“Successful people aren’t born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”
– William Makepeace Thackeray
An iPhone starts ringing, startling me out of my deep sleep. I lean over and grab it, immediately hitting snooze on the alarm.
Minutes later, it blares again. This time I turn off the alarm and start scrolling. First the news, where I see all at once the tragic situations happening around the world. Next up are my emails, where I get hit by a rush of dopamine seeing several messages that require immediate action.
I start replying quickly, wanting to get as much accomplished as possible. Now my mind is reeling, because only so much can be done in bed. I have fires to extinguish, people to call and answers to send in every direction. The day has just started and I already feel behind.
This is how I started my days for years. I never thought about the consequences, until I learned a better way to start my day.
Changing my morning routine helped me gain tremendous clarity. Next came better workout habits, followed by a new evening shutdown process. Eventually, I integrated all of these amazing tools into my daily schedule.
For years, I underestimated the power of good habits.
Being reactive seemed natural—and easier. As mere mortals, we’re often drawn to the path of least resistance. Being proactive is harder and takes discipline. But once we see the results of taking action, we can cultivate, step by step, a new way of doing things that will change our productivity levels, our energy and, most importantly, the successful outcomes we all want to achieve.
Here are three ways you can level up your game and begin habit-hacking your life.
1. Implement the 10-10-10 rule
I had the amazing privilege of attending GLA: Global Leadership Academy. This is an exclusive leadership program run by the Entrepreneur’s Organization, the world’s largest peer-to-peer network of entrepreneurs. For five days, we were immersed in deep learning about our habits, mindset and performance. A truly transformative experience.
The most powerful tool I learned during this immersive week was a practice called the 10-10-10 rule. The numbers represent minutes. As you wake up, you take the first 30 minutes to prepare your day for success:
- The first 10 minutes are dedicated to meditation and intention-setting.
- The next 10 minutes are for stretching and visualization.
- Finally, the last 10 minutes are used for reading positive and inspiring literature.
Since starting this practice, I have gained tremendous clarity of vision. I’m no longer reactive, but rather focus my energy on accomplishing specific goals.
When I teach this method to people, many feel it is too long. They feel they don’t have this amount of time available in the morning. I suggest they start small: 5-5-5. Boom! You cut the time in half and can still get the amazing benefits of setting your day up the right way.
2. Master your schedule
You are the master of your schedule. Yes, we all have commitments and work. We have partners, kids, pets and a million things to do on any given day. But we all have the same 24 hours to work with. How many excuses are we making?
I have learned that scheduling time for breaks and workouts is absolutely key in having sustained productivity for the entire day. These are energy-adding activities: they provide an opportunity to clear your mind and bring a fresh perspective to your work and life.
Put them in your schedule and do not compromise on them. Treat breaks and workouts the way you would treat a meeting with an important client. Make them non-negotiable. Once integrated, they will become a cornerstone of your forward progress.
3. Gratitude journal and letters
Yes, it’s time to show some gratitude for this amazing life we live. Think of the millions of cells we have, with our blood flowing, heart pumping, breathing every day without giving it a second thought. We are truly blessed to be alive and it is a gift to be cherished.
Once per day, at any time you choose, write down three to five things for which you are grateful. These don’t need to be awe-inspiring events—and often the simplest ones are the most powerful. Talking with a friend, having a meal with family, connecting with a butterfly, landing a new client—these are equally amazing events. Cherish each and appreciate all.
Here’s another way to show gratitude and focus on the positive: Write a letter to someone you wish to thank. Psychologist Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman tested the impact of positive psychology on more than 400 people.
Participants were assigned to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness. He then tested happiness scores and found a massive increase that lasted for months after the exercise.
We don’t need to strive for high performance. Being “ambitious” is a choice—and not one we all necessarily want to choose. But all of us can try being happier and more productive, which can often lead to more time doing the things we love.
By creating better routines and integrating new energy-producing habits, we can focus on success outcomes instead of reacting to every situation that comes our way.
The only way to know if it works is by trying it. Give yourself small goals each day. Try one new routine and do it every day until it feels right for you. Then move on to the next habit you want to integrate. Slowly but surely, you will become amazing at habit-hacking—and you’ll win the day, everyday.
Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.