They say you need to invest a substantial amount of time in order to build a lasting habit. Studies have recommended different amounts of time for building habits to be effective, so we’re not going to dive deeper into the specifics, or the golden number. Regardless, it is established that as the saying goes, nothing is magically built overnight.
To say it simply, I want to build better habits to help improve the quality of my life and in one way or another, also boost my productivity levels for my benefit, too.
I’ve taken inspiration from Matt d’Avella, a Youtube original content creator, in conceptualizing this year-long experiment or exercise on building habits. He makes interesting takes on productivity, minimalism, personal finance and overall simplifying your work and your life to streamline your process and make it more effective.
If you haven’t watched any of his content before, now would be the best time to do it.
In my almost 24 years of living, I’ve realized that I am addicted to being productive — or at least the idea of it. I just sometimes get this burst of energy to exhaustively plan out ideas for the future or a project plan that I’d been dreaming of since years ago. At first, I have every will and motivation to chip away on the tasks but I am cursed with being impatient with the results and thus, never really seeing something come to fruition. Basically, acing the planning stage but falling short on execution.
Later on, I realized that the problem lies with the fact that I depend my working schedule on the motivation I have that specific day. And this is what people also need to learn — motivation is bullshit. You can fill your phone with motivational quotes and watch every motivational speaker you can think of day and night, but it can only get you as far. Building discipline instead is the key because it makes you work regardless if you’re motivated or not; it’s ingrained habit than conditional.
Here’s how I will plan out my year-long experiment of building helpful habits:
May: Journaling Daily
For someone who talks for a living and writes just about the same, you would be surprised that keeping a journal doesn’t come natural to me. The main reason why I haven’t done it religiously is because I don’t think of my daily life as anything worthy to note down or write about — it is painfully mundane. Outside of work and resting, I also find it difficult to have even just 5 minutes to sit down and write about my day. Come to think of it though, in the previous months where I’ve practiced this habit from time to time, I’ve found that it was especially helpful to me both emotionally and mentally. It did uncover many things that were in my subconscious and now, I’m ready to unearth more.
June: Drinking my recommended amount of water everyday
I find it quite ironic that I preach about the many benefits of what keeping yourself hydrated does to your body but I actually have a bad track record of not practicing it myself. It doesn’t really pose an extreme problem to me per se, but it would’ve been stellar if I could make good use of the water intake tracking app I specifically installed for this very purpose. Sounds very millennial, I know.
July: 30 minutes of activity everyday
Due to the recent events surrounding Coronavirus outbreak, my fitness journey has been temporarily affected too because I cannot use our gym facilities and I also don’t have any equipment at home. By this month, I should’ve been well over 7 months since I started and I could’ve already kept the good habit of regularly going to the gym. Now, I want to take it to the next level by actually dedicating even just 30 minutes of activity on a daily basis. I don’t plan to overwhelm myself by strictly sticking to extraneous activity day by day; it could be something as simple as taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes around my neighborhood. This may be in preparation as well for the annual Dubai 30X30 Fitness Month every November, which I have enjoyed participating in last 2019.
August: Meditating daily, for 15 minutes minimum
If you know me well, you’d know that overthinking is my middle name. I most often lie awake consumed by every wildest imagination, fantasies, past conversations and arguments, worries and whatnot until the wee hours of the morning because of an active brain. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been much troubling had I put the energy to good use but I think it’s time to actually address the situation by practicing the art of meditation. As always, I’m going to channel the core lesson of meditation that it isn’t about silencing the mind but teaching the mind to keep it’s cool with the thoughts and train tracks that keep whirring daily.
September: Intermittent Fasting
I had experimented with intermittent fasting a couple of times in the last year and I’ve first-hand seen the benefits of practicing it. I had better self-control on my hunger pangs and was a bit more mindful about my food intake because I only have a certain window in which I could gorge on food. This time, I actually want to take a whole month of practicing either 16:8 or 18:6 rhythms of intermittent fasting, and the major reason would be to improve my health. I plan to fast for at least 5 to 6 times a week consecutively and will allow myself 1 day to ease up on the fasting cycle in which I can also cheat on my food intake.
October: No Takeout or Delivery, of any kind
Out of the challenges I’ve placed in this next 12 months of habit, this would probably be on the top tier of what will test my creativity and compliance. Given that I used to not have an easy access to a full kitchen, I often rely on deliveries when I’m being lazy and choosy. That was not only bad to my wallet but it was also detrimental to my health. Ever since the lockdown has started however, I’d dramatically reduced my delivery habits (thanks to the blow I’ve received on my paycheck, too) and have resorted to making my own meals when I’m feeling the flair for something home-cooked, so I’m quite curious if I’m able to keep the same attitude by October.
November: Eat at least 1 piece of fruit, everyday
I’m not a sweet tooth and I’ve always been a savory kind of girl but one sweet thing that I’ll gladly hoard on any given time would be fruits. Literally, bury me with it. The only problem I face with this is I sometimes don’t get the opportunity to get nicer set of ripe, affordable fruits. It’s time to change that, the freshly-squeezed fruit juice just doesn’t cut it anymore.
December: No caffeine
I wouldn’t really categorize myself as a coffee aficionado but I probably consume a tiny bit more than I should be on a daily basis just to stay awake at work. The irony though is that regardless of the bajillion cups of coffee I consume, I still feel sleepy. I can take about 3 cups and nothing will happen. For a few instances in the past, I was actually successful at cutting off caffeine for a short period of time but I still end up craving it once I get a taste again. It’s time to address this and actually cope with other, healthier alternatives.
January: Veganism, vegetarian or plant-based
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought long and hard about completely going into veganism/vegetarianism lifestyle in the past. I know it doesn’t really rub people the right way by saying that there’s something about it that allures me, but it does. Majority of the reasoning has to do with my health, though. Plus, I actually love dishes that are either completely vegetable-based or mostly vegetables. I know it’s going to be a reaaal challenge to survive a whole month without any meat, but at the same time it’s exciting to see what I’ll come up with. Oh, and this is a perfect time to build the habit as well as it is officially Veganuary.
February: Minimalism challenge
I believe something around the start of the year would be the most perfect timing to do a minimalism challenge because it will act as a symbolism of purging of the guilt that is associated with material things. For someone who technically doesn’t really own as much and cannot afford to own as much, the amount of junk I own is heading towards the shame zone. Not to mention, looking at it sometimes snowballs into stress that I cannot control. I have to stop plotting it down on my to-do list and actually tackle this, once and for all.
March: Read 1 chapter of a book, as a daily minimum
I think one of the things I’m quite guilty of not doing any longer is basking in the joy of leisure reading. Ever since I graduated from college and got a job, I’ve been facing nothing but only the computer and phone screen on a daily basis for work or even outside of work. Granted, I read random bits and pieces of article or newsletter from my subscriptions sometimes however, it doesn’t hit the same way as kicking it with what an actual book does. You know, the type where you’re too consumed by the story, you don’t want it to end. I need that back.
April: Watch 1 movie everyday
When I was much younger, I made a vow to myself to crack the Top 100 Films of All Time. I know what you’re thinking: quite ambitious, eh? But a girl just wants to explore as many beautiful films as possible, okay. Looking at the list now, I still haven’t made any dent that would be even worth mentioning. Now it’s important to also note that it is indeed ambitious since given the limited amount of free time I have on a regular day, I am still going to try and squeeze in a whole movie in it – that in and of itself, I would consider a feat already. Let me also point out that despite the first few lines of this, I would not limit myself to only the Top 100 Films of All Time but also films that are current, trending and tasteful.
A lot of things can happen in a year, I’m not going to disregard that and assume that I’ll be able to breeze through this list without a sweat. But I’m also not going to just sit around and already conclude that these will not be easy — I love a good challenge.
If you were to create your own year-long habit-building experiment like this, what would be included in yours?