There are six essential foundation areas in our day-to-day life that benefit from solid, healthy habits:
Energy, Exercise, Eating, Routine Tasks, Work, and Fun
Working on one positive habit in any of these areas has the potential to improve the others. For example, studies show that people who make time to exercise also eat better and are more productive at work. The corollary is also true, bad habits tend to cluster together. Sleep deprivation limits what you can accomplish at work and at home. It also leads to obesity and poor health.
Because habit change is hard, trying to change too much at once can be frustrating and lead to failure. Think about those New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy AND exercise every morning. We do great for a few days. Then we realize how hard it is to maintain, and we give up entirely. However, it is possible to start too small and pick a habit that has no impact on anything else. Drinking more water, for example. It is a great habit to have, but all by itself we are not going to see big results in the way we sleep, the weight we lose, or the amount of clutter on our dining room table.
For big impact results, we must start with one of our biggest, most obvious problems and be relentless at making positive habit changes. When we start with a foundation habit, we build self-control making it easier to add additional healthy habits even in unrelated areas.
While improvements in any one foundation habit will have a positive impact on all the other habits, there is a hierarchy to their level of impact. Sleep is at the top of the list followed closely by exercise and eating. Routine tasks at home and work – laundry, dishes, decluttering, email, weekly reports – come next followed by the part of your work you really love such as special projects, writing, or creative endeavors. While it has only a little impact on the other habits, fun is a foundation habit all in itself. Getting away from the daily grind and spending quality time with friends and family are essential to your health and happiness and cannot be overlooked. After all, the goal of being more productive at work should not be to do more work but rather to spend more time having fun.
Not sure where to get started?
If you ask me, I will always recommend starting with getting enough sleep every night. For some, this is not possible (new parents for example) while others simply will not admit that 8 hours of sleep every night is what they need. Fine, fine. I am willing to bet you will eventually come around to it. Go ahead and start with the foundation habit that bugs you the most. Commit to making one BIG change. Be specific with your goal and start monitoring your progress.