A list of all my daily habits would be a long one. It would also change several times over the course of a year. I am constantly experimenting on myself, testing out life hacks, rejiggering my schedule, downloading and deleting apps, and reading articles that impel me to change something I am doing. A habit is much like a meal to me. While I always eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, what I eat from one day to the next may be wildly different. Eating the three meals is a policy.
Here are some of my policies, the reasons I follow them, and the habits that accompany them.
Policy: Sleep 8 hours. I was a childhood-onset insomniac, and I have several parasomnias, including pavor nocturnus. Sleep is the Holy Freaking Grail of my life. Why anyone would sleep less than necessary boggles my mind. Everything else I do revolves around whether it helps or hinders my sleep.
Habits: Set an alarm to remind me to take melatonin and go to bed. Keep the bedroom as cozy and relaxing as possible. Drink most of my water before 3 PM so I don’t wake up to pee. Avoid eating after 8 PM, don’t overeat, and avoid spicy foods. Force myself to stay away if I’m tired, because every hour of napping costs me 2-3 hours of real sleep.
Policy: Eat healthy food, avoid junk food. I used to be obese and I have recovered from fibromyalgia and thyroid disease. The tradeoff of eating whatever I want, in unlimited quantities, is emphatically not worth it. Food rewards are for dogs.
Habits: Keep a food log. Eat cruciferous vegetables every day. Eat oatmeal for breakfast. If there is a vegetable, eat it. Eat restaurant food no more than 2x a week, usually only once a week. Eat a consistent quantity at each meal. Avoid sweets and processed food. Weigh in every day. If weight is up >2 lbs, cut snacks for a few days until back to normal.
Policy: Exercise at the highest level possible. Strenuous exercise saved my life. Having suffered from chronic pain and fatigue, I will do anything, absolutely anything, to improve my fitness level. The triumph I feel at having run a marathon is doubled, because I know I started below zero. Also, I live for adventure, and being fit enables me to go on backpacking expeditions.
Habits: Always take the stairs. Lift heavy objects. Spend as little time sitting as possible. Try to be 1% more active than the day before. Aim to be fitter, faster, stronger, and more agile every year. Do one pull-up every day. Follow a training schedule. Only workouts within the last 24 hours count. (I might be running, walking, using the elliptical or treadmill, doing body weight exercises, following a workout DVD, hiking, or going to a gym or fitness class).
Policy: Keep a clean and orderly house. Everything is easier in a clean house, including keeping it that way. I see leaving piles of laundry and dishes as a horrible way to punish myself, create additional work, lose track of important objects, incite quarrels, and generally feel distracted, guilty, and embarrassed.
Habits: Follow a chore schedule every weekday. Avoid clutter. Set speed records. Keep weekends free.
Policy: Track metrics. I’ve learned that my ability to guesstimate anything I do is nonexistent. When in doubt, add data. I find the Quantified Self movement intriguing. I use smartphone apps to log what I eat, how I spend my time, my exercise, what I read, my weight, my finances, and whether I kept my keystone habits each day. The result is that I’m fit, my house is clean, I have a positive financial net worth, and I can focus on creative work, rather than tormenting myself over all the persistent problems I had in my 20s. (Obese, chronically disorganized, flat broke, and ill).
Habits: Use Reminders, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Hours, Way of Life, Mint, and WinStreak.
Most people seem to regard habits like mine as obsessive, strict, conformist, boring, excessive, or too demanding. They feel like changing habits would mean changing their core personality. I felt that way, too, when I was younger. The way I live now is the result of years of experimentation. Each habit was layered atop my other habits. They reinforce each other. Every morning, I wake up in a strong body and a clean house. I follow a system that maintains my chosen lifestyle with the minimum amount of effort. The majority of my time is spent doing whatever the heck I want. For me, it’s the same idea as spending a few minutes a week gassing up your car.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.