There is no great year. There are only great days. Great days are defined by great daily habits.
In 2019, I ran various productivity experiments to optimize my life by optimizing my days and this was one of the most transformational years I’ve had.
I moved my focus from over-obsessing on goals to focusing on the process and creating daily habits to automate my goals. I also created an accountability group for community sharing of progress on daily habits.
Habits made sense to me after I realized 90% of what we do every day is habitual. We also have the power to create or change our habits.
“We are our own potters; for our habits make us, and we make our habits.” – Frederick Langbridge
Habits are more dependable than motivation and they sustain themselves even when the motivation dies out.
“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either. They keep you.” ―Frank Hall Crane
A lot of people, however, have no idea what their daily habits should be. While a lot of books and speakers have documented this in some way or the other, I’m putting together 20 of the most important daily habits I’ve found that you can adopt in 2020.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell
Table of Contents
1. Take a foreign language lesson every day
Apart from the practical advantage of knowing another language, this helps you create new connections in your brain and keeps you in the habit of learning something new daily.
I’ve been learning Vietnamese and Indonesian for a while now and I’m now focusing on Spanish.
You can also make friends who are native speakers of the language and chat with them daily or download apps that teach you new words each day to make it part of your daily habits naturally.
2. Go for a jog or a run every day
Not just for the body, a daily jog or run, especially outdoors, is fuel for the brain. You can post an Instagram story or post every day to keep you motivated as public commitment helps you create habits easily.
Jogging is a great daily habit as it can be done in most surroundings even if you don’t have access to a gym.
3. Do one meditation session every day
I prefer to do this first thing in the morning and just before going to sleep to keep myself centered. If you’re just starting out, I would suggest using Headspace or a guided meditation.
Here’s one to get you started:
After you’ve taken this meditation a few times, you’ll be able to do it without the video anywhere.
4. Wake up early and use the night before to plan every day
The last task on my todo list every evening is called “Tasks for tomorrow” and that’s when I add all the tasks for the next day on the list. This has to be done before the sleep meditation. I use Todoist to plan my daily tasks and Trello to plan the long-term milestones. You can learn my entire work and life management framework in the video below.
Pro tip: During the weekend, use the Sunday evening to plan the week in advance so you’ll have to spend less time every night planning the next day.
5. Follow an Intermittent eating schedule every day
I follow the 8-16 eating-fasting schedule every day and stick to eating 2 meals per day. This has a lot of benefits for both the body and the brain and is quite easy to follow. Adding the best video explaining the schedule below.
Pro tip: Following a 1 pm – 9 pm eating window is the easiest so you can still meet people for meals while being consistent with your daily habits.
6. Read one chapter of a non-fiction book every day
I usually read in the evenings and stick to non-fiction. I either read a book related to my industry or one that can improve my life and productivity. I work from the beach so I prefer paperback. Audible is an alternative option for those who commute daily. I also use Google Books when I’m traveling light and don’t want to carry many books along.
Note: It’s not about finishing one book a week. It’s about maintaining the habit of reading daily and make sure you’re absorbing what you’re reading and documenting the key takeaways.
7. Exercise with one HIIT session every day
I do one High-intensity training session that breaks a sweat every day. I prefer doing my workouts mid-day as it feels like a new day after the workout. This is also the time between my 2 meals of the day. A 7-minute workout is a good place to start.
This is the best way to break a sweat when you have limited time. You can also repeat the 7-minute sessions once your body is in the HIIT mode.
8. Eat the frog as your first task every day
Define the frog and eat it every day as the first task. This means find the most important (but perhaps boring and difficult) task from your todo list and finish it first. The rest of the day will execute easily.
So eat the frog or else the frog will eat you.
9. Engage in one distraction-free deep work session every day
A deep work session refers to distraction-free concentrated activities that push your cognitive capabilities to the limit. I do at least one deep work session for 2 hours every day during which I finish the most important tasks of the day. The also “eat the frog” during this session. I like to do this early morning with my phone away or on flight mode. The tasks I work on during this session are strategic or creative.
I’ve explained my approach to deep work in detail here.
