In my last post, Be Better: Why DAILY Habits are Important for Personal Development, we explored…
• The gap between Level 10 aspirations and Level 2 practices
• Why the morning is an optimal time for Level 10 Habits
• Why daily habits are crucial (on a personal and societal level)
This week we’re building on those concepts, so if you missed the previous post, check it out HERE.
Today we’re taking a look at…
• Specific types of effective habits
• The danger of unprotected time
• How we can keep it short and simple
Level 10 Habits
My use of the term “Level 10 Habits” is a marriage of the work of Hal Elrod, who boils down these practices into an easy-to-remember acronym (Life S.A.V.E.R.S) in his book The Miracle Morning, and James Clear, who dispels misinformation about habit-breaking and -forming in his book Atomic Habits. I appreciate both approaches and have incorporated their suggestions into my own betterment practice.
What follows are habits I’ve picked up over the years that have dramatically improved my concentration, motivation, mindfulness and energy. As James Clear puts it, they’re habits with a high rate of return. This is not an exhaustive list of positive practices, but it highlights some of the essentials. Nothing is revolutionary, but that’s the point: we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to integrate effective habits.
However, simplicity doesn’t infer facility; often, the most basic tasks are the most difficult to complete. We’re deceived by their surface “obviousness” and dismiss such an easy concept as ineffective. If it’s doable, it must not be special, we think. But here’s the thing: although we are all familiar with these habits, very few of us practice them on a daily basis. And for those who do practice them, their lives almost certainly always improve.
My routine won’t be identical to yours, and it doesn’t need to be. As universal as these habits are, they can be highly individualized. As you read through these Level 10 Habits with your goals and intentions in mind, think about what you could implement in your morning routine.
A Morning with Miranda
Mindful Moment: I typically wake up, drink a glass of water and put on some comfy clothes that I laid out the night before. I’ll head downstairs to make myself a cup of green tea and stand outside on my patio to get some fresh air while the water is boiling. The lingering nighttime coolness and fresh air clear any residual sleepiness. It’s a moment to soak in the beauty and benefits of the nature around me and an opportunity to address the new day with thoughtfulness and gratitude.
Affirmations and Visualization: Recently, I’ve been experimenting with affirmations and visualizations. Neither of these concepts are modern; they’ve been around for ages in the form of prayers, mantras, and dream boards. Even Mohammed Ali invoked the power of affirmation by proclaiming “I am the greatest!” before he actually was. There’s ample literature on visualization in the field of sports psychology, with many professional athletes citing it as a vital part of their preparation and subsequent success.
When done intentionally, we train our brain as we visualize actions that lead to ideal outcomes. When done unintentionally, we become our own self-fulfilling prophecy, manifesting the thoughts constantly circling our (sub)consciousness. So why not put chance on our side and make these thoughts and images positive, affirming, and specific? It may seem an unlikely or impossible task when we first start the affirmation and visualization process, but those who imagine impossible things, slowly make them possible, probable and then doable.
Reading: Our growth is limited if we rely solely on our own perception—we need to seek out the experience of others. What better way than in the form of books? Their central purpose is to impart knowledge, in one form or another. I recently learned that reading just 10 pages a day (10-15 min, depending on reading speed and subject difficulty) equals 3650 pages read in a year.1 That’s eighteen 200-page books. EIGHTEEN. How many books did you read last year? How much did you read today? This is a perfect example of small, consistent action accumulating into dramatic results.
A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. — Mark Twain
Journalling: Next on the list is journalling. Again, it’s not a modern concept, nor a complicated one: take paper, take pen, write/draw/dream. Although the idea is as familiar to us as it was to Leonardo da Vinci, one could argue he made considerably better use with it. How many empty journals do you have currently sitting in your home? At last count, I had around ten sad journals of various size and heft abandoned in a drawer in my study. Combined with a gratitude practice that I reserve space for in my bullet journal, journalling serves as a way to shift perspective, hone ideas, and exorcise stress. I make sure to jot down a few thoughts in the morning after my affirmation/visualization practice, but often find myself writing more creatively in the evening.
Meditation: Because of my schedule, I save my mediation slot for the afternoon. I generally have a workout in the morning and then the evening, so I know that I’ll have a large chunk of time in the afternoon to get some things done. However, by not setting a specific time, this is one practice that I tend to miss when my schedule changes slightly (travel, vacation, afternoon appointment). It’s a work in progress and a clear example of the risk of unprotected, undedicated time slots. I’m currently meditating 10 minutes a day, although I’ve experimented with time slots from 5 minutes to one hour. When I require a bit more, extending it twenty minutes allows me to relax into the practice while maintaining the challenge of concentrating for a longer period of time.
Passion Project/Side Hustle: It’s important to make time for a “side hustle” or a passion that you otherwise “wouldn’t have time” for. Mine is writing. After my reflection time, affirmation/visualization, and journalling, I delve right into writing. That’s what I’m doing right now! I commit 1-2 hours each morning to writing, depending on my schedule.* As I said, I have more time in the afternoon, but the morning is my protected time that I know won’t be impinged on. Plus, I’m less likely to be distracted by the day’s goings-on.
Fitness: I’m unceasingly grateful that my occupation requires me to stay in shape. It’s not a question of if I’ll workout, rather when. I understand that’s not everyone’s reality. Taking 20-30 min in the morning is a fantastic way to get the blood pumping, release some endorphins, and get a “win” in the exercise category. I’m not going to proselytize about the benefits of exercise; we all know it’s good for us, but we fail to appreciate the effect it has on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Yoga is an excellent, low-impact practice that requires strength, stability, flexibility and focus—all areas of deficiency for many of us. It also encourages a state a mindfulness, which primes us for our day wonderfully.
Keep it Simple
Minus my writing and fitness time, I spend about 30 minutes a morning on these Level 10 habits. Dedicating half an hour of my time has dramatically increased my motivation, knowledge, and productivity, as well as overall gratitude and contentment. Do you have 30 minutes to spare? Devise a circuit of six five-minute tasks and bang out each section. If you can’t find half an hour in your day, just trim down the time. One minute of meditation is leaps and bounds better than none.
I would recommend starting with one habit. Choose one you can commit to for a week. Then add another one. Start with writing one sentence a day in your journal, for example, then add a 5-minute meditation session during the second week. The initial step should be so minute that it obliterates all excuses against doing it. Starting small but consistent has a wonderful effect on our motivation to continue.2
None of these habits are reinventing the wheel. They’re just methods proven to improve the quality of your life and the quality of your output. Resulting success (growth towards your best self) is inevitable. I’ve tried many new-age health and productivity tips, but I always come back to tried and true practices. The great appeal of these habits is that they’re customizable. Our personal definition of success should be the driver of our goals and intentions and this, in turn, will characterize our daily habits. This process is meant to be a means to YOUR end, whatever that looks like. If you’re doubtful, try it for a week. See what happens. Notice how commitment feeds determination. Level up with some Level 10 Habits.
How many of these Level 10 Habits have you tried? Did you stick with them?
What are some other Level 10 Habits that add value to your betterment practice? Share them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #Level10HabitsShare your Level 10 Habit here! #Level10Habits Click To Tweet
*I am in training camp with the Canadian national team at the time of this article’s publishing, so my morning schedule for writing has temporarily changed. I continue with the rest of my morning routine with some tweaks (#hotellife), but my writing time has drastically reduced. In anticipation of four weeks of intense practice, traveling and games, I made sure to prepare my blog posts in advance for the month of June, requiring only minor edits before publishing.
- Elrod, Hal. Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8 AM. Hodder & Stoughton, 2018.
- Clear, James. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Avery Publishing Group, 2018.