I propose good and small habits that anyone can start, and more importantly, stick with them. 15 minutes of meditation doesn’t fit that bill. On the other hand, I practice several which really can make a difference without huge time investment.
Yes, you don’t need to exercise more than 5 minutes to keep fit. I’m a very busy person. I rarely can afford the luxury of a 15-minute workout. Hence, I train very intensively for a few minutes at a time.
I recommend bodyweight exercise, which can be done in any circumstances. You don’t need special equipment or a special place for them. I often use a restroom at the office to do pushups. I always train to my max. It’s really hard to do pushups longer than for five minutes. If you are strong enough that you can do that (I am), just switch to the harder versions of this exercise — diamond, legs-elevated, archer’s, etc.
My favorite exercise is pull-ups. Yes, you need the bar for them, but I can’t imagine doing them for longer than three minutes.
There are a whole lot of them:
-If you keep your food intake under control even such relatively small amount of intensive exercise can keep you reasonably fit. I’ve been maintaining my weight in 138-150 lbs range since March 2013.
-Your endurance increases. I hate running, yet last year on a whim I decided to check if I can run 1.5 miles in the winter coat and with a heavy laptop in my backpack. I have never trained running (apart from occasional chases after buses and trains while commute). I ran this 1.5 miles in 10 minutes.
-Your metabolism accelerates. Your body burns more fat and does it longer than without short burst of intensive exercises. You need less sleep; not much less, but even 15 minutes a day can compound to significant amounts within months and years.
-Your strength increases. I started doing pushups daily around 2006 and I was able to do 40 then. I gradually built it to over 150. The same happened with chin ups and pullups. When I installed a pull-up bar about 4 years ago, I did 14 chin ups. My record is now 46.
-Intensive training also builds willpower and self-control. You cannot be whiny and kill yourself every morning doing the maximum possible number of repetitions.
All above benefits also apply to a less intensive training, but to the lesser degree of course. Just don’t make a mistake of not exercising at all, because you have only a minute. Even 5 minutes of exercise are great idea, because of the last benefit:
-Exercise is a keystone habit, one of the very few discovered by scientists so far. A keystone habit is the habit that incites you to develop more habits. People who exercise regularly are more likely to take better care about other areas of their lives. They start to pay attention to what they eat and drink; they have more energy which frees up new creativity; they are also more concerned about their spiritual and mental wellbeing.
My pushups habit nudged me to shed off some fat, change my diet, start reading personal development materials, and act on them. Three years later, I’ve been lighter by 15 pounds, I’ve earned about 50% more, bought a house, written and published 12 books, started 4 blogs, learned a lot about online marketing, became a coach and more.
This habit is a shortcut to knowing yourself. I took the standard route, via journaling and it takes significantly more time than meditation.
5 minutes of journaling is not much (I know because I journal 10-25 minutes a day) and 2-minute meditation is an ideal way to start a lasting habit.
Coach.me did some research among their users and they discovered that starting small is a way to develop a lasting meditation habit. Practice it for 2 minutes for 10 days and the probability that you will stick with meditation is over 90%!
Self-awareness, self-knowledge, positive self-consciousness.
You start noticing your obtrusive thoughts and if you have never practiced self-analysis it can be a life-changing discovery for you.
You talk with yourself all the time and your self-talk in most cases determines your self-image, your beliefs about yourself and in the effect your actions.
Like in Anonymous Alcoholics program the first step is to admit you have a problem. Meditation can make you aware of your negative self-talk and become the first step to your new life.
If you don’t believe in the power of self-talk, consider this: while doing research for my book about overcoming shyness the top results in Google for self-talk weren’t about miserable shrinking violets, but about top sports performers. They pay a lot of attention to their self-talk. They train it just like other skills. And it makes the winners. At the top everyone has talent and skills and dedicate a lot of practice to their craft. But those who also pay attention to their internal dialog are more likely to win than those who neglect this activity.
Gratitude is HUGE. It is a powerful force. Practice it just a few minutes a day and you can rewire your brain from pessimism into optimism within a month. It’s not some figure of speech, it’s a statement backed up by science. Happiness expert and researcher and the author of The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, provided some studies’ findings supporting that claim.
