Looking to adopt a habit this year that might stick and transform your life? Then read on.
At any time this year, you can implement small self-improvement habits that can help build your self-esteem and confidence – these small changes can help you be more productive, happy, and healthy in your daily life. We’ve put together a few ideas for easy changes you can make that will make a big impact long term.
1) Make Time for Exercise
In a year where more people have been working from home than ever before and, in some ways, have had more time than ever (assuming you don’t have people you’re responsible for), you’d think we would all have been hitting those fitness goals that we’ve planned to.
The reality, though, is that fitting exercise into your daily life isn’t as simple as just having more time in which to do it.
With working from home, you’ll soon notice muscle and back pain issues that weren’t present in your old commuter life — being more stationary comes with its own set of issues (ask any tattoo artist).
A commute is a kind of morning exercise, and it forms healthy physical habits that are now absent and need to be replaced.
Whatever your current situation is, making a little time for daily exercise can transform your physical health, mental health, and the year ahead making it an ideal self-improvement goal for the new year.
Relying on gyms at the moment can be difficult with the ever-changing global situation but there are plenty of healthy habits you can form at home or in your local area.
Easy to Incorporate Fitness Ideas :
- Take a short walk in your local area and build up your step count every month (or whenever you feel comfortable). Most phones have a built-in pedometer now or you can download one so make it a competition with yourself.
- Get yourself a skipping rope or hula hoop. Depending on your living situation, these fun cardio activities can be done at home and easily squeezed into a spare half hour per day.
- Try YouTube yoga classes. There are plenty to choose from (we love Yoga with Adriene) with daily classes that will help you build your muscle strength and ease away those aches and pains that come with a sedentary lifestyle. It’s also great for setting aside a little time for yourself, breathing, and finding some peace. Here are ten other Youtube workout classes depending on what you’re looking for.
- Create a core workout of stretches, situps, planks, and squats that you can manage and reliably do at home. You will find YouTube classes or apps which you can follow until you build a routine of your own that you love. Twenty minutes every day, especially before your morning coffee, could make the world of difference.
- If you live in a quiet area and you don’t already run or take long walks, now is the best time to do so. Walking and running are both incredibly beneficial for your mental and emotional health, as much as they are for your physical health.
2. Eat Clean and Hydrate
While no one could be blamed for indulging in their favourite unhealthy foods during 2020, making a shift towards eating a predominantly clean diet can do wonders for your physical and mental health and overall concentration levels.
Rather than follow any strict diets, just making healthy swaps for some of your favourite meals and incorporating whole grains, beans and pulses, green veggies, and protein (depending on what your body needs) will make for a fantastic self-improvement change to your life this year.
Cooking some healthy meals at home can be fun and easy, and experimenting with quick and healthy meals which you can freeze — like soups and curries — will make things even easier when you are busy.
Being selective with a few choice dietary supplements can also help an awful lot. Omega-3 is excellent for your concentration and vitamin D can provide you with a daily boost of energy.
Some great cookbooks to try out for healthy, quick, and budget-friendly meals include:
The Quick Roasting Tin: Simple One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer
Iyer has so many of these tin cookbooks so if this one doesn’t suit you, one of their others surely will. All healthy dishes involve just popping everything in the oven and walking away. Perfect.
Tin Can Cook: 75 Simple Store-cupboard Recipes by Jack Monroe
A hero of cooking on a budget, Monroe shows you how to make hearty, quick, and healthy meals from things that you can store for a long time in your cupboard. No waste; and you’ll always have a healthy meal to hand.
Curries, biscuits, brunch staples, pancakes, soups everything in this book is vegan, easy to make, and absolutely delicious. The recipes are carefully selected and most can be bulk made and frozen.
Of course, we all know we are meant to drink more water and, if you’re the sort of person who forgets (like me), then make sure to put time aside for hydration. Set an alarm once an hour to get up and go get a drink. Also, keep a full water bottle near you at all times.
3. Make a Sleep Schedule and Stick to it
One of the hardest to stick to for some, myself included, but it is important. Whenever you feel is the right time for you to sleep from and until, just stick to it. We all need slightly different amounts of sleep; some of us are night owls and others prefer an early night.
One of the most important things is routine. I personally enjoy sleeping between 2:00 am and 10:30 am and, even if I get the same amount of sleep, the minute I deviate from that set time, I feel it the next day.
There are a number of apps designed to monitor your quality of sleep and help you find a routine that works for you.
Your nighttime wind-down routine is also very important. As someone who loves to watch TV and play video games before bed I’m advising you to do as I say; not as I do. Your nighttime routine is the time for anything that relaxes you and sends you off to sleep calmly.
Consider activities like reading or listening to an audiobook, some quiet music and meditation, or try journaling to reflect on the day. Try not to bring work into the place you sleep and, if you’re in a studio, try not to work on the bed in order to have some separation.
