So you promised yourself a trip to the gym this week, starting a more productive morning routine, and making sure to take a midday lunch break everyday. But then Monday rolls around with all the work you didn’t get to last week, along with 12 new tasks in your inbox you weren’t expecting, and you’re looking at another workweek full of meetings that could be emails. Next thing you know, it’s Friday, and your good intentions got trumped by the busyness of the week (again). Rinse and repeat the following week.
Sound familiar? No shame here. 78.7% of professionals already report feeling stressed with how much they have on their plate and the lack of time to get it all done every week. And beyond just being stretched thin every day with increasing task loads and more meetings – a shocking 92% of knowledge workers admit to regularly working evenings and weekends to catch up.
Healthy habits - like exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, practicing mindfulness, and getting enough sleep - are all attributed to a longer and happier life. But actually finding the time for these habits in our jam-packed weeks isn’t as easy as we’d think. In this post, we’re going to take a look at 5 steps to creating healthy habits in your life and how to stick with them for long-term success.
Why healthy habits matter
Everyone is always talking about them – but exactly what are healthy habits, and why are they so important? Healthy habits are regular practices and routines that promote your health and wellness. And they aren’t limited to just eating your greens or drinking more water! There are countless examples of healthy habits that can improve all aspects of your life including spending more time in nature, maintaining fulfilling relationships, sticking to your financial budget, practicing meditation, or getting regular medical check-ups (more inspiring examples later in this post!). And the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle with habits like these are stunning.
Top benefits of healthy habits:
- Reduce risk of disease
- Improve life expectancy
- Have more energy
- Boost your mood
- Better your job performance
- Calm stress and anxiety
The thing is, most of us know that healthy habits are key to our wellbeing. So why do simple essentials like rest, nutrition, and exercise so often fall through the cracks of our busy weeks?
Even though 77% of people say they want to do more to stay healthy in the future – motivation isn’t always enough to make healthy habits stick (as many of us have experienced firsthand). Let’s dive into how you can implement regular healthy habits in your routine for best success and actually stick to them every week so you can reap the benefits.
How to create & stick to healthy habits
1. Determine your priorities
The first step in making time for your healthy habits is actually figuring out what habits you want to implement in your life. Get clear on your goals and prioritize them by order of importance. Are you hoping to become more active? Improve your diet? Reduce stress and anxiety? Get more quality rest? Spend more time in nature? Make sure that your goals feel genuinely important to you so there’s some existing motivation to fuel that drive.
From there, you can determine a realistic habit that will help you towards that personal goal. Maybe that looks like taking a daily 15-minute walk to get some fresh air and sunshine, or preparing a healthy lunch the night before your next busy workday so you don’t end up in the drive through again. Check out our list below for lots of habit examples for inspiration!
2. Plan out small steps
Remember, you only have 24 hours in a day and habits are best introduced slowly. Many people try to change too many things at once, which - while very ambitious - simply isn’t sustainable in the long run. The idea behind successfully starting a habit is to keep it as simple and realistic as possible so it doesn’t overwhelm you. By starting with small daily goals you can develop a routine that’s hard to fail, and build off of that in the future.
So while realistically, you’re probably not going to go from a sedentary lifestyle to lifting heavy weights 6 days a week overnight – you could make a habit to go to a beginners gym class twice a week, or commit to a 10-minute at-home workout every other day. Pick a few important habits to introduce at a time, like 1-4 mini habits, or just 1 bigger habit, to start working towards your long-term healthy priorities.
Be honest and compassionate with yourself as you create a plan for what you’re going to do, and when. You can expand these habits down the line, but when the objective is to start a healthy habit that you’ll stick to – easy does it for now!
3. Schedule your habits
Now that you’ve planned your habits, how do you actually make time for them in your busy week? Scheduling your habits in your calendar - like any other important to-do - is how you actually make them a priority and get them done for a healthier work-life balance.
Not only does it reduce decision paralysis by marking exactly when you’re going to do your habits, it also creates transparency around your availability to your coworkers, clients, and family. You’re never going to make that 4:00pm yoga class on Wednesdays if you’re constantly getting double booked with a 3:45pm meeting because that time wasn’t defended on your schedule - how was your coworker to know!