Your genes, upbringing, and life experience are too little to face the power of gratitude. If you commit for longer than 30 days, you can become a positive person, despite your past or genetic inclinations. If you are a skeptic, who doesn’t value the power of positivity, consider this: “When the brain is positive every possible outcome we know how to test for raises dramatically.” Can every possible outcome you know how to test for justify your skepticism?
A habit of gratitude is the easiest on Earth to cultivate. Just take pen and paper and jot down at least one thing, person, event, achievement, phenomenon or feeling you are grateful for. The best time of day to do that is in the morning (it seems what you do in the morning has a power to jumpstart your day). Many people report that writing the entries in a gratitude diary in the evenings alleviates their anxiety and let them sleep better. You don’t have to write just ONE entry. You can jot down 5 or 55 reasons for your gratitude. For developing a habit new things works better, than repeating the same thing all over again.
If you a hard time starting your gratitude quest, start from the most loved person in your life. At the beginning, I wrote one to three entries about my wife in a special diary. This habit is likely to expand on its own. Soon I started another journal about my everyday life and one more about my kids. Today I am a gratitude fountain and I write from 15 to as many entries I can fit into a page.
Don’t start this nonsense that you have nothing to be grateful for. My friend lost her boyfriend in a sudden car accident. She was devastated. But at that point, she had been kept a gratitude journal for over two years. She had never stopped adding entries to her journal, even for a single day, even when her life seemed to be falling apart. It helped her to survive the hard times and now she is even stronger and the inspiration for all of her friends.
I’m a huge fan of journaling. About the same time, I started the gratitude diary about my wife I also set the first steps on the journey to get to know myself. First it was irregular activity connected with creating my personal mission statement. Then, still irregularly, I have been doing a lot of exercises from personal development books and programs and they usually involved a lot of writing. In the meantime, I began the other two gratitude diaries. At last, in May 2013, I started a habit of regular journaling.
Journaling is a priceless tool for self-analysis. I started meditation habit about a year later and I found meditation childishly easy because I was already self-aware.
Many of successful people throughout the history were journaling: A Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius; Napoleon Bonaparte; Jim Rohn, a business philosopher who went from being a bankrupt to a millionaire in 5 years. I study the lives and teachings of Catholic saints. For many of them, journals were the only written works which they left behind.
I’ve said that 5 minutes of journaling is not much, but it’s infinitely better than zero journaling.
Read just one page a day (about a minute for the average reader) and you can read more than a book a year. Multiply it by 5 and you can finish among the elite minority who read more than the rest of population (in Poland only about 50% of adults read at least one book in 2013).
Reading is borrowing others’ minds, feelings, and perspectives. It’s the ultimate mind sharing and it’s you who decide with whom share your mind, when and where.
Reading a book changed my life. You never know what a next book could do for you. As Jim Rohn said:
The book you don’t read won’t help.
The one you read will help. I read one book and started my gratitude diary. I read another one and started tracking my spendings; another one helped me to cut on expenses; another instructed me how to successfully self-publish. Books are priceless if they make you take action.
The good book is the one written by someone who was in a situation similar to you a few years (or months) ago. In non-fiction, a good material achieves about 20% success rate. Even the best content in the world is not enough to actually make readers take action, and the only action can breed some results, right? A good material is a must, but what really works is the connection between an author and a reader. A reader must be able to relate to the author’s experience not just on an intellectual level, but also on the gut level.
Reading-related bonus idea: Having just 5 minutes, read and comment on 1 blog post per day. They are a quick read and the connection goes a long way.
You will learn and interact simultaneously. In a month, you can rub off thirty bloggers and find a few whose message resonates with you.
6. Read or repeat your personal mission statement.
To do that, you need first to have one. I won’t lie that I came up with mine in 5 minutes a day, but it wasn’t much more than that. I had been working on my mission statement during my commute to/from work. 5 minute is just enough to ask yourself a single question and jot down some reflections (see point #4). Once you have your personal mission statement, read or repeat it every day. If it takes you less than 5 minutes, do it a few times a day.
What’s the point? I attribute to my mission statement, at least, half what I’ve accomplished in the last four years. This is an ideal tool to affect your subconscious mind. It’s better than any affirmations because it’s your own creation. Those are your words that describe your life mission. No external input can be so motivating as this.
7. Visualize, affirm, dream, cultivate your purpose and vision.
Yes, your mind should be firmly established in NOW or you can go crazy remembering your all past failures and troubles or feeling frustration because your life doesn’t mirror your dreams. But human being needs something to look forward to, something worth living for and waiting for. Something that expand beyond your current circumstances and capabilities.
