People like to over-complicate things, particularly when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Truth is, you don't need expensive tools, complex recipes, or intense training programs to see improvements in the way they look and feel.
I've found that some of the biggest improvements in my life have come from the smallest and simplest behavioral changes. All it takes is a couple of simple daily habits to see a major shift in your life. I've seen it.
If you run a tight ship, I want show you 10 simple daily habits that can transform your life without eating away at your schedule.
1. Make your bed in the morning
I first picked up this little gem of a tip from Tim Ferris (on this podcast).
It sounds really simple (and it is), but getting up and making your bed first thing in the morning serves a few very important purposes.
First, it gives you a sense of control. If your life always has you running around, you often feel as if you have little control over your own schedule, particularly if your schedule revolves around your kids and your work.
By making your bed in the morning, you start the day by controlling what you can control. No matter how crazy your day is - no matter how cluttered your schedule is later on - you can make your bed. You can control that part of your day.
Start your day the right way by making your bed. Here's why:
It also helps you get the day started right. By accomplishing a small simple task first thing in the morning, you start your day off with a small win.
Small wins build momentum. By starting the day off with a simple completed task, you mentally prepare yourself for a day of many more wins.
Tip: read more about small wins and premature overwhelm.
Finally, making your bed in the morning also makes for a less distracting day.
For some people (particularly the visual type), seeing an external distraction (like a messy bed) can create an internal state of distraction which can lead to unnecessary stress. Making your bed can help alleviate that (potentially).
2. Have a tall glass of water first thing
After a long night of sleep, your body naturally wakes up dehydrated.
If you are used to having breakfast or coffee to start your morning, I encourage you to try starting your day off with a tall glass of fresh water instead. It's a quick and easy change that can offer tremendous benefits.
A glass of water in the morning will boost your energy levels, fuel your brain, flush away unwanted toxins out of your body, prep your body for better nutrient absorption (esp. if you eat a better breakfast), boost your immunity, and give your metabolism a kick-start.
Another positive side-benefit of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning is that it sets you up for making better food choices throughout the day. Similar to the idea of small wins, one good decisions leads to another.
Tip: for an extra vitamin boost, squeeze a bit of lime or lemon into your glass of water. It will also give it a nice, refreshing taste.
3. Eat a better breakfast
If you're still starting your day off with cereal, toast, and/or a tall glass of orange juice, then switching over to a better breakfast will likely rock your world.
The better breakfast concept is simple - your breakfast should satiate and energize you so you can easily keep you going with your hectic schedule until lunch (or later). You shouldn't have to have snacks or nineteen coffees in between.
Build your better breakfast around a good source of protein, a source of healthy fat, and some fresh (raw) vegetables.
4. Drink your coffee black (or add fat)
If you enjoy a coffee in the morning, skip the additives. Drink it black because that's how it is meant to be drank (or drunk? Not sure.).
Coffee has many benefits (depending on how your body metabolizes it). It improves focus, concentration, and releases those feel-good chemicals in your body. It gives you the boost you need to start your morning.
But it's also been shown that having more fat in the morning (in the absence of sugar) can further boost (and sustain) energy levels and cognitive function.
So why not combine the two?
Try adding a half teaspoon of organic coconut oil in your black coffee. Or, if you're not a fan of coconut oil, you can add a bit of unsalted grass-fed butter to your coffee. It sounds weird, but it's worth experimenting.
Tip: "butter coffee" is a big trend now. While I like the idea of bio-hacking coffee to help you get more out of less, I can't say I'm a full advocate of replacing your breakfast with a butter coffee. Read this interesting post on the topic.
5. Make movement a priority
One of my favorite fitness authors - Nate Green - often talks about the importance of movement over exercise. And it's a philosophy I have taken up whole-heartedly.
If you're constantly stressing over the idea of "finding time to exercise" then you might benefit from changing how you view the concept of exercise.
Don't limit yourself to thinking that the gym is your only option and that the only way to get in shape is to wake up at 5AM for a crushing treadmill session.
When it comes to exercise, the world is your gym and all you need to do is make movement a priority.
It can be as easy as getting up and stretching or going for a walk with your dog or running around with your kids or cleaning your yard or choosing to take the stairs or riding your bike or hiking or rock-climbing or you get the picture.
When you focus on movement, exercise becomes easy to fit in.