Some great nighttime apps (available on Android and IOS) include:
Headspace – Known primarily for meditation and mindfulness, they have free ‘sleep casts’ which last up to an hour and are essentially calming bedtime stories to visualise yourself to sleep.
Noisli – Pick sounds that you love to send you off to sleep with your ideal sleep soundtrack.
Sleep Cycle – This app cleverly tracks your sleep patterns and provides tips to optimise your sleep.
Reflectly – If you’d prefer to journal on an app which provides prompts that help you reflect mindfully on your day while you wind down then this is the perfect one for you.
4. Read Every Day
People who read a lot often get asked by people who don’t read a lot how they manage to find the time. The secret absolutely is to set aside time every day to do it.
If you used to read on your commute and you’re not finding that time anymore, make sure to put aside that same time even if you aren’t out and about.
This can also mean reading those long in-depth articles which you often put off, or a graphic novel, or the latest piece of fiction or non-fiction, or just a magazine. The important thing is that you set aside time to read (or listen to) something that you feel is going to be good for you.
Schedule that time in, whether it’s twenty minutes with breakfast or half an hour before bed, or while you are in the bath. The minute you schedule in your reading time, you’ll read more.
Set a reading target that you can stick to and find a list of upcoming books, or ones you have missed, that you’d love to get through this year.
5. Do More Single-Tasking (not Multi-Tasking)
There’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that humans are actually quite bad at multi-tasking, yet we live in a world where we are expected to do just that; an issue only exacerbated by our emails and devices constantly pinging at us.
Multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity.(Bergman, P. (2010, May 20). How (and why) to stop multitasking. Harvard Business Review.)
Studies show that the human brain can’t handle more than one task at a time. Even though we think we’re multitasking, our brains are actually switching rapidly between tasks.(The Myth of Multitasking. Scientific America. 2009, July.)
So, to be more productive this year, streamlining your day, using lists, and blocking off your activities can be incredibly helpful at boosting productivity and giving yourself more time for some of the other things on this list or simply more time for your hobbies, friends, and family.
Some easy changes you can make right now to move towards single-tasking rather than multi-tasking include:
- Answer emails at a set time and make sure people know that you answer emails within those set times. If that’s not completely possible, make sure you’re not answering emails outside of work hours at the very least.
- Make a habit, every morning, of listing the things you need to do that day (and a list of things you would like to do that day, if possible). Order those by priority into blocks of time. Use a timer to keep track of how long tasks take. If they are taking more or less time than you think, adjust the next day accordingly.
- Delegate any of those tasks on your lists that can be delegated and don’t forget to schedule in breaks!
- Utilize anything that helps you concentrate, whether that’s classical music in the background or constant hydration.
6. Set a Monthly Professional or Self-Improvement Goal
This is particularly important if you are a freelancer and don’t have anyone pushing you towards any goals, other than making sure you always have money coming in.
Having a steady income as a freelancer is an achievement in itself. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to grow in the same way that someone who is working as part of a larger company might.
Here are some easy professional goals you can make right now:
- Your goal could include setting up a saving account where you put in a small amount of money every month towards further study, online classes that come up, or training down the line.
- Picture where you’d like to be one or even five years from now. Is it working for a particular publication or brand or moving into a different avenue altogether? Perhaps you’d love to acquire a new skill that would help you diversify your income. Write a list of what it would it take for you to get there and pick one a month to work on.
- Find an online community within your field online or on social media that you can join to make connections and network. Research conferences within your field where you can meet people in real life in the future.
7. Make Two Choices Towards a More Sustainable Lifestyle
A positive change for you can also be a positive change for the environment and there are so many small and simple changes that can help you, your budget, and put something good back out into the world.
Whether that involves you tackling your household waste, switching to reusable, curbing your shopping habits so that you only shop ethically; walking or using public transport more; or trying out vegetarianism or veganism, there will be one or two positive changes that you can make which won’t greatly impact the way you live.
We have a list of diverse books on sustainability and minimalism focused on helping you make those small, achievable changes.
8) Start a Savings or Investment Plan
Saving as a freelancer or remote worker can be difficult but putting aside some money every month towards the future will give you an element of security and peace of mind. Set up a separate account as a rainy day pot or for something special and make sure some money gets wired into it every month.
If you have a chunk of money sitting in your account, you can also consider making it your goal this year to learn about investing in the stock market with long-term growth in mind. You can often get around 8 – 10% yearly returns on your investment and even passive income in the form of dividends which is a lot better than it sitting in your account losing value.
If you don’t feel comfortable investing in the stock market then you can always find a high-interest account to put some savings in this year (try and find at least 3%) to combat inflation.
We hope you enjoyed this article and can implant one of these positive changes into your life this year. If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing.