Success starts with habits.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Habits take time to form. Bad habits take time to push away, and new, healthy habits take time to develop.
However, the earlier you develop these habits, the easier it becomes to achieve success.
Don’t be the obstacle to your success. Developing these habits isn’t rocket science, it just takes commitment.
Do you want to be successful? Then here are 15 healthy habits that focus on both physical and mental health so you can give your best at all times.
1) Get Enough Sleep
I’m a night owl by nature, and I’ve been known to burn the midnight oil more often than not.
As an entrepreneur or side hustler, you probably know this routine well. If you want to get ahead, you need to work more, and working more means putting in longer hours, right?
Well, one can’t argue with the benefits to getting enough sleep. When I had a 9-5 job, I hated waking up to my alarm and having to get ready even though my body screamed at me in protest. I went through my morning routine feeling like a zombie.
That’s not a good, productive way to start your day. Plus, studies have shown that getting less sleep to get more work done is a losing situation. That’s because you’re not functioning at 100% the next day.
You need those precious hours of sleep to refuel, otherwise you run on less and less, eventually burning out and having your brain turn into mush. Not fun. Get “sleep is for the weak” out of your head and treat yourself to some z’s.
2) Don’t Forget to Eat
This is one I’m personally guilty of, and I know a few others who have done it, too.
When you’re super busy and caught up in your work, you tend to forget that other things exist outside of your bubble. You also tend to completely tune out the sound of your stomach begging for food.
I get it. When you’re in the zone, you don’t want to stop for anything. You’re on a roll!
Unfortunately, not eating has almost the same effect as not sleeping. Your body needs fuel to function, and if you’re not fueling it, it stops running as efficiently. You get sluggish, light headed, and just blah.
Don’t let yourself get to that point. Keep healthy snacks near your desk so you can reach for something quick while maintaining your focus on work.
Regardless, your work is probably not as important as your health, so don’t put it first. Your ability to work (and keep your sanity) is what’s important.
3) Eat Well
I know this one goes without saying, but it ties in with the above.
Not surprisingly, during college, I had a horrible habit of making microwavable meals because of their convenience.
Forgot to eat? In a rush? No problem, just pop something in for 5 minutes, let it cool, and be on your merry way.
As most everyone knows, freezer meals are filled with sodium. And snacks like chips and cookies, while “quick,” aren’t the fuel your body needs to run well.
I have a sensitive stomach and I have acid reflux. Guess what happens when I eat like crap?
Yep, I feel like crap. And that is not how I get my best work done. Pain and discomfort serve as a horrible distraction to work.
Even if you’re lucky and you can eat anything and everything without issue, your body still doesn’t appreciate being stuffed with Oreo’s, sour cream and onion chips, and Red Bull.
Do yourself a favor and drink plenty of water so as to avoid dehydration, and eat fruit, vegetables, and protein for energy.
4) Give Yourself Breaks
This is another one entrepreneurs and side hustlers are bad at. Again, it might seem counter-intuitive, but giving yourself a break is a good thing for your work routine!
If you’re staring at a screen for 10-12 hours a day, your eyesight might suffer. You might get headaches. You might just want to throw your computer out a window.
Your brain shouldn’t be “on” at all times. If you’re trying to force a work session, you’re not going to get your best work out of it. Period.
I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Unless I’m “in the zone,” my brain is looking for ways to distract itself. It’s telling me I need a break.
Large tasks that are overwhelming and take hours of our time are typically not ones we look forward to. It’s important to take those breaks to give our brain a rest so we can get back at it with renewed focus and energy.
5) Plan, but Don’t go Overboard
What do I mean by this? As a Type A “I-love-to-plan-everything-down-to-the-minute” person, this might be surprising, but I don’t advocate that you create a plan and then do everything in your power to stick to it.
Instead, I think it’s useful to plan – to lay out things you want to get done, in a rough outline – and then have it in your head and on paper.
This orients you to what needs to get done, but because life is unpredictable, it’s a good idea to avoid getting married to your plans. I’ve come away heartbroken many times because my day just didn’t go as planned. Either something took longer than I expected, technology decided to hate me, or another, more important task came up.
Whatever the case may be, I urge you to plan your days out ahead of time, but know that those plans might have to change. The point is you’re going through the thought process for what needs to get done, and that means you’re not bumbling around wondering what to do.
6) Unplug Once in a While
Can you guess? Yes, another habit most of us probably don’t even want to develop.
So many of us are attached to our phones, computers, or tablets. We’re on social media day in and day out, watching YouTube, and maybe blogging about how we should really unplug (but who are we kidding).
