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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Kellogg

Is Your Daily Routine Killing You? How to Change Your Life in Less Than Ten Minutes A Day

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

You groan, roll over, and tap that snooze button.

Ten minutes later, same thing.

Eventually, you give up and swipe to turn it off, scooting up in bed and grabbing your phone. Fifteen to twenty minutes of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter later, you finally get up. You have just enough time to get dressed, grab a drink, and get to work right on time.


How many people do you know whose mornings start like this? Does yours? If so, you're with the majority of people here.


Most people that come to mind who have morning like this have a schedule that looks like this once they leave for work:

  • Hit up their 9-5, usually at a desk.

  • Grab coffee and bagels with friends or lunch at a restaurant close by the office.

  • As soon as the front door shuts behind them, the shoes come off, the feet go up, and the tv turns on.

  • Dinner is ordered in or picked up on the way home.

  • Nights are spent watching tv, getting kids to bed, or playing video games.

  • One night a week, usually Fridays include drinks out with work buddies or friends.


Days like this every now and then can be relaxing when you have a busy life, but the accumulation of days upon days like this can become a real problem. Let's look at some issues:

  • Extended periods of sitting still: This can cause numerous issues throughout your body including increased risk of obesity and other health issues that come from not moving much (circulation, heart disease, loss of muscle mass, etc.)

  • No time spent outdoors: The need for sunlight is a real thing! Vitamin D is gathered from sunlight, and our body needs it. Sunlight, fresh air, and grass between your toes also helps to lower stress and anxiety levels and is just all-around good for your mental health. Not getting enough sunlight (or any sunlight) means you're missing out on these benefits. On the contrary, if you're inside too much and sitting still at a desk, you're more likely to struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, and being overstressed.

  • Nutrition: What nutrition? Eating out usually means highly processed and/or greasy foods, neither of which provide the nutrients necessary to live a healthful life. These foods are usually packed with hydrogenated oils and by-products that can increase risk of disease even in small doses (The Nutrition Source). Often, but not always, this kind of solid diet is also supplemented by liquids like sodas, juices, and sweet teas (in the American south, at least), and these beverages have their own issue: sugar. We've all seen the studies that take piles or cubes of sugar to help you visualize how much each beverage contains. If you haven't seen one, check this one out. This study also notes, "One problem with sugary drinks is that they very rapidly increase blood sugar levels and this can lead to tiredness and increased hunger." We'll talk more about why this is a problem in just a bit.

  • Mental Stimulation: Aside from the stressors during work and family life, what kind of activity is the brain able to do? Is it challenged? I'm no neurologist or psychologist or any other kind of brain doctor, but I can say from my personal experience that the more I challenge my brain with new tasks, the better I feel.

  • Social Media: Yes it can be used for productive things. Yes it can be helpful. But first thing in the morning, is it? Usually it's mindless scrolling or consuming news articles that barrage your newly-awakened brain.

But.... if their daily routine is having this much of a negative effect on their lives, why don't they do something about it?


Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

Remember Isaac Newton? The physics god? There's a solid chance that at some point in your middle or high school curriculum, you learned about this guy and the three laws of motion that he coined so long ago that still apply today. This isn't so much of a physics lesson as it is a people lesson, and I'll coin my new law of motion for people:

A person will continue with the status quo unless compelled to change his or her state by an action of an internal or external force.

People are inherently lazy. I hate hearing that, as someone who is constantly on the go, getting things done. But in general, most humans will choose the easier of two options. If you were given the options of 1) change every habit you have to completely overhaul your life, or 2) continue doing exactly what you're doing, which would you choose? You can decide for yourself.


If you didn't click off the page after that last choice, congratulations! You have already made one decision to change your life. If you decided that you'd rather completely overhaul your entire life by changing every decision you make, you're in luck, because what I have to offer is even easier than that! There is an even easier way to change your life, and it only takes one decision each day, less than ten minutes.


