life.
This concept is basically changing how you view things.
A flat tire is an opportunity to learn a life skill.
Not getting that job you wanted leaves doors open for other, better suited jobs. It also gave you good practice for interviewing!
You’re in a fight with your significant other, this is a good chance to build your communication and become stronger as a couple.
Having things to look forward to
This is important. We need to have things we look forward to.
Whether it’s a good book or a nice hug at the end of a long day or a vacation or even a TV show, it all matters.
You need to be excited about the future. You need to look forward to tomorrow.
I hope you can incorporate some of these (ahem, all of them).
Or if you already have good habits, maybe you got a few new ideas.
Contributed by Cait Mack
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