Not only is 2020 the start of a new year, it’s the start of a new “roaring twenties” (hopefully one that doesn’t end in another Great Depression). That’s exciting–the new decade part, not depression.
Regardless of what greater society elects to do, I’m here to tell you that individual people can change. Granted, a lot of people try and fail to change, especially in January. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are incapable. It just means change is hard.
It’s easier, however, if we make small, daily choices that can have a big impact on our future prosperity, health, and fulfillment. For example, here are 10 simple things you can do on a daily basis to improve your future and slay the next decade of your life.
- Drink three to four times the amount of water you normally do. Sad fact: the majority of people live their life either partially or prohibitively dehydrated. When that happens, your brain is foggy and you make bad decisions about your work, diet, fitness, and relationships. Because of this, I drink 1.5 liters of water first thing in the morning, and another 1.5 between lunch and dinner. Granted I live in a cold desert at altitude and need a little extra, but I am never thirsty, eat less than I normally would, and feel mostly great throughout the day, which helps me make better decisions.
- Think of three new things you are thankful for. If you believe in God and the afterlife, you can do this through morning and nightly pray by giving thanks for specific (i.e. non cliche) things you are thankful for. The more you thank him for, the better you’ll feel. The better you feel, the harder and more passionately you’ll work, which will let you change and achieve a great deal more in the decade to come. If you don’t believe in God, give thanks for the many things that the evolutionary jackpot has given you. Either way, we all have a lot to be thankful for, but we must count our blessings daily to benefit from them.
- Keep a life calendar. Work calendars are for suckers. Deferring your personal, family, or social calendar to your spouse is a good way to lose focus on your top priorities. So instead of separating your work and life in how you plan to spend your time, use only one calendar with all the things you want to do and accomplish today. That way you focus on what’s important to you, rather than letting others dictate how you spend your daily time. When you let others do that, you can’t change or drive your life in the direction you want.
- Exercise first before you start working for others. If your health is priceless and more important than anything else in your life, get in the habit of excising before you start your work day. Making the world wait for you to put on your own oxygen mask is a great way to put yourself first before serving others. It also lets you set the stage for how you choose to spend your day, and like drinking more water than you think necessary, it invigorates both the body and mind. Just the other day, I was struggling to finish a difficult assignment at work. But after successfully completing a 20 minute workout in my living room, I was able to convince myself that I could complete the task that very day, which is exactly what I did, but only because I worked out first.
- Turn off live alerts. If you want to let others dictate how you spend your daily time, keep all of your default phone, email, social media, and messaging alerts set to real-time, as they come in. If, however, you want to reach for your technology only when you decide you need it, turn off all of your visual and audible alerts. For example, the only alerts I get are when I receive a call or a text from my wife or children. That’s it. I’ve even got a lot more done while waiting to check or answer email until the afternoon after finishing my top priority tasks in the morning before anyone else has a chance to ask me to do something for them instead of myself.
- Avoid chemical stimulants. Coffee, energy drink, sweets, soda, and nicotine enthusiasts aren’t going to like this, but chemical stimulants undeniably mess with our ability to focus. So kick your dependency on them and reap the rewards. If you must, health experts recommend no more than one dose per morning to get you going, so at least try to wean your dependency. Your mind, body, and concentration will thank you. In other words, if you want to be extra dependent on others, keep sticking with your bad habits. Otherwise, learn to be addicted only to food, water, and air, which is all you really need to operate at 100% efficiency while achieving natural highs every day.
- Read for at least 30 minutes a day. Studies show that people who read often focus better than those who don’t. So reach for long-form news, essays, and books over TV, games, and short-form literature. This will help your brain to power through and work uninterrupted. Fun fact: if you read just 1.5 hours per day, you could read 100 books this year. Since most people watch 3 hours of TV per day, which is absolutely mind-blowing, you would only have to cut your TV consumption in half and read the other 1.5 hours a day to still read 100 books per year. If you really want to change, try cutting TV to just a few hours a week, which can really accelerate your daily and decade accomplishments.
- Accept that “done is better than perfect.” If you insist on perfection, your daily output will be limited. At least that’s what one researcher recently proved. Yes, perfection can increase quality, but diminishing returns are also real. As such, perfectionism is self-defeating behavior when it comes to sharing your creation with the world. “The more perfectionist [someone] is, the less productive they are,” the study found. Instead, workers who spend more time than a task requires or are unsatisfied with their output would do well to adopt a new mentality: “Done is better than perfect.”
- Serve at least one person. Life isn’t as convenient for some as it is for others. Just ask royalty. But life is challenging for everyone, no matter who you are. And there’s always someone who’s worse off than you. You won’t realize that, however, until you start looking for ways to serve those around you. Soup kitchens, giving money, visiting the sick, encouraging others, making someone laugh, listening to someone, and random acts of kindness never fail to boost our happiness. Even something as simple as writing an email to praise or thank someone can have a measurable impact.
- Sleep eight hours a night. A lot of people claim to operate on fewer than eight hours of sleep per night. But fewer than 10% actually can, a recent Harvard study found, and most of those require at least six or seven. In truth, sleep-deprived individuals perform just about as bad (or worse) than someone intoxicated by alcohol, the study found. That goes for mental focus and job performance as much as motor skills. “For many people, getting sufficient sleep is increasingly under assault,” writes Julia Kirby for Harvard Business Review. “In the three-legged stool of good health, nutrition, and exercise are constantly discussed, while sleep has so far come up short.” The takeaway: Buck up and start sleeping a full eight hours if you want to be more productive. Daily exercise, reading, and no screens in bed are three great ways to facilitate this important choice at the end of your day.
If you’re failing to do much of the above, that’s okay. Even adopting just one of the above daily choices can give you the momentum you need to change and adopt even more good habits to make the new roaring twenties the best decade ever. I wish you success.