6. Decompress your spine
The average busy person spends 8-10 hours sitting and looking at a computer screen all day long, with the head forward and spine in a flexed position.
Not the greatest recipe for building the body you've always wanted.
While there are a number of corrective stretches that you can do throughout the day, one easy habit to add to your lifestyle is to decompress your spine 60 seconds at a time throughout the day.
You will need a bar (or a door frame) or something else to grab onto and hang onto, but ideally you want to do this as often as you can throughout the day. It's one of the best feelings in the world after a few hours of sitting.
Tip: check out the right way to decompress your spine here.
7. Focus on one big task each day
If your daily to-do list is looking like a month-long grocery list, then you could benefit from simplifying things a little bit. One simple way to do this is to focus on one (important) thing each day.
The concept of the one thing is simple - instead of chasing a bunch of small unimportant tasks, find and focus your attention on one thing that will give you extraordinary results for the day.
If you want to learn more about the idea of getting extraordinary results in less time, read The One Thing by Gary Keller. Or, if you have a few minutes, watch this short animated summary of the book:
Understand that the concept of "the one thing" can apply to many different aspects of your life - from career, to family, to fitness.
Find the one thing that will give you the best results and focus your time and energy on that. Ignore everything else.
8. Do nothing for 2 minutes
There's a lot of talk about meditation these days, particularly for busy people with hectic schedules. While I do agree with its many benefits, I do know that meditation can be a difficult practice to grasp (and sustain).
But I still think you can take advantage of meditation by implementing a small habit in your busy day - do nothing for two minutes.
Simplify meditation by doing nothing for 2 minutes every day. You'll get 80% of the benefits.
If you strip down meditation to its core, it's really just the idea of doing nothing for a period of time. It's the idea of stepping back for a second, taking a few deep breaths, and tuning your mind to the moment. It's kind of like hitting the reset button on your phone. Everything recalibrates.
And I do feel that you can achieve many of the benefits from simply setting your timer for two minutes, sitting back (or lying down), closing your eyes, and doing nothing but focusing on your breath for two minutes.
Tip: if you're doing this by your computer, there is a site called Do Nothing for 2 Minutes - it's designed precisely for this habit.
9. Set your bedtime alarm
If you're only running on a few hours of sleep a night, you're undermining the importance of rest. You're essentially running on 20% battery life all day.
Poor, restless sleep can really throw off your entire day. When you cut your sleep short, you can't think straight, you have no energy, your work performance is diminished, and you're forced to run on caffeine (or worse) all day.
The quality of your time becomes heavily compromised.
What I've discovered is that most people struggle to get to a good night sleep because they go to bed too late. And it's not because they're stuck at work, but because they lose track of time while watching re-runs of Game of Thrones.
One simple habit that can help you do fix this is to set a bedtime alarm. Simply put an alarm on your phone to go off 30 minutes before you should go to sleep.
I have an alarm on my phone that goes off at 10:15 PM every night to remind me that it's time to start going to bed. I don't always follow it, but what I've noticed is that the alarm has improved my awareness. I still might go to bed late at times, but I'm not suddenly surprised that it's midnight.
Tip: while you're at it, put your phone into airplane mode 2 hours before bed time to avoid any distractions that can impact your sleep.
10. Read some fiction before bed
If you struggle falling asleep when you go to bed, it probably means that you're being exposed to a lot of artificial light before bedtime.
Artificial light decreases melatonin - the hormone that helps you go to sleep. If possible, cut back on technology and screens a few hours before bed - it will do wonders for your sleep.
One habit that has really helped improve my sleep is reading fiction in bed.
With my phone in airplane mode, I turn on my lamp and dig into a good story. Typically, I start dozing off after two or three pages. So while it may take me months to finish one fiction novel, I've been getting the best sleep of my life.
Tip 1: make sure your partner is cool with you reading in bed. Sometimes my girlfriend prefers I direct my attention towards her instead of Joe Rantz.
I hope that you've found these 10 simple daily habits particularly insightful. More importantly, I hope that you will use them to transform your life.
You don't have to - nor should you try to - implement them all at once. Just choose one or two and run some experiments to see how they impact your life.
You'll be surprised what even a small change - like making your bed in the morning or having a tall glass of water - can do for your (busy) life.
Now it's onto you...
What is the one thing that you do every single day that makes your day better? Leave your response in the comments below.