The particular methods you use depends on your situation and preferences. I, for one, have a very poor imagination. Seriously, any kind of visualization is like a chore for me. But I know that brain is visually stimulated, so I created a vision board based on my personal mission statement and review it every morning. It doesn’t need any brainpower commitment. My personal mission statement replaces affirmations for me. I felt really silly repeating some chant like “I like myself”. I can repeat the words of my mission statements with confidence and anticipation.
Whatever happens in your head has this advantage that it can be done anywhere and for the most times — anyplace. You can dream, visualize or repeat affirmations while you walk, workout, do the household chores, do some physical work which doesn’t involve your brain, drive, wait in the queue, commute… The opportunities for that are endless.
That may offend atheists, but I firmly believe that if you don’t try to reach out to divine levels, you are not making the most out of yourself.
If you settle on human ideas and actions, you will be restricted to human outputs.
The most basic (and easy) way to connect to the divine is prayer. The shortest prayers can be just a four-word affirmations (for example I use “Jesus, I trust you”). The advantage of prayer is similar to the practices from #7 —it can be time anytime and at any place. No gadgets are necessary, you need just a pinch of self-awareness and the moment of time. If you live a spiritually rich life, prayer can be a great support for your other activities. For me, half of the points above are mixed with prayer (especially gratitude and mission statement).
9. Write a thank you note. Network.
There are a lot of stories of people who cultivate their networks using old fashioned thank you notes. Nobody seems to bother to use them anymore, the more impact they will make if you practice this habit.
Writing a thank you does not take even five minutes. If you wonder why it would have made such impact on people, consider when was the last time you received such a note? Nobody does it! Heck, writing about it made me wish I practiced that more. There are so many opportunities to thank people and I am very bad at recognizing them and going an extra yard (it’s so small calling it ‘a mile’ is a huge exaggeration) to jot down and send them.
We live in the most ‘connected’ period of history and we don’t utilize its advantages. Sending a thank you Tweet or FB comment is outrageously easy, yet I neglect to do that so many times.
Your net worth is your network.
Remember that. Thank you notes are just a single tool for cultivating your relationships. Think how could you express your appreciation to others. Comment on their blog? Upvoting or commenting their answers on Quora? Replying to their survey?
I spoke with a speaker and author who has made well over $200k in 2015. At the end of our chat, he offered his help in marketing my books, because, as he said: “You cultivated our fellowship; oftentimes I posted something significant and nobody, but you cared enough to send me feedback.”
He didn’t post very often, so once or twice a week I visited his site and then sent him my thoughts via email (he turned off comments on his blog). What? And that was enough to grab his attention? Well, yes. Practice consistently those small tokens of appreciation and people will remember you.
10. Smile. Make eye contact. Praise. Appreciate.
Any above thing takes much less than five minutes and can do a huge difference in your life. We are social animals, and unless your path is very, VERY special, it involves dealing with other people. We draw from our interactions our meaning, social status, self-esteem, self-confidence and zillion other things. Our lives are based on relationships. Shawn Achor, who studied happiness for over a decade, discovered that the only reliable happiness predictor is relationships.
The more and more meaningful relationships you have, the happier you are. This is as simple as that. Considering the importance of happiness, I should put it as the #1 point.
There is no simpler way to express your warm feelings toward the other person than smiling. Yet, we neglect it so much. Wherever I go smiles are sparse and hard to get. I trained myself to smile at everyone I meet. To start a conversation or just have your smile noticed, you need to first make an eye contact. Train this as well, eye contact and smiling go hand to hand.
Appreciate people. Be genuine at that. Research after research confirms that employees at a workplace strive for appreciation, for noticing them and expressing that their work is valued. Yet at each of my job I met with criticism much often than with appreciation. We are wired that way. I caught myself on criticizing my kids more frequently than appreciating them. I consciously try to bring positivity in their lives, yet it still is hard for me to praise them.
Variant: Hug, praise and appreciate the love ones.
Speaking of kids… maybe you are not an outgoing person. Maybe you are shy or in your culture interacting with strangers is frowned upon. You can still practice the habit of cultivating positive relationship interacting with your closest ones. Hug them, tell them you love them, praise them and spend more time with them. It will have an impact on your family life, but it will have the most positive impact on you.