This concept is called habit stacking, and I'm going to extend it to win stacking as well, which I'll explain further on.


Think of all the decisions you make in a day, from when you hear your alarm to when you close your eyes at night. Each of those decisions strengthens a pattern in your neural pathways in your brain. For instance, when you hear your alarm, your eyes open and you reach to turn it off. You don't think about it because your brain has been doing it for so long, it's automatic. To change this habit, you would have to neglect that automatic action and force another action in its place, say standing up.

If your phone is on the table by your bed, this is going to be a hard action to choose, because the automatic one is the easiest one. (Humans choose the easiest of two choices, remember?)


What if your phone was on the other side of the room? Then, the automatic option of rolling over and turning it off isn't even an option. You must stand up and walk across the room to turn it off. Boom. You just made standing up your first decision of the day. Of course, the first few days or weeks, you might still roll over and fumble on the side table for the phone that's not there, but eventually, you'll wake up and immediately get out of bed. When I implemented this, after standing up became automatic, I actually put my phone back on my side table one morning, and when the alarm went off, I actually walked across the room and was confused when my phone wasn't on my dresser.


Just think, though. What if you replaced that one habit? Those first few line items from that normal morning outlined above are gone. You won't hit snooze, you won't lay in bed on your phone. If you didn't ever hit snooze, think about how much extra time you'll have in the morning. Think of what you could do with that time. Each decision is an opportunity to make a change for the better.


The process of habit stacking occurs when you use habits to make other habits to make other habits, and so on. This is how you can change your entire daily routine in only a few minutes, a few decisions each day. This small amount of time, stacked day after day, compounds into a massive change for your life.


Let's return to our wake-up example. Once you have moved your phone across the room, what if we put a glass of water by your bed instead of the phone? When your alarm goes off, and you reach over to the table, you find not a phone, but a glass of water. You could grab that water and drink it, then get up to turn off your alarm. Now you're less dehydrated AND out of bed at an earlier time than the status quo.


With each small change you make toward health, it compounds. Chances are, if you start your day with water, you'll be more awake, mentally and physically. You're already out of bed and walking, so it would be a relatively small change to put your running/walking shoes and clothes by your phone across the room. Wake up-->Drink water-->Get up-->Turn off alarm-->Put on workout clothes. Now you already have workout clothes on, so it's the perfect time to go out for a walk or a run or whatever workout you prefer.


This "trick" can be used with any current habit you have at any point in the day. Maybe for your lunch break, you'd like to move more. Clock out for lunch-->Ten pushups-->Walk to lunch. Or maybe you eat lunch then go for a walk? The possibilities are completely customizable to you and your goals. Another way to think of it is "After/Before I ________, I will ______" (Clear). You pick a trigger action, then move from there to whatever habit you'd like to cultivate.


Just think of the compounded habit stacks you could build if you focus on one item a week, even one item every two weeks. That's still 26 new habits a year when you stick with it. For relatively low exertion in the beginning, you could completely change your life.





Stacking Wins

My favorite, and arguably, the best part about habit stacking is that as you successfully stack habits, you successfully stack wins. Remember back in elementary school when you would answer a question right, and the teacher would give you a gold star sticker? Those tiny wins gave you tiny rewards which kept you striving for more.


As you complete each new habit, you will gain confidence. And as you keep stacking those tiny wins, you'll become the person you dreamt you'd be. The person that was your goal.


This is the quickest way to gain self-confidence. The number one reason people I know have issues with self confidence is because they don't feel accomplished, they've done nothing to be proud of. But once they begin winning and showing up for their future selves, they begin to accomplish more before 10am than their old self would've done in a week. Looking back on all they've accomplished does two things: give them something to be proud of and show them what they are capable of, what you are capable of.


Stack some new habits over the next month and see if your confidence improves!


If you want more info on habits and this entire concept, please read Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book changed my life the first time I read it, and is why I adopted this concept into my coaching.


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