A smart calendar app like Reclaim.ai can actually automate this process by scheduling - and defending - your routines in your calendar. The Habits feature allows you to build out habits with preferred days, times, and durations and auto-schedules them around your changing availability every week. With time defense settings, you can even tell Reclaim how aggressively you want your Habits to be defended from conflicts so you always have time for your priorities (even during the craziest weeks).
4. Track your habits
Of course, there’s only so far planning and scheduling will take you when you’re creating new healthy habits. In the end, when the time to start comes up on your calendar, motivation and discipline need to come through to get it done. And don’t get discouraged if you miss a day of your plan – keep trying for progress over perfection! This can be challenging in the beginning, but with time and practice, habits become routines and require less effort to complete.
By time blocking healthy habits in your calendar you also have the added benefit of being able to look back and actually track your habits. A weekly or monthly calendar audit can help give quantitative insight as to how your habit plans are working for you so you can measure your progress towards your goals and improve your approach as you go.
5. Build off your routines
While the idea that it takes 21 days to create a habit has been more or less discredited, the more realistic 21/90 rule can be helpful as a guide. Beyond the first three weeks, or 21 days, of committing to a new habit, sticking to it for another 90-days puts you closer to a routine.
If you find yourself missing a habit frequently, or are struggling to stick with it for 21 days or longer – consider reworking your plan to a smaller goal or moving it to a more convenient time in your week. On the other hand, if a habit has become a routine part of your week (congrats!) – perhaps it could be expanded on to provide even more value, or ‘habit stacked’ with a new healthy habit you’ve been meaning to try. Try to review your healthy habits when you review your personal goals to create a system that supports you as you grow.
25 examples of healthy habits to start:
Need some ideas to help get you started with healthier habits? Here is a list of healthy habit examples you can add to your weeks for inspiration!
Examples of fitness habits
- Do 60 jumping jacks (or 3 sets of 20) before you start your workday.
- Start your morning with a 10-minute online yoga flow.
- 15-minute daily walk during your lunch break.
- Mid-afternoon 5-minute stretch session at your desk (like this one!).
- Bring your workout gear to work with you (or organize in the morning if you work from home) so you can quickly change and go to the gym right after work. Remember – even a little bit of time for exercise is better than nothing!
Examples of healthy eating habits
- Defend time for a daily lunch break to refuel.
- Make a nutrient-packed smoothie for breakfast (some recipes to try!).
- Stock healthy snacks at your workspace.
- Schedule time to plan a healthy grocery list before you shop.
- Drink a glass of water every hour (use an app to remind you).
Examples of mindfulness habits
- Make time to meditate before checking your phone in the morning (check out an app like Calm for guided meditations of all lengths!).
- Finish your morning shower with a blast of cold water. Cold exposure helps to regulate the nervous system and reduce cortisol – the stress-inducing hormone.
- Schedule breathing exercises to ground yourself during the stress of the day.
- Take a few minutes to hum and/or sing during the day to calm anxiety when things get overwhelming.
- Spend some time journaling in the evening (try noting things you’re grateful for, exploring challenges you’re currently facing, or just reflecting on your day).
Examples of healthy sleep habits
- Put away electronics 1 hour before bedtime.
- Avoid big meals, exercise, and caffeine 3 hours before bedtime.
- Cut back on alcohol before bed (consider not drinking during the week, or having a non-alcoholic alternative to your usual nightcaps).
- Set a consistent time to go to sleep and try to stick with it, even on the weekends.
- Create a relaxing evening routine that sets you up for a restful night (try a relaxing bath, cozying up with a book, meditation to unwind, or journaling).
Examples of self-development habits
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier.
- Schedule time to read every day (even if it’s just 15 minutes!).
- Make a habit to learn a new hobby or skill you’ve been meaning to take up.
- Set intentional time to connect with your partner, a friend, or family every day (just a text or phone call works on busy days) to maintain relationships which improve your health, happiness, and productivity.
- Consider attending regular therapy or counseling sessions to work through more complex issues that might be holding you back.
Healthy habits are for life ❤️
Making time for healthy habits goes beyond being more productive every week. Prioritizing routines to support your wellness is a long-term investment in a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life in every aspect.
While creating new habits isn’t always easy, committing to consistency over perfection ensures that you’re making regular progress towards your health goals. And for the best success with new healthy habits, remember – smaller steps get you further than trying to change everything at once!
How do you make time for healthy habits during your week? Any tips we missed for being consistent? Tweet us @reclaimai to contribute to the conversation!