How I Feel Good and Get Things Done Every Day
One of the things that has become essential in my productivity over the past year is the app called Habit List. I’ve mentioned it in past posts, but never really dove into the specifics of my personalized group of “habits” that I need to check off every day to be my best. Someone asked me about that list recently, so I thought I’d share it in a post.
I’ll point out at the start that I discovered this app through Chase Jarvis, and for the first month or so my list of things that I needed to be successful on a given day mirrored his. But it wasn’t long before some of those items dropped off and were replaced by things personal to me. I think having a template at the outset is helpful, and once you get a sense of what’s right for you the list will adapt. Here’s what mine currently looks like:
That’s it, that’s the list. When I can check off this entire list in a given day I’m over the moon and I know that it’s been time spent being productive and healthy. Some of the things are pretty straightforward, but some might need explanation. Allow me to break them down for you.
This one is pretty simple: I need to exercise each day. That could be running, cardio or fundamentals like sit-ups and push-ups. I do this four of the seven days per week and work with barbells (hence the “weights” heading) on the other days.
EAT HEALTHY FOODS
Eating healthy seems like a no-brainer, right? But it’s not always that easy for me. My vegan diet sometimes limits my options and now that I’m experimenting with more of a carb-free diet, things can also get a little tricky. So it’s good to have this reminder at the end of the day. If I can’t check it off, I know to be more aware the next day.
THE DAILY STOIC
I just added this one two days ago because it involves a book I picked up recently: The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. I could write a whole post on the book itself, but the short version is that it’s quotes from Stoic philosophers and it meant to be read over the course of a year. Each day there is one quote and one “translation” from the author that breaks it down in layman’s terms and tells you how you can apply it to modern life. This is now part of my morning routine for 2017.
I sit for twenty minutes of transcendental meditation each morning. Simple.
VISUALIZATION AND GRATITUDE
At the tail end of my meditation I take three or four minutes to give thanks for all of the things I have in this life. That includes people, places, things that aren’t necessarily as tangible as those, and just whatever I can think of. When you start your day focused on what you do have instead of what you don’t, you’re going to see things differently as you make your way through the world. And the visualization is just things that I want to make happen. I sit and think about them, how they look, how I feel when I see them, what’s around them in the scene. It’s powerful and kind of fun!
PLAY WITH PINKY FOR TEN MINUTES
Pinky is my cat and the subject of many of my photographs—so many, in fact, that she warrants her own Instagram account. Playing with her is my happy place, and when I do it in the morning nothing is going to bother me that day. Plus, she’s home alone while my wife and I work, so the early morning play wears her out even more than her early-morning mischief marathons around the apartment.
READ FOR 15 MINUTES
This one is kind of new to the list, too. I was squeezing in books here and there for the first half of last year, but then I heard photographer Jasmine Star say somewhere that she schedules time to read each day. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it before, but it makes perfect sense. Ever since I added this to my daily practice my book intake has probably gone up 3x. Current books I’m reading: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris, and Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.
CreativeLive is an amazing online learning platform that has helped me immensely over the past year. They offer free courses (when you watch them live—you can also buy them and watch anytime) in lots of creative areas like photography, design, lettering, as well as just about every other area of life. It’s like a college education at a fraction of the cost. They also recently launched an app for phones and tablets. With it you can see one free lesson from any course they offer every day. So over the course of maybe ten to fifteen days you can get through an entire class. I most recently did this with Debbie Millman‘s “A Brand Called You.”
I recently wrote about this practice. Jotting down ten ideas—no matter how absurd—each day is a great way to exercise your creative and critical thinking muscles. I adopted this tip from James Altucher, who writes his ideas onto a waiter’s pad and then scraps them. I keep mine in Evernote; you never know when one of them might stick and I’ll need to reference it.
PLAY OR MAKE SOMETHING
This one comes directly from Chase Jarvis (via Charlie Hoehn‘s Play It Away). I create something every day, or I do something fun—play. Both get the creative juices flowing when you do them, so I treat them the same on my daily list.
This is different than Exercise because it’s not necessarily exerting myself with intent. It could be taking a walk, playing ping-pong, or anything where I’m not sitting still. It’s very important to not sit for very long during the day, and having this on my list reminds me to get up and get out there.
DRINK 64 OZ. OF WATER
There are a lot of reasons to do this in addition to simply staying hydrated: Water helps your body to process nutrients, lubricates your joints, and protects your organs. I wouldn’t go too far over the 64 oz., though, because it can lead to water intoxication, which is bad news.
On my second round of water each day I add lemon and salt. the lemon helps to reduce inflammation, which is great for me as an asthmatic, and also boosts the immune system and enhances enzyme function. The salt simply helps your cells to retain the water. Most diets—especially among athletes—lack the salt and essential mineral levels your body needs. A pinch of salt can help to correct that.
This is a repeat of Meditate AM, except I usually do it around 6:30 P.M. Full disclosure: I’m bad with this one; I’ll go for a week at a time without doing it. I almost thought about taking it off the list, but having it there reminds me that I need to get more consistent with it. Whenever I do sit, it’s definitely helpful in getting me through the evening.
I try my best to get eight hours every night—it’s essential to so many areas of health. If I’m at seven-and-a-half I’ll still check this off the list because at least it’s close, right?
That’s it. My list. It’s designed to make me the best I can be, so it might not be for you. But if you start by using some of these things as your baseline (or, better yet, watch this video from Chase Jarvis and start out the way I did) you’ll find that some of the habits will drop off and new ones that are right for your life will start to pop up. Whatever the list is, having it is super helpful to live a productive and creative day—at least in my case. But I think you’ll see some huge benefits from it, too. So why not download Habit List and give it a shot? I’d love to hear how you make out.