Microhabits: 20+ Bonus Activities to Try Today
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1. Whenever you find yourself about to eat when you’re not hungry, say out loud: “I’m not hungry, but I’m going to eat anyway.” This trick, from the book Mindless Eating, will get you to think twice before mindlessly reaching for a snack or an extra serving that you really can do without.
2. Keep your kitchen counter and your dining room table clear of any foods and snacks. The more visible and accessible food is, the more likely you’ll unconsciously reach over and eat them. If this means you have a bag of chips or cookies laying around, you’ll unknowingly consumer hundreds of calories on a regular basis. You can use this same tactic to only leave out healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and veggies if you want to get yourself to snack on healthier options.
3. Only buy groceries for the week and go shopping every week. Some may find this challenging and time-consuming, but there are multiple benefits. First, only buying groceries for the week will prevent you from stocking up on bulk items or overestimating the amount of food you’ll actually cook at home. This will help you keep food waste low and also prevent any mindless binge-eating (think Costco boxes of fruit snacks or chips). Secondly, going to the grocery every week will force you to think more often of the food choices you make and get you to try different varieties of food. The more you learn about what’s available and what’s good for you, the healthier your choices will become. And lastly, a weekly trip to the grocery means more opportunities to buy and finish fresh produce each week. This will encourage you to try more varieties of fruits and vegetables, significantly improving your diet.
4. Do a plank for 30 seconds every morning. Be sure to check out a tutorial video to ensure proper form. Plank is a great way to engage and activate your core muscles and shoulders. Start off with 30 seconds a day and see if you can gradually add 5 more seconds every day. If you keep it up, you’ll quickly find yourself being able to keep a perfect plank for many minutes. You’ll also notice a stronger core that’ll contribute to better posture and more protection for your back.
5. Do the couch stretch every day. The couch stretch is an incredibly powerful mobility exercise that opens up the hips and gives your quads a deep stretch. It’s a move that’s a must-do for anyone who sits for long periods of time at a desk. Below is a video of a couch stretch in action. If you find it difficult, start slow and don't force anything that can cause injury. To keep yourself honest, use your phone’s stopwatch feature to keep track of the time you're doing it. We typically like to commit to 2 minutes per leg, but you may want to start with less. We also like to use a blanket under the knee. If you find it difficult to get your knees right up against the couch from day 1, start a few inches away and each week, slowly inch your way closer. Keep doing this daily and you’ll thank us for how good your hips and legs feel a couple months from now.
6. Jump rope 100 times daily. Watch a tutorial video to get your form right. The key is to keep your knees bent, always be on your toes, and to have your core engaged. Land softly and in a controlled manner. When we don’t have a jump rope around, we like to do phantom jump ropes and they work just fine. Jump roping is a great way to strengthen your feet, your legs, and to work up your heart rate very quickly. We find it most useful as a warm-up before we go for a long run. Bonus: do it barefoot. See if you can keep it up daily for a month and as you get in the habit of doing it every single day, increase the volume. You’ll see that it’s quite easy to get it up to doing it several hundred if not more than a thousand times a day.
7. Give yourself the "golden hour" before nodding off. Once you know what time you'll be going to bed, commit to not using any electronics or watching television for an hour before doing so. Use the hour for other activities such as personal hygiene, reading a book, chatting with a family member, preparing for the following day. This hour gives your brain the time to wind down and make it easier to get to sleep on time.
8. Embrace a pre-bedtime tea ritual. A couple of hours before you hit the sack, try making tea a daily part of your routine. Make sure it’s a non-caffeinated tea. Explore different flavors and find one that works well for you. We’re not going to state that any tea has magical effects that’ll put you into a deep slumber (chamomile has been lauded by some as a great “sleep tea” but there is not enough hard data to support this), but the activity of making tea and enjoying a warm drink close to bedtime can have relaxing effects and signal to the brain that it’s time for bed. Our favorite nighttime teas: rooibos, cinnamon, mint, and turmeric ginger.
9. Wear a sleep mask. Even a sliver of light peaking through your window may be disruptive to your sleep. Try wearing a sleep mask to bed and see if it makes a difference for you. We’ve had varying degrees of success with the sleep mask. Some of us swear by it and rely on it every night to fall asleep and stay asleep. Others have trouble keeping it on and don’t find it helpful. If you think your sleep could use help, give it a go and see if it’s a microhabit worth keeping.
