As another year comes to a close, I like to take stock of the habits I built and also think about new ones I want to develop.
I’m a firm believer in building a strong system comprised of good habits that promote healthy living, meaningful relationships, and continual stimulation for the mind. This also means being conscious of bad habits and finding ways to curb them, usually by replacing them with an alternative habit.
In 2017, it felt as if my system of good habits began to compound and build upon each other. I felt more focused, energetic, and productive than I’ve ever been in my life. I also felt less stressed out and generally happier than I could ever remember. Of course, that isn’t to say there weren’t stressful moments or wasted opportunities, but I rarely let myself feel too bad and generally progressed forward. I also realize I was incredibly lucky in 2017. Business was good, I stayed healthy all year long, and I got to spend quality time with family and friends. There’s no guarantee that I’ll always be this lucky, so it’s worth noting and being grateful for such luxuries.
2017 New Habits
I started writing in a journal towards the end of 2016 and hoped it would continue. A year later, I’m happy to report that it has. I’ve consistently written in my journal every weekday morning. On some mornings, I’ll only have time to write for 5-10 minutes, but I especially enjoy the 15-20 minute sessions where I can use the time to document a dream, work through a problem at work, or expand on big goals and plans I want to carry out. It’s been a real treat to look back on previous entries and to read about books that were on my mind at the time or problems that were stressing me out at work.
Daily Mobility Exercises
I believe my mobility exercise routine allowed me to train for the New York City Marathon injury-free. The mobility exercises come right after my morning meditation. I give myself 15-20 minutes to roll out my feet, upper and lower back, and calves/ankles. I also stretch out my hamstrings and shoulders. In recent months, I’ve mixed in push-ups in-between sets. While time-consuming, I believe my mobility exercises help me maintain good posture, avoid injury, and develop flexibility. I’ll have to continue to challenge myself and mix in some new and challenging movements to the routine.
Tea Instead of Coffee
I decided to stop drinking coffee in July. It first started out as a ban on coffee past 2PM in an effort to give my body enough time to clear out the caffeine before bedtime. Then, I found myself drinking coffee even when it didn’t make my stomach feel so good and also sent me to the bathroom several times each morning. I decided to cut cold turkey and transition into teas. I’ve been drinking an even mix of green and black teas in the morning and switching over to caffeine-free teas after 2PM. While I miss holding and smelling coffee every now and then, I actually don’t miss drinking it at all.
Weekly Newsletter and Writing Blog Posts
I started sending out a weekly newsletter called Consumed/Created in May. I’ve stuck with it and have sent out 32 editions. It’s a highlight of things I read/watched/listened to during the week and also anything I personally created. The “consumed” part has been fairly easy to filled out, but the “created” part has been more challenging. It’s definitely forced me to write more blog posts than I’ve ever had to (including 28 for this blog and a handful a posts elsewhere). It’s also helped me to build a much atrophied muscle of being able to sit down for more than an hour and thinking hard about a single topic, distraction-free. I had become so used to rapid-fire text messages and emails that even an hour or two a week of quiet writing time was a rarity. With the newsletter and my blog posts, I made such moments a recurring weekly activity.
What Happened to Habits I Picked Up in 2016?
Did my new habits from 2016 make it through 2017? And if not, what happened?
I’ve continued to use Headspace every weekday morning. I credit the practice for helping me to better handle stressful situations and to keep my daily existence usually drama-free.
Tuesday Date Nights
Mel and I continued to enjoy our weekly ritual of meeting up at a Brooklyn restaurant after work. We’ve rarely missed these and look forward to our time together.
I had to take a hiatus from basketball for a few months leading up to the New York City Marathon to avoid injury, but I’ve started to play again more recently and can’t wait to hit the courts more in the coming months. I’ve become addicted to watching YouTube highlights of NBA games (basically a condensed 7-10 minute video of all the shots made in a game by both teams), so I’m eager to imitate some moves and chuck up a bunch of threes.
I’ve continued to eat a complete breakfast on most mornings. Even if I’m in a rush, I’ll usually grab a bowl full of blueberries along with a couple of dates and a cup of green tea. During the warmer months, I made a lot of smoothies (bananas, mangoes, kale, spinach, cocoa nibs, flax seed, and dates) and during the colder months, I usually go for English muffin with peanut butter and chopped nuts or oatmeal with blueberries, nuts, and maple syrup.
Habits for 2018
Lifting Weights Twice a Week
One thing I regret about my marathon training was not doing much weight training. I wish I had supplemented the running with more heavy weightlifting. A Crunch gym opened literally across the street from our apartment, so I decided to join. I’m hoping to put in at least two days of lifting there each week and build up some strength. If I can mix this up with running and basketball, it’ll be a fairly active weekly schedule.
Monthly Dinner with My Parents
One of the biggest changes that happened for me this year was that my parents moved to Brooklyn from Atlanta. This means they’re just a 10-minute car ride away from me and Melanie. It’s been wonderful to have them live so close, and it makes me happy to know that instead of seeing them only once or twice a year, I’ll get to see them more regularly. I also know that unless we make the time, even close distances can feel like an obstacle, so I’m going to work on pre-planning a monthly dinner with my parents so that at a minimum, we can look forward to hanging out once every four weeks.
There are a number of other behaviors that I wouldn’t necessarily call habits but have been critical to my well-being this year.
I swapped out my memory foam pillow for a Purple Pillow. This was perhaps the smartest move I made in terms of getting better sleep. My only wish is that it wasn’t so damn heavy so I could carry it with me whenever I travel.
I deleted Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn apps from my iPhone early this year. While I still find myself checking Twitter and LinkedIn via web browser, my use of Instagram and Facebook has drastically decreased, opening up more time for reading and those NBA highlights on YouTube.
I’ve slowly moved away from being gung-ho about finishing books and have become more comfortable with reading parts and moving on to new books. This means less books listed on my Reading List, but I’ve come to understand that a book’s value is not in finishing it but in what I get out of it. To that end, I’ve become better about checking the table of contents before diving in, highlighting passages, and reflecting on the writing via my journal and blog posts.
Overall, in 2017, I tried my best to be conscious of my behavior and activities, never letting my mind go on autopilot for too long. I love routines but I avoid doing them mindlessly. Whether it’s running, working, hanging out, or any of my fairly simple habits, the ultimate underlying habit has been to stay aware and view my decisions with a critical eye. It’s been a wonderful year, and I’m looking forward to the opportunities in 2018. Happy New Year!