I’m sure you have experienced this: no matter how many YouTube videos you have watched about morning routines, how many books you have read about improving quality of life, you still struggle to stick to your workflow and be productive every single day.
Good news – you are not alone. We all struggle from time to time.
Even self-claimed productivity gurus want to write the day off and do nothing on the couch somtimes.
It is our human nature.
However, it is also our nature to form habits and stick to routines.
Our brains love predictability.
Keeping this in mind, we can start making small changes in our daily lives that would change EVERY ASPECT of our lives.
Don’t believe me?
2 Rules to keep in mind
I’m sure you have heard of the 80/20 rule – which put it simply, says that 80% of results come from 20% of the causes. For example, 80% of your exam questions come from 20% of certain course topics. 80% of your work outcome comes from 20% of your productive effort. 80% of happiness in your life comes from 20% of the people around you. The list goes on.
So as long as we find those 20% of things we need to do in order to maximise 80% of our productivity and performance, we can all live a pretty good life happily.
Another rule you can keep in mind is the snowball effect – a process of starting off small will transform into something larger, and may also be potentially dangerous, or beneficial.
Had a big goal you want to achieve? Start small. Do it for 5 minutes every day. Be 1% better than yesterday. The compound effect will bring you to that goal. And it is easier to tell you brain to “just do it for 5 minutes today”. You otherwise lose 5 minutes in your day on social media, what good does that bring you? Read more about why taking the first baby step is so important here.
How did keystone habits help pivot my career
As I mentioned, our brains like predictability and stability. This somehow explains why most people don’t mind working 9-5 throughout their lives. By maintaining healthy routines, even in times of uncertainties (pandemic hey?), we can find stability. When circumstances change, our routines become our backbones to keep going. We know at least part of our lives are still normal.
I graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree few years ago and got CPA 3 years later. No surprise here – I hated my job. I quit every 1 year and 8 months (that’s what LinkedIn told me, I didn’t even notice the pattern) and I experienced quarter-life crisis. I felt so lost. I had a vision to help people, but I didn’t know how. While still working full time as an accountant, I started a YouTube channel. I made song covers and I posted videos consistently. In 2019, after a series of traumatic and chaotic events I finally decided to take the leap and ditch accounting. For good. However this is just the beginning of a challenging journey. I worked my arse off, ignored my poor mental health at that time and finally got into the master of music therapy. During the hectic period of managing different projects and facing unsettling social events, I learnt it the hard way the importance of maintaining healthy routines.
By sticking with routines, I eventually mastered the skills to pivot to a completely foreign industry. I became physically and mentally stronger. I had better endurance. I found peace. I had clarity on my vision and mission. And now, I’m going to spill my tea.
Personal keystone habits
Here is my backbone. Feel free to take some, or tweak it around.
Okay, this is a no-brainer. You all know the benefits of exercising regularly (at least 3 times a week): you get toned muscles, better sleep, you lose weight, you live longer and so on. But the best thing is exercising doesn’t just do wonders on your physical health. I personally prefer working out in the morning, so that I 1/ get pumped and ready to face any challenge for the day, 2/ can be more focused and productive in my workflow, and 3/ increase my endurance physically and mentally. Remember, the good kind of workout should leave you energised and refreshed for the day, not draining all your energy out.
I believe you should constantly check-in with yourself and be your own therapist, no matter if you are an introvert or not. By writing daily, you train your brain to organise your thoughts, link all the dots, and be more creative. It is also a form of self-expression. You might even be able to evaluate your circumstances from a different perspective.
3 Spend 15 minutes every day on creative work
Do you know creativity is a muscle that you should stretch, train and practise every day? As a content creator, I used to despite routines. My “artist” personality told me to go free-flow. That’s how I ended up not writing any songs for 8 years. So I urge you to train your creativity muscle. It doesn’t matter if it’s playing an instrument, drawing or doing handicrafts. Enjoy the time letting your mind explore possibilities. By making this a habit, you get more creative at work, you learn a new skill, and you get to relax and enjoy life.
4 Exercise for the brain
One common habit for every successful person: continuous learning. Whatever business you are in, there is always more to learn. Besides reading, this is what I do every day to train my brain:
1/ learn different languages
2/ play mini game on my phone to improve memory, numerical and cognitive skills
Don’t let your brain go rusty. These are all the useful skills that would impact every area of your life.
Sticking to habits
It looks like a lot to start with. Don’t get overwhelmed. Remember baby steps and snowball effect? Start with 1 set of push up. 5 minutes of journalling. 1 line of lyric. Habits do stack up over time. Using a habit tracker might help – you get more pumped to keep the streak going.
One more important tip I always remind myself from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear: environment is KEY. You want to maintain good habits by removing friction, and vice versa. For example, laying out gym clothes and yoga mat before you sleep increases the chance of exercising first thing in the morning. On the other hand, putting the PS4 console and controller away every time you finish playing increases the friction to set up next time, making it more difficult to actually sit down and play.
I hope this helps. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of maintaining good habits and routines. They are going to change you lives in ways you never imagined. Just start today, by taking one baby step.
Interested in learning how to integrate music in your daily life to boost productivity, performance and pleasure so you can enjoy every moment in life?
I have created a free routine assessment for you to gain clarity about your current workflow and lifestyle. Find out more here: https://hangoutwithv.typeform.com/to/rEcwydJs