However, this habit has merit to it. Just like taking a break, unplugging yourself from everything online can be good for your mind and your work.
Think about it: how can you make progress on something if you’re constantly involved with it?
You can’t. You need to give yourself room to breathe; you need to give yourself headspace so creativity can flourish.
I took a long, long break from my blog this year because I was out of inspiration and I had no idea where I wanted to go with it. To some, this idea seems ludicrous – you should just work through it! you might say.
I tried that last year, and it felt like a chore. And when things that are supposed to be enjoyable turn into a chore, it’s time to stop and reflect.
Without reflection, we have nothing. You need to stop and ask yourself if you’re working toward your goals, if those goals have changed, how you feel about your life/work/goals, and overall, literally have a check-in date with yourself. (So romantic, I know.)
If you don’t, you run the risk of burning out, and fast. You can only keep going for so long before you actually find yourself wishing you could unplug. So do it. It’s good for you, even if it’s just once a week. The world will continue going on, and you’ll survive, I promise.
7) Incorporate Exercise into Your Day
This is a super important habit that often gets overlooked when you’re busy.
I’m not a huge fan of exercise, so I get it. But being stationary all day everyday is awful for you.
Plus, exercise comes in many forms. You could simply go for a short walk, you could do squats, you could take a yoga class, or you could go rock climbing. It’s up to you.
The point is to do something that gets your body working so it becomes stronger. Sitting down on a constant basis can lead to a whole host of health problems. Consider getting a treadmill or standing desk, or making sure you get up and walk around for 5 minutes every hour.
8) Work on Your Best Schedule
Something I’ve learned as a freelancer is that it’s important to work when your energy levels are highest.
I mentioned being a night owl – I do my best work in the evening hours (it’s 11pm as I’m writing this). I can’t for the life of me pump out an amazing post at 8 in the morning. It just won’t happen.
So I’ve never tried to force it. I know better. Instead, I tackle small tasks in the morning. It’s almost like the snowball method for debt, but for getting things done. I get small wins, and I feel motivated early on in the day.
I know many productivity experts say to tackle the biggest tasks first, which I still agree with to some extent, but you should be coherent for those.
You might be wondering how you can do this if you’re at a 9-5 job. If you have any flexibility, try and leave the important tasks for when you’re most awake. Is it possible to take lunch at a different time to avoid the classic afternoon crash afterward? Can you schedule meetings early in the day to get them over with?
If you can, switch your shift around. Not a morning person? Request other hours, or look for a job that allows you to work overnights. (But only do this if it’s seriously impacting your ability to work!)
9) Don’t Dwell on Things
This is a habit that is admittedly hard to establish. I know because I’ve always dwelled on things. It was practically ingrained into my head from an early age.
I was always negative. Whenever anything happened, my mind went to the end-of-the-world scenario. And it would stay there.
I don’t need to tell you that that’s an unhealthy mindset to have, and it won’t get you anywhere. You can’t spend your time dwelling on things. Time is precious, remember? Why choose to be miserable most of the time?
Again, I know this is easier said than done, but we can choose to be happy or sad. We choose how we react to things. If you’re finding it hard to develop a positive mindset, it might be worth seeing a psychologist. We can’t always overcome these things alone.
I think being able to move on from a situation is one of the healthiest habits you can have – especially when it comes to stress levels. If something has already happened, there’s no point in continuing to think about it. Shift your focus to what’s in your control instead, and learn to let go so nothing is holding you back.
10) Practice Gratitude
A habit I developed to help me not dwell on things is practicing gratitude.
This worked wonders – I’m not kidding. It sounds like a very simple habit, but don’t underestimate its power.
Most of us go about our day-to-day lives taking things for granted. I’m just stating a fact there. It isn’t good or bad – it just is.
What if we taught ourselves to frame things in a way that brings us joy instead? Wouldn’t we have a much brighter outlook on things?
Sure, plenty of things go wrong on any given day, but plenty of things go right. We just give more weight to the things that go wrong.
Combat that by practicing gratitude. Think about what you have to be grateful for both in the morning and at night. Write those things down, and eventually, you’ll make a habit out of this.
You can be grateful for anything! It doesn’t have to be some once-in-a-lifetime thing that was incredibly amazing. It can be something as “silly” as not hitting any traffic on your way to work; a coworker giving you a compliment; the beautiful weather outside.
11) Focus on Yourself First
This might sound strange, but I’m a believer in being selfish – to an extent. After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, who else will?