10. Listen to one industry podcast every day
I found podcasts to be a better way of staying in the know-how of industry trends compared to consuming social media feeds. In fact, I am living newsfeed-free for a year now.
Pro tip: Use Google Assistant on the go to play all the new episodes of podcasts you’ve subscribed to.
11. Write a blog or journal every day
I have a notebook on Evernote where I free-write daily. Sometimes, I write private blogs which are notes to myself. Alternatively, I have a Trello board for daily notes. Practice daily writing in some way or the other.
Pro tip: You can also use daily writing as a habit to complete your next book.
12. Schedule one airplane mode hour every day
This one can be clubbed with your deep work session or daily writing session. Keep your phone in airplane mode for at least an hour daily. I learned this from working on flights as I found my writing improve in airplanes. I use my flying time as “deep work” time.
“Locked in a seat with nothing in front of me, nothing to distract me, nothing to set off my ‘Ooh! Shiny!’ DNA, I have nothing to do but be at one with my thoughts.”
– Peter Shankman, founder of reporter database HARO.
Peter got a book deal and subsequently booked a round-trip flight to Tokyo for the sole purpose of writing. He traveled from the United States to Tokyo and back in a span of 30 hours, and when he returned he had a completed manuscript ready to hand-in.
13. Review your money every day
I learned this from Grant Cardone and I started doing this even when I didn’t have enough daily cashflow just to form the habit. One of the best videos to up your money game is below:
Patrick Bet-David also explains the money game pretty well in the video below:
I’ve also written about my own personal finance journey of achieving 25 lakh rupees in liquid investments during 2 years of full-time travel here.
14. Listen to classical music every day
Classical music is known to be linked with high IQ. It’s also a great tool for focus and concentration. I usually listen to piano music while working and sometimes tune in to a live concert to take a break.
I find it easier to enter the state of flow during my work with classical music in the background.
15. Eat your meals without devices every day
You are what you eat and what you do while eating affects how your body processes the food. The ideal way is to have your meals in silence and it’s better to have them with family rather than your mobile devices. I’ve also developed a habit of peaceful cooking I learned from the peaceful cuisine channel on YouTube.
Cooking and eating in peace gives you a break so keep those phones away from the dinner table.
16. Drink a few glasses of water when you wake up every day
The benefits of this are tremendous. I’ve been practicing this habit for nearly 5 years now. I drink 2 glasses of warm water each day as soon as I wake up. I’ve replaced this with different types of green tea now as I’ve traveled a lot in Asia and picked this habit.
I keep sipping some hot water or green tea throughout the day like the Japanese. This is now a daily habit that comes naturally to me.
17. Make one new soft connection every day
Soft connections are random short conversations with people you don’t know yet. This is even more fun when you share something personal or what only a few close people know with someone you just met.
Soft connections are also a source of happiness and confidence boost. Initiating one soft conversation every day is much easier than you think once you get the confidence.
18. Keep your phone away from the bed every day
This is an essential daily habit for your sleep quality. Don’t take your phone with you to bed. I always keep my phone on flight mode and keep it away from the bed before sleeping.
Another advantage of this is you’ll need to get out of the bed to switch off your alarm which should definitely get you up and working.
19. Eat green vegetables every day
Easy to find wherever you are, green vegetables are a great push for your body and brain. I include green leafy vegetables in at least one of my 2 meals each day.
Pro tip: Use Asian style cooking to get your vegetables cooked fast with amazing flavor.
20. Take a mid-day nap every day
I do this daily habit every day right after the first meal and before my workout session. It breaks the day into 2 and I feel like I’m ready to take on a new day of work in the second half. This is not exactly sleeping and not exactly crashing. It’s more like a power nap for creativity and productivity.
Pro tip: Use binaural beats for sleeping during this nap to improve its positive impact and definitely use an alarm for the mid-day nap. Keep it to 20 minutes. A new experiment to try is to have a cup of black coffee just before the nap to get even more benefits of the nap.
Try to include as many daily habits from this list as you can. I use the ‘Loop – Habit Tracker‘ app to track my daily habits. To get my insider content on productivity and habits, get this free course now to become a better version of yourself in 2020.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
If you want to share any daily habits you follow which are not in this list, leave a comment on the article below!