+ Getting into Good Habits

How to Get into Good Habits via jeniwren.com

Now that I’m settled into my new flat, and getting into a routine during my work-week, I’ve been thinking about changes I can make to really boost what I do with my time before heading into the office. Here’s a rundown of the most useful tips I’ve come across.

Morning Rituals

Don’t Press Snooze!

Thomas Frank has an almost foolproof method for waking up at an acceptable time: “I threaten myself with both public shame and monetary loss”. In his article Prime Yourself for a Productive Day, he explains that he uses beeminder.com. This site helps you stick to your goal/ritual by combining “self-tracking and commitment contracts: keep all your datapoints on a Yellow Brick Road to your goal or we take your money“. Thomas is so serious about this that he also created an IFTTT recipe, which will report you for sleeping in!

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron pioneered a tool called ‘Morning Pages‘, which requires completing three pages of longhand morning writing. This is by no means meant to be creative writing, but instead gives you a forum to tap into your consciousness and let out any issues that are bugging you, tasks you need to do, general thoughts that won’t get out of your mind. Julia believes your Morning Pages should be “whining, petty, grumpy.. whatever you happen to be”. By writing out all of these ‘cloud thoughts’, you’re effectively decluttering your mind, freeing up more space in your consciousness throughout the day.

I barely ever pick up a pen now but bloggers such as Mari L McCarthy prefer to use fountain pen and paper for their daily Morning Pages. Bakari Chavanu relies on good old technology, utilizing the Day One app or 750words.com.

Habit Stacking

James Clear says Habit Stacking is pretty simple – just insert the habit you want to initiate into your routine via this sentence “After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

One habit I’ve chosen is to do lunges while brushing my teeth – some of the comments on Jamie’s blog also mention doing squats on your pee break or while drying your hair!

Eat & Drink Well

Cathryn Lavery opts for an ice-cold glass of water, whereas Amber Rae swears by “warm water, lemon, turmeric, and raw honey”. My Morning Routine has interviewed so many people now that they have breakfast statistics! Fruit, eggs, bread or oatmeal are the most popular options.

I particularly admire the routine of Ellie Krieger who mixes “yogurt, milk, oats, vanilla, cinnamon, and honey, then stir in some quartered grapes and almonds, and put it in jars to sit in the fridge overnight”. I don’t think I have the energy to chop things up and prep the day before… this post is about morning rituals, not evening rituals, after all!

When skimming through the posts at MyMorningRoutine.com, I swear half of the interviewees also mentioned the ‘Bulletproof breakfast’. I haven’t investigated this in much detail, but the reviews on Amazon look promising.

Get Moving

Exercise: James Clear has a great article on the daily routines  of writers, and from there I learnt that Kurt Vonnegut did ‘pushups and sit ups all the time’, and AJ Jacobs writes ‘while walking on a treadmill’! Don DeLillo tells the Paris Review that he writes for about four hours and then goes running. Not enough for you? Gwyneth Paltrow tells WWD that she fits in two hours of exercise every morning!

In Scott Gardiner’s article on Medium, he explains his daily 20/20/20 routine, This consists of 20 pushups, 20 squats, and 20 jumping jacks”. Easy to remember, quick (just 5 mins) and varied enough to not get bored.


Michelle Phan shares 4 great morning stretches on her website – a neck and shoulder stretch, chest flex, standing stretch and a hamstring stretch. I’ve actually gone as far as printing off her diagrams and sticking them to my bedroom wall, resolving to do these daily! Michelle Greenman also shares a great scan of recommended morning stretches on her site too.

Evening Routine

No Bright Screens in the Bedroom

Bright light from laptops and phones ‘can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep’. Ned and I are part of the way there, where we have made a conscious decision to have no TV in the bedroom. The next step is a full-on device ban! In the meantime, I use a black background setting when reading eBooks and have heard good things about Flux, if you absolutely can’t get away from your laptop in bed.

Dental Hygiene

This one took me several years to really grasp the importance, after yet another stern word from my hygienist. The key thing here is ‘habit stacking’ as mentioned above. I now floss a minimum of once a day and that’s because I place my floss right next to my toothbrush. Simple, but effective! After brushing my teeth, I then go to town on them with my dental floss and also use teepees for those hard-to-reach gaps between molars. Since doing this, my oral health has improved greatly.

No Caffeine or Food After a Set Time

Sleep.org advises avoiding caffeine, nicotine and eating four to six hours bedtime.

Try the ‘Night Before List’

Chris Brogan has some some great advice for How to Get More Done, but what really interested me was his ‘night before’ list I read about here.

Tomorrow, I’m going to ____________________.
To be ready, I need to ___________________.
I will remember my ______________.
The random thoughts that just filled my head are ______________.
Also remember to _______________.

General Good Habits

Get a Blackboard

Blackboard Weekly Planner
Our blackboard weekly planner, to track exercise and plan meals

The one thing Ned and I well when it comes to routines is plan out our weekly meals, working out when we’re both in and who should own each meal. In terms of accountability, I also add my proposed exercise plans and then he can always call me up on them if I don’t follow through.

What I love about tracking the week ahead on a blackboard is I have a constant visual reminder about my plans.

For Your Career

I have picked up some great tips from working at Google. One of them is ‘snippets’. Although I don’t necessarily fill this in every single week, it’s essentially a page that you update weekly with your list of tasks. This has multiple benefits; 1) colleagues across the globe can keep track of your projects, 2) when it comes to performance review or building a case for promotion, you can just print your snippets out and highlight the key achievements. This has helped me in my last two promo cycles, as very often once a project is done it’s forgotten about.

Update Your CV Every 6 Months
I found this great tip at MyDomaine. The reason why this is invaluable is that if you’re stuck in the same job for multiple jobs, you may have lost the specifics of a key project, or forgotten a key metric that really sums up your responsibilities. If you keep the CV as a living document, you’re better suited to apply for any role that comes up at short notice.

Helpful Links

  1. The 24-Minute Morning Routine That Will Make You an Entrepreneurial Rock Star
  2. Program Your Day to Defeat Distractions and Stick to Your Daily Routine
  3. 6 Morning Rituals to JumpStart Your Day
  4. How to Develop a Routine That Works – And Stick To It
  5. 8 Step Ayurvedic Morning Ritual
  6. This nighttime routine will help you be more productive in the morning
  7. Establishing Morning and Evening Routines