10. Commit to putting your hands on your keyboard for 3 minutes. If you've done any kind of writing in your life, you've probably, at some point, faced crippling procrastination. Overcome the first barrier to writing by simply committing to putting your hands on your keyboard for 3 minutes (use an egg timer or your watch). You might just start typing.
11. Commit to writing out just one sentence every day. A slightly more active form of the previous microhabit and can be paired with it. Sit down and write just one on-topic sentence related to what you're working on. Just one. The act of sitting down and punching out a few words might get the creative juices going to write more.
12. Commit to writing... or suffer the consequences. This is the most extreme form of anti-procrastination there is. Basically it works like this: write and keep writing and if you stop, your wordprocessor will delete your work! There are a few apps that do this for your such as WriteOrDie and FlowState. Use with extreme caution as WoD has a setting which deletes your entire page if you stop writing for a set amount of time.
13. Close your email box and only open it once an hour. This is a less extreme version of checking your email once a day. If you use your email to coordinate with others, there's probably not a good way to reduce your email checking to once a day. This is especially if you lead a team or an organization. Unless there's an emergency, an hour is probably not too long to go and it gives you the time and space to work on something productive.
14. Turn on music designed to get you and keep you in a flow state; tie the music to your writing. If you find yourself needing an extra boost of productivity try turning on music that is specifically designed to give you energy and keep you working. Unsurprisingly, some of those sources are classical music, epics (think James Horner, Hans Zimmer and John Williams), and video games (two good examples are Sim City and Civilization). We've put together a playlist of great computer and video game music that you can check out.
15. Learn the basics of coding while commuting or using the bathroom. While you won't become a fluid coder this way, you can get the basics of coding language down, such as syntax and functions. There are a few good apps out there now such as lrn and swifty (both are free), which are meant to be used in bite-sized chunks. Udemy is now available as an app, although their courses do cost money.
16. Build up your knowledge by finding and listening to one podcast. Commit to listening to one podcast during the week and find a consistent time to listen. It can be during a commute, while you're taking a shower (a good waterproof bluetooth speaker is good for this) or while you are doing your workout. If you hate the treadmill or exercise bike, a good podcast companion can make these workouts much much more palatable. Check out our list of recommended podcasts.
17. Plan a date day or date night with your loved one. If you schedule your work during the day, why wouldn't you spend as much, if not more effort, to ensure that you spend time with your loved ones? Plan a fun activity (axe-throwing? visiting a local or state park? exploring a historic place featured on Atlas Obscura?) and book a table for dinner afterwards. You'll really thank yourself the following week for setting aside quality time with a loved one the week before.
18. Always put an item in your "saved for later" bin and keep it there for a week before buying on Amazon. Impulse purchases add up and fiscal health is extremely important to the health of our relationships and long-term success. Resist the urge to impulse buy by always first adding the item you think you want to your "saved for later" area rather than the checkout cart (or move from the cart to the saved for later area). This way you can commit to thinking about whether you need the item, returning in a week. If at that point you still think you need the item, you can buy it then. Chances are if you still think you need it, you'll have thought of one or two uses for it the previous week. If not, then you probably don't really need the item.
19. Write a letter to your younger self every month. Put it on your calendar. On a weekend afternoon, once a month, sit down and write a letter to your younger self. It can be as long or short as you’d like. It can be to your younger self of just a few years ago or it can be to your younger self of several decades ago. This practice will give you space and time to reflect on lessons you’ve learned and the relationships you’ve found valuable or difficult. It’ll firmly make you think about what you could have done better through your own actions rather than blaming external forces. Get in the habit of writing these and your current self will start to look ahead at your future self, helping you to make better decisions today.
20. Read books about other religions. Perhaps you are an atheist or maybe you grew up practicing a certain religion. Maybe you’ve recently converted to a new religion. Whatever the case, consider reading books, perhaps a couple times a year, on other religions. This may be primary texts of the religion or books about the history and impact of the religion. It may even be a self-help book using the principles of that religion. The goals is not to challenge your own belief systems or to find something better, but it’s to get you comfortable with going beyond the surface to learn more about what others in this world may believe. You may disagree with other religions or find them highly questionable, but the fact is that there are people who are influenced heavily by different religions. To make the effort to understand and know more than the shallow stereotypes will help build empathy and help you see that we are more alike than we are different.