I don’t like relying on others for much, least of all my happiness.
By focusing on yourself, you can drown out things that don’t matter.
For example, social media can be a total mood killer, especially if you’re prone to jealousy. (We’re all human!) But paying so much attention to others doesn’t do anything to further our success. If we get caught up in their stories, where does our story factor in?
It’s fine to have people you look up to, who give you motivation, but don’t get so obsessed with someone that you forget to take your own path to success.
Everyone has different skills and different situations, so what works for one person might not work for you. That’s fine. Just remember that your success starts with you. That means focusing on your goals and values, not anyone else’s.
12) Learn to Adapt
Successful people know they have to adapt in order to achieve their goals. Again, life happens, but the world is also always changing.
One example is fresh in my mind after hearing Clark Howard speak at FinCon. He said that three years ago, his radio audience had started to decline. In response, he and his team completely refocused their efforts and changed their strategy.
In the past, everything they had done revolved around the radio show. They realized that was the wrong approach. The real focus should be “empowerment and information.” But they knew that how the information was delivered would change – again and again and again.
With that new strategy, they focused their efforts on the website they had…and traffic has shot up since then. So while Clark’s radio audience may be declining, his message is still being heard by millions through other mediums like his blog and social media channels. And when the next tool to disperse information comes along, his team will be ready for it.
Learning how to adapt is a useful skill and habit for any situation. Life will throw you many curve balls, so it’s best to anticipate them so you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
13) Live in Alignment With Your Values
This is one of my favorites, but it’s not obvious to a lot of people because we’re bad at taking breaks and reflecting (see how many of these habits tie together?).
I think this is why the whole “Keeping Up With the Joneses” mentality is so popular, too. Rarely do we stop to think for ourselves and figure out why we’re spending our money on the things we do. Rarely do we question why we’re doing what we’re doing in life. We just go along, trying to figure it out along the way.
No one has everything completely figured out, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly follow the status quo. If you do, you’re likely wasting your time and money away on things that aren’t truly important to you.
Instead, define your values. What do you live for? What do you stand for? What gets you excited to wake up everyday? What are you working toward and how will it bring you happiness?
This simple act of reflection will help bring your life in alignment with your values. You should always be trying to live and spend within those values. They serve as a useful guideline for just about everything, but you can only realize the power behind this habit by getting clear on your values.
14) Prioritize Effectively
Figuring out your values will greatly help you prioritize. We can’t focus on 10 different things in any given moment. Multi-tasking isn’t very effective. So how can you organize your goals and actually work toward success?
Prioritize everything. Your time, your money – all of your resources.
How? There are so many different techniques, but here’s a simple one to start with. Think about your biggest goal, and write it down. Then make three lists – A, B, and C.
List “A” can only contain 3 things – these are the most important things you can accomplish that will take you from level 1 to level 5 in reaching your goal.
Your “B” list should have semi-important tasks on it (limit it to maybe 5-7 items) that can wait. They’ll take you from level 1 to level 3.
Finally, your “C” list should be comprised of things you’d like to get done, but things that aren’t going to affect your goals very much. You might actually be better off outsourcing some of these tasks, especially if they don’t require your specific skills.
So for example, let’s say that your big goal is starting a side business. You’re overwhelmed with stuff to do. You want to start a website, start a blog, post regular updates to social media, go to conferences, network, get business cards, find ideal clients, etc. You also need to bring your pet to the vet and make travel plans to see your family.
That’s a lot to sort through, but what are the three things you can do within a reasonable amount of time that will get you your first client? What can you let other people handle?
Asking this one question (and defining the result you want) will help you narrow your focus so you can reach your goal faster.
15) Invest in Yourself
One of the best habits you can develop in any area of your life is investing in yourself. There are a few ways you can do this.
You can also invest in your health by following some of the tips mentioned here! For example, exercising more, eating healthier, taking breaks, and getting enough sleep will all boost your productivity, leading to more success (and operating with a clearer head).
Taking the time to reflect on your personal goals and work/business goals is also essential. Invest in your future by figuring out what direction you want to go in, what your goals are, and how to achieve them.
Don’t be afraid to take reasonable risks if you’re financially prepared for them. Living with regret is not on this list!
Success stories are rarely made overnight, as much as it might seem like it. It takes time to develop these habits, learn how to prioritize, and figure out how to manage everything.
So just pick one or two of these habits and start working on incorporating them into your daily routine!
What are the other habits you’ve developed that you contribute to your success? Have you formed any of these habits?